Alina Autumn | Saratov, Russia

Hello Alina, thanks for submitting your work and taking time for the interview. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello, Nicole! My name is Alina Autumn, I am 23 years old. I'm from the city in Saratov, Russia. For me photography is a way to share my thoughts and feelings with people. I like to create tragic, sensual images of women. It is important for me that the photo tells a little story. Usually I create series’ of pictures which represent a complete project. I am inspired by natural beauty of people, nature, cinema, vintage, light, and color.

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?

Photography attracted me from teenage age, but I photograph people for the last three years. My muses are natural and fragile girls. I appreciate natural beauty, feminity and mysteriousness. I am facinated by the shooting process - I like to photograph especially outdoors.

Did you have any formal education in photography or are you self-taught?

I am self-taught. It took a while to find my style. When I began with photography the world and people have changed around me, this helped me to develop creativity.

What does photography mean to you?

With my photography I can share with the world what I have in my mind and share the vision of beauty. Photography has helped me to see the world differently.

Your portraits are very poignant and very well composed and each seems to tell its own story.  Where do you get your ideas from?

When I get the idea for creating a pictures, I do sketch or record this into a notebook. The idea is born incidentally and occupies all my thoughts. Then I begin searching for objects for the shooting. I think about clothes, details, location and color.

You submitted a beautiful photo series of albino girls. How did the idea for it come up?  

In this series of pictures "Light souls" I wanted to pay attention to harmony of the people and the nature. The choice of albino girls isn't accidentally. They look as if they were angels who have arrived from a far-out planet. Albinos submit the mysteriousness and fragility, just like trees or the infinite sky.

What is your work process?

Besides sketches it is necessary to prepare an image in general. I pay much attention to clothes. Iusually choose them for the shootings individually. In the series "Light souls" I tried to show a new point by common clothes - they made the images of the girls complete.

What is your intention behind your photos?

For me it is important to develop my creativity, but not to loose myself and to inspire people. Photography will always be part of my life.

Do you have any role models that your photography is directing towards?

Marta Bevacqua and Monia Merlo. These photographers are able to reflect female beauty in all its variety. There is also a project of the Romanian photographer of Mihaela Noroc "The Atlas of Beauty" where she shares the beauty of women from around the world. I am inspired by the large-scale of projects devoted to a certain subject. In the future, I want to create a project like this - the first steps are already taken.

Daria Amaranth | St. Petersburg

Hello Daria, thank you for submitting your beautiful portrait series. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Hello, Nicole! Thank you so much for your attention towards my works, I really appreciate it and I can say that it is great to me to be published in such an inspiring magazine dedicated to women:) I was born in Russia and I live here as well. I am enchanted by different spheres of art – singing, literature, cinematography, music, painting, perfumery art but only photography has become the main field for expressing something important to me.

How did you get into photography? Did you have any formal education in photography or are you self-taught?
I took some photography lessons two years ago, but then there was a long break and only last summer I realized that photography is exactly that kind of art in which I have much more inspiration concerning possibility for self-expression and I began taking pictures more often than before. So most of all I am self-taught but I think that works of great artists and photographers are the best teachers.

What do you like about photographing people?
People faces can reflect silent stories without words, they help me to convey magic, mystical, melancholic atmosphere and also depict my own vision of unconscious life and beautiful, strange, unknown aspects of imaginary reality and at the same time the real world of confused feelings, fears and hopes.

Your portraits are very poignant and very well composed and each seems to tell its own story.  Where do you get your ideas from?
Thank you so much) I get inspiration from movies, paintings, songs, literary characters – ideas come to my head one by one in an abstract way and then I see the contours of future photo-shooting. But very often ideas come unconsciously and after that I visualize different stories and symbols which I get from my imagination. I really think that some secrets and mysteries shouldn't be solved because their disturbing beauty and mysterious charm are much more important that the key to the riddle.

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I think now that this is something intuitive, but I believe that my love towards painting and cinematography has played a big part.

Do you think simplicity is often more important than complexity?
Yes, I do so, but I can also think – which can sound quite paradoxical — that something that seems to be simple is much more complex and deeper than may look like at the first sight. This kind of complexity which is hidden among simple things is wonderful.

Do you have any role models that your photography is directing towards?
If we speak about some traits of character, emotions and atmosphere I can say that there's always some mystique mood and incompleteness that attracts my attention and which I try to implement in my works in a harmonious way. As for particular people, I have been trying to analyze my own preferences towards appearance of models which I photograph and I've come to conclusion that they always remind me of such dramatic, melancholic, clouded, surreal world in which emotions, feelings, vague and strange memories are turning into elements of reality. Sometimes I like another mood – the sense of theatrical expression (as for visual side) but the emotional aspect remains the same.

What inspires you?
Besides movies, paintings, books I can get inspiration from a woman's face as well, they can be so different and so inspiring. A face of this or that girl helps me to convey my idea in such a way in which I see it in front of my eyes – she's like an actress in a movie who creates the particular and necessary atmosphere for her heroine.

Are there any work of female photographers in Russia you can recommend?
The works of Anna Danilova are remarkable – her photographs look like paintings, colours are perfect and images are great to me.

What is the biggest compliment you could be given for your pictures?
The words about mystery atmosphere in my works, the presence of meaning in them and their similarity of tones to painting, these kinds of comparison sound like music to my ears:)

Alexandra Bochkareva | St. Petersburg, Russia

Hello Alexandra and thank you for submitting your beautiful Portrait series. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Hello, Nicole! Thank you too for your interest to my works :) I was born and grown up in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), now I live in Saint-Petersburg (Russia). From my early childhood I fell in love with art through drawing and painting. In the period of study years and work I forgot about it for few years, but after giving birth to my daughter I started it again with a help of my dad's "Zenith", my first shots were made on film.

How did it come that you mostly shoot portraits of redheaded and freckled girls?
I'm freckled myself, but it wasn't the reason from the very beginning as many peoply ask me. I just started to notice that redheads are unique for me - pale skin, bushy eyelashes, freckles, bright eyes – these all are very importrtant details of my portraits. My first freckled model was my sister, I love this type of appearance, so I’ve started to shoot redheads more than others.

In another interview you said that the models Polina and Alice, you work with, are kind of muses. What makes it so special to work with them?
Alice is  the fox, which worked with us :).  This was one of the most difficult and amazing shootings for me. It was very cold and windy weather, Alice didn’t want to play more than 5 minutes, but I tried to do my best, they (Polly & Alice) were very inspiring.

Your images are very well composed. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
Thank you :) I even do not know, maybe this sense came with practice of drawing. I try to shoot from different angles, to select the most appropriate point of shooting – it helps me.

Do you have any advice for taking portraits?
Love what you do, don’t be afraid to experiment and get critique from viewers. Learn and practice today, tomorrow and ever!

What do you enjoy most of being a photographer?
I like that through photography I can express my own point of view about beauty, I work and collaborate with different interesting people, I build my own fairy-tale brick by brick. And it’s wonderful.

Do you have any role models that your photography is directed towards?
This year I have work a lot with Polina (Polina Partsevskaya, model, St-Petersburg). But I don’t think that I direct something special for her, vice versa, she's just one of the few who is emotionally and visually fits the most my ideas

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Russia. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?
I can only say about the portraitists, because this genre is interesting for me. I like very much the works of Ulduz Bakhtiozina and Katerina Plotnikova, they are very inspiring.


Dina Dubrovskaya | Saransk, Russia

Hi Dina, thank you for submitting your work. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Hi, thanks for having me! I am 25 years old and I am a self-taught portrait and documentary photographer from Saransk, Russia.

When did you first become interested in photography?
I started taking photographs about six years ago, when I was at university - I was really into self-portraits at the time. I guess that’s when I got interested and started looking at works of different photographers trying to recreate something I liked in my own pictures.  

What does photography mean to you?
Photography is a perfect way to tell stories. I have a long way to go before I learn to tell a story with a single portrait.

In your project „Instant yearbook" you are photographing the pupils of small village schools in the region of Mordovia. How did you come up with this idea?
I live in Mordovia which is a region located in Central Russia and my family initially comes from one of Mordvinian villages. When I was a child I used to spend every summer living in this village and I could see how different life was there. When I got older I didn’t visit so often, but every time I came I felt inspired to show what I saw, to transform my love for this place into something tangible. Then once I got a chance to visit the local school and look inside this little isolated world and see its few inhabitants. The kids were amazing – open and funny, bright and rebellious. That’s when I had the idea of visiting more villages and more village schools, taking portraits of the pupils.  

Can u explain us how different life is in small villages in Russia compared to big cities?
I am not going to talk about economic side of the question, I am just not a person to do it. In villages you more than ever feel the importance of human relationships, the history of the place and of the country is more palpable, everything is more naked and raw – these are important things for which I keep coming back to villages.

How does village schools differ from schools located in cities? In your description you wrote that some of the schools will be closed to the lack of students.
Yes, unfortunately it’s true – several schools I’ve visited are going to be shut down because there aren’t enough pupils. This is something happening all over Russia, not only here in Mordovia. Some of the schools I’ve photographed are really tiny having only about 30 kids as their students. I find that it creates a special atmosphere which I appreciate when I come to photograph. Everybody knows each other, older kids help first-graders, teachers are your next-door neighbors – they are all in this together. They always take pride in what they have and what they create and I feel so honored to be allowed into this little world.

Was it challenging taking portraits of children? Did you give the kids any direction?
I love working with kids and teenagers and I’m so used to it now that I am afraid I will have more troubles taking photos of adults J I usually try to photograph the kids exactly as I find them, though from time to time I suggest a place which is better lit. I talk to children a lot while I work, usually about their school life in general, about their interests, pets and friends. I tell them to smile if they want to and some of them do, but some (especially boys) prefer looking serious and businesslike. This always makes me smile.  

What is your goal with this project?
I always send the photos to the schools so they can have something like a yearbook, which is especially important for schools that are going to be closed soon, I think. But I’d lie if I said this was the main goal of my project. For me it’s all about discovery - travelling to isolated places and meeting new exciting people.

Tell us a bit about the photography scene in Russia. Is there any work of female photographers you can recommend?
I admire Russian photographer Olya Ivanova who works a lot with documentary portraiture, she’s amazing!

Do you have any upcoming projects that you like to share with our readers?
I am going to continue with “instant yearbook” for a while, but I’ve also been thinking about going back to my village and working on a bigger project there. Hopefully it’ll work out.