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Interview: Tanya Bekasova on the Harsh Beauty of Russia

Friday 12 June 2015

Young Russian photographer Tanya Bekasova talks about what it’s like working and living in Moscow, while walking us through some of the important shoots and moments of her burgeoning career.

Tell us about yourself?
I was born in a city called Samara. I can call myself a photographer now but it was not an easy way because I have always studied technical disciplines. At the age of 19 I understood that I will never ever use it in real life and told my parents: «Good morning. I am gonna be one of the best photographers of my generation so I have to quit the university and move to Moscow and after to New York maybe». They were shocked a little bit but next day they said «Okay, good luck, do it. We love you anyway»
My father had a big jazz orchestra for many years so he has always been on my side about anything I choose. He was a teacher in technical university, so as I am, he had a «technical side» and «creative side». And he was always understanding what I feel very well. My mother just loved me and wanted me to be happy. They still support me about anything I do. So I am never afraid to risk.
Tell me about the photography scene in Moscow?
It’s a very difficult question. Most photographers I know live between Moscow and other cities/countries because we don’t have strong industry. So does it count as the photography scene in Moscow? I don’t really know. Theoretically I am based in Moscow, I do shoots here, of course Russia inspires me a lot – it’s very different and has its own strange mix of beauty and ugliness, but 80% of time I am not in Moscow (and it’s the same for many photographers from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg I know). So I am not the insider. I know few people who work here. Honestly I can’t call it a scene. It’s like a little playground for kids. At least I see it like this.
Is there a shoot you’ve been especially proud of?
There are some series I really love. Old ones with my friends and new ones. This one we made with my best friend just after my internship at Benetton’s residence called Fabrica. I’d just arrived home and we’d come to my grandma’s suburban house. I remember we were walking around of a couple of hours and tried to shoot a story about the Russian girl who drowned in the nearby river (there is a lot of Russian legends about such girls). By the end of our shoot we were almost crying because of local angry mosquitoes.
This one is in the suburbs of Samara also. I don’t even remember what we tried to do. It was 6 years ago I think. I was with my friends, we were completely drunk. And the place was cool.
From the last series I like subway photo shoot for The Commission magazine. Moscow subway is really beautiful and Russian girls too, so I decided to mix these things and see what happens. We’ve chosen some stations we like the most and finally it looks even better than I expected.
What advice would you give to young photographers?
Of course I think that I am young photographer and I need a lot of advice too. I know two things which work for me, you need to be sure in what you feel and what you see and the second is practice. For me with every new photo shoot I feel more and more confident in what I do.
What would be your dream commission?
I want to do big campaigns. Russian designers don’t usually do the campaigns (because as I said we have very weak fashion industry). But I think that campaign is perfect mix of art and fashion where you can collaborate with designer and create something beautiful together. For me campaigns are more about art than a lot of real art in museums. I’ve also been dreaming to shoot an editorial for i-D magazine since I was sixteen, but I am afraid to send them my portfolio.
You also work in Paris, what are the main differences between Paris and Moscow?
I’ve just started to work in Europe. I couldn’t travel before because I had a serious accident and was in hospital for a long time. But what I’ve noticed first in Paris – the industry is million times bigger and stronger, so people are the way more professional. And in Moscow it’s usually only Russians while in Paris you work with people from around the world – it’s very exciting. In Moscow it’s a few designers, stylists, magazines. But in Europe or the US there’re a lot of cool people and companies to work with. So if one magazine doesn’t answer you can publish your work in another one. After Moscow it looks like a miracle because before, most photo shoots I was doing were for free and usually just for my portfolio. I mean I didn’t really care about it – even if I were only one person in whole universe I would still taking pictures anyway. But it’s nice when you can do editorials for different magazines, work with designers who have their own vision and realise all your ideas. I feel very happy about it. Like a kid with a lot of money in a huge toy store.

What can we expect from you in 2015?
I don’t know, last month I was in Russia (in Moscow and in my hometown Samara) so I did some editorials in very beautiful post soviet places and one campaign I really love for the brand I am working with.
Visit Tanya’s website here and keep up to date on her Instagram.