For the vol. 10 of our printed edition, we had the pleasure to meet an incredible photographer, Lil Safonova. We had the chance to do an interview with her. In these pages we present also her editorial “My Supergirl” with the model Dasha Bryleva. But guys, let us start with her bio.
As a talented young photographer from Russia, Lil Safonova (most often referred to as simply “Lil”) was born in a distant small town in Kazakhstan USSR before her family moved to Russia.
Lil’s childhood was not luxurious. She did not have a creative family or environment, but she grew up in a loving atmosphere, in an ecologically clean mountain city.
The limit of her dream was simply to live in the capital of Russia. However, she was quite different from many of her peers and at the age of 6 she tried to be creative on her own by writing poems, was fond of criminology, cinema, music and tried writing reviews. The road to photography was incredibly long. Initially, Lil didn’t even think about it, she wasn’t a fan of fashion, she didn’t read magazines, she preferred books and she was attracted to cinema and journalism.
At the age of 12, she managed to star in a small program on the local TV channel, where she told about her childhood love for the actor Leonardo Dicaprio and read several of her poems. After this show she was noticed by the editor-in-chief and director of the TV channel who invited her to the studio for an interview. She was given the chance to work as a freelance reporter first, then she received a full-fledged author’s program where she had 3 hours of airtime per week. She was both a screenwriter, author and TV presenter of her own programs. Of course, after that, Lil wanted to go to Moscow and enter the faculty of journalism. However, her family stopped her, convincing her that they didn’t have enough money to get her into a prestigious university in the field of Media and it would be better to take up a scientific direction.
Lil graduated from high school with honors and a medal. Then she entered the Faculty of Geography in Moscow but it was one of the best universities in the country and in the world (Lomonosov Moscow State University – MSU). Her life was not developing bad, but creativity completely disappeared from her life. She felt dissatisfied with it, as if she had “let it kill all her dreams”. Furthermore, another 6 years of a real nightmares followed. Lil at an early age married a man who tried to completely suppress her will by interfering with her communication with relatives and used violence against her. The miracle happened when Lil’s first child was born, and she found the strength to get out of the codependent relationship. Left on her own alone with a baby, she hoped to find at least some job.
She was even ready to stand at the checkout in the store or work at a bar in the evenings. Faith gave her an acquaintance with a model who saw a potential in Lil and offered to create her own creative project. So at first, Lil worked as a model and actress in small roles but then she managed to raise a completely ridiculous amount of money and with the help of friends she opened her first studio. At the same time, Lil took her baby with her everywhere, and she often slept on the set in a stroller. So since 2010, Lil actually owned a studio in Moscow and in the process she had to master the work with photographic equipment, she learned to photograph taking photos of her child and friends.
For 10 years, Lil has rebuilt 3 more photo studios in Moscow, started promoting and producing her daughter, met a lot of celebrities and proved to be a magnet for people.
Many celebrities have been working with Lil for 10 years and didn’t want to change photographers. For many years she went on plain air shooting with the famous photographer Yan Mcline, who also miraculously appeared in her life and offered his professional lessons for free, when she still didn’t know how to do it professionally.
He also advised her to send photos to competitions and magazines, seeing her potential. Indeed, since 2018, Lil began to publish, first in 2-3 magazines, and then in dozens of different magazines around the world. Her work was repeatedly put on covers. In Russia she made covers and posters for a huge number of celebrities.
Her career has just begun, although she has already lost hope of some real “success” in her life, devoting herself to children (now Lil has two children and she still raises them up alone), she only thinks about how to earn money for their expensive education and needs. Lil is different in that she knows how to shoot in very different styles. She is universal and her nude works are very highly appreciated all over the world. They say that she has a “masculine view of the female body” and therefore many don’t understand how a woman could take these photos.
Her works are presented in the Saatchi Art Gallery, LA. Lil has already been invited to participate in a number of world exhibitions in 2021.
Now Lil lives in Moscow with her kids, but she also lives in Riga for a long time every summer.
You have a very interesting biography, it is clear that you are a versatile person. How do you manage to combine such different tastes and interests?
I don’t know, I have always been like this, since childhood. I was fascinated by a lot of things from different spheres. For example, I was obsessed with forensics and everything related to investigations, detective cases, psychology, mental disorders, astronomy, etc. At the same time, I adore fashion, exquisite beauty, the animal world, I am a geographer by scientific education, I wanted to become an oceanographer, sail the seas (moreover, as a pirate, and not as his girlfriend lol)), besides, I used to write a lot of poetry, was fond of journalism, politics, cinema, acting, sports (martial arts), music (I play the guitar, this is my passion, but, unfortunately, I cannot say that I do it well) and, by the way, never thought about photography – it came into my life strange and unexpected. My wardrobe is also atypical – it has military clothes, clothes for sports and hiking, feminine cocktail dresses, and gloomy rocker things right there) Well, plus I’m a mom. Lol, and dad …
My ex-husband joked that everyone has one wife, and he has at least three, and they are all different and he needs to keep track of them …)
You are a public person, but you say that you are an introvert. How is this possible?
Yes! This is the main paradox of my life, but this is not posturing, it is true. Of course, I love attention, I am also self-centered, like most people, but I cannot be in a large society for a long time, I am not very contactable and I try to escape from people who try to talk to me more personally. It’s very hard for me to let new people into my life, it’s difficult to get closer, 90 percent of new acquaintances do not end with anything. In public it is a pleasure for me to appear once a week and then be away for a week, in my close circle or alone. I can only create something cool and creative by myself staying alone. Besides, I am monogamous and if I love someone, then it can last 7-15 years … Everything else is just a cost of show business and the show that the public wants to see. I very often hear from people (since I am actively blogging) that they know everything about my life, but this is the biggest misconception, they do not know anything really important about it, I try to publish just some events, activities since it’s part of my image and work, everything else happens behind closed doors.
What qualities do you value in people?
Of course, I appreciate kindness, intelligence, sincerity, and honesty, but also strength, fortitude, purposefulness. But definitely, not money or looks. I am a deep person, so I also do not like superficial people, many people disappointed me. I can see the potential in a person whom no one is looking at and pass by some universal favorite. In short, there is something of the devil in me)))))) I am greedy for souls, not bodies.
Why do you think so many talented people never succeed when others achieve success?
Overconfidence, narcissism, bad strategies (or no strategies at all). SELF-CONFIDENCE is important! This is extremely important, but don’t forget about the competition and the fact that opportunities come and go. Russian rock artist Andrey Makarevich sang: “I have always been lucky with a horse in all years, but luck is not an easy craft. And when luck passes by, another man will be on my horse. “ There will always be someone better, smarter, more beautiful than you.
And you need to develop all the time! Even if the whole world recognizes your talent and you have received all the awards in the world, you need to continue to learn and improve, the world is changing. You can never be absolutely satisfied with your job! I saw many people who started well but then decided that they were already gurus and stopped developing, in the end, everything stopped for them and they even lost what they had. And you need to be flexible, you don’t have to turn up your nose and say that you won’t leave the house until you are offered a contract for a million dollars)))))), you need to work, sometimes even a lot and for free, nothing will fall from the sky by itself! And the Universe does not like such egoists and ‘waiters’ (people who waiting), it helps and very well helps those who are adamant in their intentions and move towards the goal and do not expect miracles.
What characteristics should a girl have to become your model? What are the selection criteria? Appearance, youth?
Yes, as an artist I select attractive girls, but I don’t like unnaturalness. I rarely like “tuning” girls with obvious plastic of all parts of the body, as a rule, they are also bad actresses with empty eyes and dead facial expressions. The only criterion is probably harmony since I work with lines, the rest I have to see and feel. I can take not the most beautiful and bright girl at first glance, but in my photo, she will be very cool, because she is real and alive, she will give in the frame those emotions that will hook the viewer.
Are you still lonely or do you have a life partner?
Well, I used to be with someone for years. From the age of 15, I had one partner after another, but now the situation is different. I broke up with the last guy at the end of 2019 and since then I have not dated anyone, because they drained me out emotionally, it was toxic and useless. I do not need any incredible feats or vacation in the Bahamas from my partner, but I would like him to at least emotionally invest, and not only manipulate and take my energy and resources. So I deliberately pushed everyone away from me and decided to take a long pause to restore my balance. If I enter into a relationship, it will be close and MY person.
How do you manage to get girls to show so much genuine passion in a photo? I mean, you are not a man, what kind of an atmosphere is the shoot taking place in? Are you using any ‘secret’ techniques?
Ahahah, yes, I do. But I can’t talk about them, that’s why they are forbidden / but no, I don’t touch them with my hands, only psychologically swing) And many of my models do not know about this until now, working with me for 5 or more years. But they often say that in my photos they like themselves the most. The decor is ordinary, the only thing is that I do not like strangers in the studio (friends, assistants, etc.). I need an intimate atmosphere, where there is only me and the model, these photos are cool.
How did you spend 2020 in isolation, was it difficult for you?
No, he was wonderful. I have published in many cool magazines, connected remotely with many interesting people from all over the world, improved my language, did finances, delved into the
interrelationships of psychology and esotericism, meditated a lot, and raised my energy level! I created a new project, received dozens of job offers around the world and invitations to participate in international exhibitions, and also got agree to shoot some world celebrities after quarantine, made new and very cool friends, played the guitar, so in general it was a lonely but very very productive year! And I also went to places of power in wonderful Karelia, floated on the rivers, and got my charge the next year!
What is photography to you?
Photography is a living moment in a transparent bottle. It is a memory or feeling that has remained immortal.
Who would you photograph if you could choose anyone in the world?
I need to see a person, catch and feel at an energetic level, that’s the only way I can tell if I want to shoot him. But I guess it would be Julia Roberts, Mila Jovovich, Angelina Jolie, and Gia Carangi (if she were alive).
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Instagram of Lil Safonova.