The Style Researcher Magazine presents photographer, stylist, and experimental artist Zhanna Alekseeva with her elegant and innovative editorial titled “Monarch”. Here is an interview we conducted with Zhanna.
Hello Zhanna. Welcome to The Style Researcher Magazine! Can you begin by telling us about yourself and what your hobbies and interests are?
Hello guys. Thanks for having me in your magazine. My name is Zhanna, and I am a photographer, stylist, and experimental artist based in New York. I specialize in portrait and fashion photography. I enjoy every opportunity to capture the beauty around us, but people have always been my favorite subject. I love how each person has unique features, and every face tells its own story and makes each image unique. I’ve always been inspired by clothes, materials, lighting, colors, and locations, and finding more subtle ways to incorporate those elements. I think that’s the reason I ended up in fashion & portraiture.
In my journey to bridge the gap between fashion and technology, I’ve also utilized new technologies similar to the Metaverse in my editorial fashion projects. Thus, in addition to capturing beautiful images, this technology empowers me to create 3D holographic, volumetric content to be used in augmented reality, virtual reality, and the web, on mobile or desktop environments. That allows the viewer to see, hear and walk around a life-size, fully 3D digital version of another person, and interact with them in real-time.
What was it like first to realize that you wanted to do photography? Were you surrounded by people who made it easier to pursue photography?
I’ve always considered myself an artist and wanted to do something creative as a career. I have a fine arts background and have been working in painting mediums from a young age. Later, I became fascinated with Photoshop and graphic design, and I saw it as an opportunity to express myself creatively, not using paintbrushes. My first real job out of college was as a digital producer at a radio station in New York, so picking up a camera was a natural progression. I’ve done event photography and documentary and always enjoyed taking pictures of beautiful landscapes and architecture, but I didn’t consider photography something I wanted to do full-time until a few years ago. I started taking photographs again during the pandemic because I needed a creative outlet and found myself doing portraiture and fashion photography and couldn’t imagine myself doing anything other than that.
I would say I was always surrounded by creative and talented people. Living in New York makes it very easy to immerse yourself in creative culture, find inspiration, challenge and foster your skills. I also can’t thank my husband, an eminent camera lover, enough for being there for me and sharing my passion.
What motivates you to continue taking pictures?
I consider photography a form of art. Whether you do it as a hobby or professionally, creating is like breathing, it’s a part of who you are. Taking photos is one of the most inspiring and exciting pursuits, driven by the desire to share what we find beautiful and exciting with others. It’s a very personal and passionate process of creating something unique to you. You can find inspiration everywhere around you, depending on your photography type. For me, it’s browsing the work of other creative artists, looking at the new fashion designers’ collections, traveling, experimenting with new gear or types of photography. As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
I would describe my style as paintings. Bright, bold, sometimes loud, and always edgy. My photography is my pursuit to share the beauty of fashion while giving it contextual depth. The consistent element is an interpretive narrative and a story I am both creating and trying to tell.
What are you looking forward to in the future? Any new concepts or techniques you would like to try?
I would like to do more product photography. I think of it as a way to challenge myself, as there are so many creative challenges there. It’s very intriguing! I also find this type of photography more independent, meditative, and serene in a way. Not to undermine the work in a team – I love working in big teams. But I also find it appealing to have projects when it’s just you by yourself in a studio. It reminds me of painting.
I am also fascinated by working in new media, specifically, Metaverse. In all my recent fashion photography projects, I’ve captured my subjects in 3D and turned them into holograms.
By co-locating a traditional photography set with a 3D volumetric capture array, my team and I can capture both pictures and record holograms, which can be shared as a 3D scan on your mobile device or PC, as well as placed into a 3D environment to create an interactive experience that can be used to engage with brands and/or sold as an NFT. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to work in this media and be a part of this revolution, and I can’t wait to see how it will shape up fashion industry in the future.
How important is collaboration for you? Tell us what it is like to always work with new stylists, models, and designers.
Collaboration is vital and what I enjoy. Collaborations are a great way to create magic and grow together. I can’t get enough of being around other innovative minds, and it is so invigorating. There are so many elements of my work that I just couldn’t execute without the skill and passion of the people I work with. All you need is a shared vision, and your hearts and labor will fill the gaps. Not only can you achieve your shared creative pursuits and create content for your audience, but it’s always a fantastic way to expand your network while simultaneously fostering growth and improvement. It’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals and collaborate on things you are passionate about.
As an artist, how does where you live/where you come from influence your work?
I am very fortunate to live in New York City — the creative center of our world. New York and its rich bounty have always inspired me, and I continue to be every day. It’s a melting pot of cultures, a collision of ideas, and a magnet for the ambitious and inspired. You’ll find new ideas, creative energy, and an infectious sense of overriding determination everywhere you go. It can be the Metropolitan Opera, Metropolitan Museum, Broadway, New York City Ballet, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Central Park, or simply window shopping on 5th Avenue or in SoHo. Each has the awesome power to entertain, amuse and move, and inspire. New York also has unlimited resources for every artist, allowing you to work with world-renowned and emerging designers, models, and stylists driven by the same creative mojo that fuels all of us.
What are the biggest challenges of working in New York City?
For me, it’s creating and sustaining human connections. Every day is filled with new people to meet and opportunities to interact with all types of personalities. While you’re constantly presented with new opportunities and relationships, bombarded really, you also have to understand that you can spend a lifetime trying to meet absolutely everyone in your field. The hardest is making the right choices and maintaining long-standing relationships. People in New York are always busy with their endeavors, and it’s challenging to create the foundation necessary for genuine friendships.
What makes a great fashion photograph?
It has to have good taste. It’s impossible to create excellent fashion photography if you don’t have good taste.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Be patient. Have a plan, but don’t expect it to go that way. Roll with the punches. I think photography is quite a challenging field, everyone has their own story, but it’s crucial to stay consistent, flexible, and open to new things and relationships.
What have you done to develop & improve your skills?
I believe that great photography results from combining the correct technique with an artist’s expression. I think that the process of learning, refining your artistic eye, and finding ways to perfect your photography skills or expand your portfolio never stops. I always look for new trends and concepts that inspire me and try to formulate new skills in my professional arsenal and improve my technical abilities. It means a lot of research, self-education, and practice for the most part. I study works of photographers I admire and try to implement the aspects of their artistry that appeal to me. I am also fascinated by technology and how quickly digital photography evolves. As a digital artist, there’s always a new hot trend I want to experiment with within photography, whether it’s a new Adobe Photoshop feature, a type of gel lights, lens filters, or AI-powered software I get to use in my next creative endeavor.
How has your process of working changed over time? Are there any suggestions you want to give our audience/ upcoming photographers?
I wouldn’t say my work process changed, but it became more efficient. I can get faster from the concept visualization to the finished project. I think every photographer has their own way of doing things, and it’s imperative to invest time in perfecting your style and technique. The more you do it, the better you can get like any skill.
How your own personal dress style is different from how you style your subjects during your shoot?
Very good question. I think my work as a stylist is an opportunity to engage with beautiful clothes and jewelry pieces and try new styles. It’s not what I would necessarily wear myself, but it would be cool if I had an opportunity to. I would love to wear a gown, for instance, but how often do we have a chance to do it in our daily life? Styling is also my way to pay respect to the designers who created them and look for my unique way to make them a part of my editorial like no other stylist has done yet.
Thank you Zhanna for this interview. We wish you the best in your life and your career!
Thank you. It has been a pleasure.
“In the context of this submission, my team and I co-located a traditional photography set alongside a 3D volumetric capture array. We then were able to pipeline our model from traditional 2D photography through to neuvo 3D capture to the METAVERSE in the same shoot with the same team efficiently. I have attached a contact sheet for our “Monarch” editorial submission and use the following links to view the holograms:
Web (will open in a browser, works both on the phone and computer): http://streaming.evercoast.com/player/latest/index.html?a=Evercoast/BFLY.RED.ec.take.001/2205/BFLY.RED.ec.take.001.ecm&g=1&l=1&o=3&q=1
Mobile (works different on the phone – it will place the hologram in the room with you): http://streaming.evercoast.com/player/latest/ar.html?a=Evercoast/BFLY.RED.ec.take.001/2205/BFLY.RED.ec.take.001.ecm&l=1
In this editorial, I used Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2011 collection as an inspiration (rb.gy/umbrgw). I attempted to recreate one of the looks in the collection by making the butterfly top myself (look #1 in a contact sheet) and adding pieces from NYC showrooms and designers I work with to complete it and create two more looks. Since the theme of this editorial was rejuvenation and spring awakening, I relied on bright colors and flowing textures to convey the story. I then recorded a hologram of one of the looks, which can be shared as a 3D scan on your mobile device or PC”.
Model: Hope Loundas @Social_New York
Makeup Artist/Hair Stylist: Chandrima Deb
Production Assistant: Igor Alekseev
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