Kristina Varaksina: “All Artists Have the Power of Influencing People”
London-based photographer Kristina Varaksina is out to challenge the ideas of what beauty means in her latest project
Award-winning photographer Kristina Varaksina creates concept photography, often with powerful stories behind them. While she’s worked with the BBC, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Telegraph, in this Domestika Creatives, we follow her on a much more personal project.
Inspired by her own experiences of growing up in Russia during a time of political and economic restructuring, women’s beauty became a commodity. Her upbringing, along with the world she finds herself in now professionally, often shooting for commercial bookings—in an industry whose beauty standards have been discussed and challenged in recent years—have led Kristina to explore what beauty is in her personal project, The Essence of Beauty.
Exploring self-perception and self-discovery
Kristina says she wanted to, “Explore the psyche of women and the issues of self-perception and self-discovery” in this project. By selecting subjects who challenged the ideas of what "beauty" is, she has created a project full of women empowered not only by how they look, but the experiences within their stories that have shaped them.
Sometimes these women are found through the traditional casting agency route, but as her project grows, so too do the number of willing models who want to represent their beauty in front of Kristina’s lens, and they’re found through more organic routes.
Jas, the subject of her shoot in this Domestika Creatives video is just nineteen years old, but an advocate and campaigner for the beauty industry to represent everyone. She says working with Kristina on this project appealed to her because she, “wants people to know that they don’t have to hide how they are because of what other people think… They’re beautiful the way they are.”
A personal, intimate project
The Essence of Beauty is a passion project for Kristina. She explains that being able to juggle a side project on top of paid commercial work relies heavily on a small but dependable team of people around her, “who can help [her] manage an atmosphere on set"—one of whom is Laura, the makeup artist for The Essence of Beauty.
As Laura says, “Probably one of the reasons Kristina works with me is that I don’t fancy a lot of makeup,” which is an important point for Kristina, who wants to emphasize her models’ natural features.
Kristina carefully plans out all of her shots before she begins. By creating preliminary sketches, she’s able to work with both her makeup artist and models to share the looks she’s going for.
As well as using minimal makeup on the models, Kristina explains, “seeing how I can translate the character with light is a big part.”
The shoots themselves are personal and intimate. By opting to shoot from her home studio rather than to rent out larger, commercial spaces, Kristina can create a comfortable atmosphere for her models, to help them feel more relaxed in front of the camera.
Sharing an important message
Kristina’s Essence of Beauty project is ongoing, but she plans to exhibit the project when it’s complete. For her, it’s important to have personal side projects along with her commercial work, and there seems to be an overwhelming responsibility that she feels as an artist to create work that provokes thought and influences those that see it.
As Kristina says, “Any visual artist always looks for ways of expressing themselves… All artists have the power of influencing people and delivering messages on an emotional level, rather than a logical level.”
Did you enjoy this video? If you’d like to learn more about how to create striking conceptual photography, like Kristina, check out her online course Introduction to Conceptual Portrait Photography.
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Amazing and compelling video!
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