Duration: Six years.
Location: Brooklyn, New York.
Education: BFA in interior and graphic design from Ural State Academy of Architecture and Arts, Yekaterinburg, Russia; MFA in photography from Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California.
Career path: I started my art career by studying interior and graphic design at Ural State Academy of Architecture and Arts in my hometown of Yekaterinburg, Russia, while simultaneously, I working part time as a graphic designer. After I graduated, I began as an art director at a small advertising agency and worked my up to an art director position at Y&R Russia in Moscow. I eventually realized that I prefer field work over office jobs; creating something immediately with my own hands gives me the most satisfaction. After moving to San Francisco on New Year’s Eve in 2010, I have dedicated my time solely to photography.
Favorite projects: As a portrait photographer, I’m proud of my personal projects that raise awareness on different issues, like She Is in High School and Mystery of the Female. In these series, I portray the experiences of being a woman in modern society and of growing up as a girl, with all kinds of demands and social standards imposed on you.
Work environment: I really like my small neighborhood in Brooklyn! In general, New York is a very culturally diverse city—I love that. I usually work in a photography studio, which has a lot of lighting gear and different backdrops in it. Sometimes, we also build sets in studio, or shoot on location, both indoor and outdoor, in the world. Then it’s my desk, computer and a Wacom tablet, which I can’t live without.
Approach: I have a painting background, so I like carefully controlled color palettes and soft, painterly transitions from light to shadow. Thanks to that, I also draw detailed sketches for most of my shots. I pay a lot of attention to set design and prop styling; that’s where my degree in interior design definitely comes in handy. And my longtime interest in human psychology helps me tell stories through portraits.
Aspirations: With my photography, I’d love to be involved with brands, companies and organizations that change the world—saving lives, protecting people or nature, and being responsible about the materials, types of energy and the labor they use. As for a professional development goal, I’d like to direct more, create more videos and possibly produce short films.
Portrait of Kristina Varaksina taken by Anastasiia Sapon.