Aliona Kuznetsova, Fashion Photographer is sharing her experience.
How long have you been in the fashion industry?
I started to do photography in 2007. Sounds like it was long ago, but I like to think about myself as an artist in development, having 2030 more years to grow professionally. I started with portraits, but transitioned fast to model tests and then to fashion photography. Even though many of my clients are brands, for me photography is still more about model, then about the pieces she is wearing.
What drives you so crazy about fashion photography and photography in General?
Growing up in Kiev during 90th I didn’t have too much glamour in my everyday reality. The world we were living in was hardly tolerable. As some people escaped using drugs and alcohol, I used to escape using books. I think that the sign of good book is that it immerses you in totally different reality, so you forget about your own one. This is precisely the thing I try to do with my photography create the alternative, more diverse, colorful and at the same time emotionally safe reality isn’t it what all of the fashion photography does? What challenges me in photography (in comparison to other media like writing or painting) is that in photography you don’t have “white canvas” on which you create reality from zero you always needs to outwit the nature, using what is already exist to convince the viewer to believe in something that doesn’t.
Can you tell about most recent and most exciting photo-shoot you had?
My most recent photo-shoot was in fact an etude about how our perception on the object depends on context. The result will be a mix of graphics and photography. The topic is relatively new for me, but I had a very motivated and patient model so it went very well. As for the most exciting photo-shoot, I would like to tell about the first time I envisioned the story at the location. A couple of years ago my husband and I went to Lanzarote for brief vacations. One evening we went for a walk to an old lighthouse. It was surrounded by black lava stones of surrealistic shapes. Greenless landscape was all covered with those stones with a white tall lighthouse at the sealine. In my imagination we were in another, very strange and dark world and I kept imagining tall girl in a black dress crossing this plane. The girl that would belong to this empty, dark place, maybe living in this old white lighthouse. It took a year and a half of organization and preparation, but in May the pictures of Lighthouse story will appear in Demur Magazine.
Working with big clients in fashion industry such as ELLE magazine, Marie Claire, it requires a lot of preparation and research I believe. How do you prepare before meeting such big clients?
Actually the first meeting with the editor of ELLE Swiss was one of the most pleasant business meeting in my career. She had a clear brief on mind and clear organizational plan. Of course I made my own research on the style of the magazine to see what aesthetic do they have. With Marie Claire I worked through one of my client, so I didn’t even meet the editor before the photo-shoot was done.
Being a fashion photographer is not a job it is a way of life, would you agree? During your carrier have you ever had really hard decisions to make that were influenced by the lifestyle of fashion photographer?
Indeed, being a fashion photographer is way more than a job. But, at least for me, this life is really different from common set of chiche. For example, some of my “non photographic” friends picture me celebrating my birthday or New Year at some fancy club, surrounded by models. In fact I prefer to spend time over a glass of good vine with my husband or friends (who are often, but not always professional models) There are few “professional deformations” in being photographer though, that do not make my life simpler. One example is in the area of interpersonal relationships I am used to find a connection with a person quickly. Within a minute I decide if I am interested in getting to know someone, within a few hours we interact like we know each other for years and, sadly, within weeks I terminate most of my friendships. This interaction style of course is dictated by the dynamics of my work, but it also means that I have really few friends. And even with those few we never reach total understanding. Emotions are my tools at work so it takes only a few minutes to summon euphoric happiness or epic sadness. But this tool cut both ways meaning that sometime a slightest “mistake” of the person can push me into depth of despair.
I think that the idea, that some people, who I truly like, couldn’t be in my life because they push me to my emotional limits was one of the hardest to accept.
Do you remember your first taken photograph or maybe you have your most memorable photograph taken in early stage of your career?
At the beginning of my career it took me a long time to produce pictures I really liked. I believe for me the process was much longer than for most of the photographers. I was always painfully aware that while I am doing “this” there are real photographers out there like Tim Walker or Paolo Roversi.
One of the first photograph of mine I really loved was a photograph of ballerina. I was working a lot with long flying fabrics, discovering different ways to introduce movement to the picture. At one point I thought, that we need more than standard modeling poses and who could be more aware of how their body looks while moving then ballet dancers. We made a collaboration with two dancers from Ballet Bejart ( www. bejart .ch/en/ ) and the result was better then I could dream. In this moment I congratulated myself with first worthy picture 🙂
You are fluent in many languages, what are they and how you came across of learning them?
Well, I just try to speak at least a bit local language when I move to a new place. But to be honest, French appeared to be above my limits. So it’s just English, Russian, Ukrainian and a bit of French.
How you would describe your personal style, is there a specific way of how you like to work?
It is not easy to describe my own style in every photo-shoot I try to push the boarder of my comfort zone in one or another way. People often characterize my works as very natural and at the same time fairy tale like. I think it’s the only good way to “tell” a fairy tale as if it’s not only true, but the most common and natural thing. Like with my Mermaid project for example the model belongs to the surrounding visually, so viewer loses his or her doubts about the existence
of the mermaid in general. I imagine my viewers as people with vibrant and a bit romantic imagination, who are willing to give up the reality for a second or two to feel the world through the eyes or my story’s character. As for my way of work, I would say I am a bit difficult to work with. People typically have
loveorhate type of relationship with me on set. My vision demands unity of all details in a frame and every deviation from this unity I see as an error. And I can not make a picture with an error in it…well, I think you get where it’s going…
To be able to produce such a vibrant imagery I believe you invest a lot into yourself, what do you do and how you keep your creativity flowing?
For me, the first key to creativity is inspiration. I can draw inspiration from almost everything books, paintings, photographs, museums, new cities, people. When I start a new project inspiration is the first step. I look around for a few days, looking at random pictures or wandering through the city. I never know what can give me the path to develop what I started, but at some point journey always begins. Another important rule of mine is I never work with someone who would harm my creativity. No matter how much they are willing to pay. When I was younger I made this mistake once or twice and it never worth it in a long run. Finally, for me it’s typical to get too involved in the project, to the point of obsession. It also can harm creativity and health too, so I use one platform, called the Ring to reflect on my emotional state. It sounds a bit boring why not just get in “mad artist” mood and create a super-project but in my experience I can do more and better when I am in control.
Like every artist, from time to time we have creative blocks, how do you avoid them or deal with them when they happen?
For me creative block can mean one of the two things either I am overbooked and do not have “idle” time to go outside and think or I am becoming obsessed with the project and I just need to switch to something else for couple of days. Either way one of my favorite techniques is what I call “escape” a few days in another city, preferably another country, without my laptop and with my phone in airplane mode.