From Saint-Petersburg, Russia, and now residing in New York City, Kristina Shakht is a fashion documentary photographer and creative director who centers her work on the female identity and all values that come with it. She aims to reclaim the power men hold in the male-dominated photography industry and redefine their portrayals of women through her own experiences and lens. Through this, she creates an authentic, powerful, and safe space for female expression and appreciation.
Hello Kristina! Can you let our readers know who you are and what you do?
I’m (born 1995 in Saint-Petersburg, Russia) a New York-based fashion photographer and creative director creating stories with a documentary perspective. The main themes of my work are intimacy, sensuality, self-identity and liberation. Inspired by Slavic fairy tales and mythology, I document the female form and landscapes. My approach aims to reframe the negative sexual experiences she lived through as a young woman. My focus on non-sexual work with the body shows the female figure from a woman’s perspective, creating a safe space of expression for both me and my subject, and depicting an imaginary new world.
My work has been featured in i-D, AnOther, NY Times, Puss Puss, Lampoon, Office, Teeth, Hunger, Calvert, WÜL, The Blueprint, WRPD, Phosphenes, Lula Japan, Complex, BE-IN and was showcased by Aperture Foundation and Rockefeller Center in Flag Project (NYC, USA) and also in Memories, The Essential, The Performer, The Man and The Machine and Contrasts exhibitions, curated by LoosenArt Gallery (Rome, Italy).
What got you started in film photography and what keeps you going?
I honestly first started shooting film in Saint-Petersburg when I was 13. At that time everyone was doing it - all my friends had film cameras. My uncle is a sound producer and photographer. I think the first camera I had was the Zenit that he gave me. I also remember shooting on Smena 8. I’m not sure that I understood anything about the settings at that time but I was just experimenting. I got back into film photography when I was 24 and switched to it entirely. All my favorite fashion photographers were shooting film and I was trying to get that look and those beautiful colors as well.
What themes/values do you maintain throughout your creative process? Is there a message you hope to convey through your work?
Photography is an industry mainly dominated by males and I want to change that. Sexism is so ingrained that honestly I’m really tired and I’m no longer tolerating it. At the Lomography and Brooklyn Film Camera meet up for photographers a couple weeks ago, some guy asked me if I shot film as well and I just couldn’t not laugh because we were at a specific event for film photographers and that is what you’ll ask me?! My team is mostly female or non-binary folks. And creating a safe space for myself and other people on set is my goal. I have panic disorder so I have enough anxiety in my life and in order to do my job I need to tailor my team to only kind and open-minded people who understand boundaries of everyone on the team but especially models who are often treated in a very inhumane way. Photography is not really important if someone is being treated badly.
Who are your greatest inspirations?
Art in general. Also I love performance art and Marina Abramovich and political science - those are the things that layered together give me inspiration.
You shot these lovely photos with our LomoChrome Metropolis! What camera and ISO did you shoot? And how did you like your results?
I shot Metropolis with ISO 400 using Contax T. I love the colors and just the fact that these images are sort of like ones from a photo album that I would try to create as a kid.
You also got to test out our Sprocket Rocket--what features did you enjoy?
It’s honestly tricky and the first roll will probably be bad - but it's really fun. I loved it and I was able to make a really nice overlapped image 3-4 shots long.
Can you walk us through your ideas behind these photo series?
I honestly rarely shoot for fun so with Metropolis I wanted to shoot around things that I like creating sort of diary in images of that week.
What makes a photo memorable to you?
What's the best advice you got early on and you would like to let us know?
Mmmm… I don’t know about advice that I got but from my own experience if you want to shoot film - start now! I was so scared to mess up film because I didn’t know much about camera settings and it was all very intimidating. Don’t be afraid or be afraid but still go ahead and do it - I’ve been there too. It doesn’t matter how technical you are and what camera you have is not important either. The only important things are vision and good taste - that’s what got me to shoot for i-D, Another, NY Times, Office, etc not technical stuff. Explore fine art, go to museums - learn by exposing yourself to art. Also painting and graphic sketching really helps to understand shape and color. I’ve studied fine art since I was 4 years old and that’s the best investment I have - you can’t find that on YouTube.
Finally, do you have anything lined up for the rest of 2021?
I’m preparing my 4th exhibition project this year and hopefully in November there will be a show. I’m also trying to see if it will be possible to release another zine - my first one To Be or To Become was published this June and I’m thinking of part two.