When I was a little girl, I would stare at my mom’s albums of classical painters
Having been a film student in my day, I often find myself disappointed in the limitations of still photography. With Anka Zhuraleva, this is not the case. Join me in marveling at stories told in silence, with just one click.
You are both a painter and a photographer. How does working in each craft influence your work in the other?
They influence each other a lot. As a painter, I was often inspired by photos, taken by myself or seen somewhere. Later, when I started to take photos on a regular basis, my painting experience and architectural education (which includes history of the arts) helped me with colors and picturesque feeling I try to add to all my photos. When I was a little girl, I would stare at my mom’s albums of classical painters; there were masters of Renaissance, the Dutch masters, impressionists, post-impressionists, etc. I think all that left a deep trace.
You also worked as a model. How does this influence the way you direct your own subjects?
As I used to be a model myself, I can feel what my model feels from the other side of a lens, and, of course, it helps me with directing. I try to find a friend in every model, try to keep her (him) calm and in good disposition. I also understand that there are things that are not suitable for a particular person and try not to push. The result of a photo-shoot with a model is influenced by both of the participants; there is no main person.
“Color Tales” are images pulled from many different shoots and stories. Is this grouping intentional or do you just happen to be drawn to particular color palettes in your work? Are inspired by Wes Anderson in this respect?
Well, that’s a good question. In the beginning, all I had were “color tales” without dividing them into specific colors. The concept was square, cinematic, mood pictures in color, without any special palette. Whenever or wherever I took a picture for this project, I kept in mind this concept. Later, I realized that I do prefer particular color combinations and that I already had a lot of pictures that could be sorted by colors; so I did it. Now while shooting I keep in mind that I do have “red”, “vanilla”, “chocolate” and so on. About Wes Anderson, I love his works, but I can’t see any connection between his movies and my pictures. Well, maybe there are connections visible to a viewer, but I never thought about that.
Judging by your location choices, you are very well travelled. How do you find and what attracts you to these stunning locations?
Yes, being photographer blessed me to travel. Mostly, I travel to my own workshops and there are local people who help me to find places by my request. Normally, I describe what would I love to see in a picture and we try to find something suitable. What’s most interesting, it happens that places that do not attract anybody, attract me, and then later everybody is asking where I found such a beautiful location. Or, if I travel by myself, I just look around, always keeping my eyes wide opened. I do not search for an obvious beauty in things, but at the same time it hides closer than one might expect.
On the flip side, you shoot a lot of intimate moments with women in their bedrooms, very focused on the model. How and why do you find yourself capturing these moments again and again?
I do not know actually. Never thought about it. I just shoot what I love to shoot, whether it is a picturesque place in a middle of nowhere or an intimate bedroom moment.
You seem to have a special talent of creating a setting through location, props, hair, make up, costume, etc. I’ve seen very well defined fantasy lands and dream worlds, as well as period shots that range from early 1900’s to the 20’s-40’s. How do you acquire all these resources and achieve that perfect feeling? Are you inspired by masters of set design like Jeunet and Caro?
It’s true that I do pay a lot of attention to the details. But, actually, I never think of a particular period, I think it just comes together naturally. I usually supply all the other elements for a shoot by myself, most of the time nobody helps me. There were several shoots where I got hairdressers and make-up artists and rented or ordered costumes, but ninety percent of my shoots I manage alone. I have a big closet of dresses I hunt for in vintage stores, flea markets, sometimes I sew them myself. Props as well; I prepare for every shoot specifically. Jeunet and Caro are the perfect couple and I just adore their work. I think in someway I got inspiration from their movies, especially when it comes to details and colors.
Continuing with that thought, you also use multimedia, in that series on your site have a soundtrack and sometimes a written story… Have you ever considered making a film?
Yes… I love cinematography, and one day I’ll act like a director and make a film. One day… Not now.
I must say, I really do adore your work overall. Funny thing is, although you shoot mostly in color, my favorite shot is in Black and white. Can you tell us a little bit about the picture of two ladies smoking topless at the table?
Thank you for that. And for all these interesting and not typical questions. Though, I should admit that most of my work is not in color. I would rather say that it is just the most popular part of my work. I have some projects that are not yet published. My last black and white photos are analog and it takes time to work on them; to shoot, develop, and print. Hopefully soon I will have my permanent dark room and everything will be easier. About the two smoking girls. It was taken by coincidence, in the very beginning of my photographic journey. We did a lot of shooting on that day with these two girls. I was a beginner and they were art students at that time and were occupied with exams. I just saw a beautiful light and the possibility to make a good composition, so I asked them to pose in that way so we got that picture. Just for fun the picture was named “A Period of Taking Exams”. Thank you for the interview, I enjoyed answering.
You can see more of Anka’s work here: