Kristina Lerner

Saint-Petersburg, Russia
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{dich}Color by itself is a very powerful artistic tool. And colorful photographing “as it is” isn't worth the effort. You can convey conception of picture better with color and combination of colors. So usually I use either b&w either wow-color. {/dich}
Well, let’s go. What does your nickname mean if I can call it so?

tokioshi?

Yes. Do you like Japan or..? I don’t know about the origins.

That’s a funny story. I was twenty, I just started photographing and decided to post my pictures on the Internet, then it was “Photosite”, and I needed a nickname. To fill given name seemed to me to be uncool :) I got a jacket with big letters on the back: Tokioshi.  I thought over, it was a suitable word, it meant nothing, and so all the accounts would be free. That’s all, I tapped «tokioshi».  Then it attached to me. There is no connection with Japan.

I scratched head over, though, that was due to some favorite writer or Japan, where she had spent 5 years, bur there you are.

Trivially.

So it usually is. Seriously.  Art develops from some commonplace. Here is next question… I examined your works. Do you know what is it like… I watch, and I can’t say it’s ugly, but it is nice. But it looks odd a little, and you feel a desire to take off the eyes, but something magnetizes you. And I watch no matter the odds. By the way do you process pictures? They look like you overlay one picture to another, some effects. Illusionary. Tell me what it’s about.

Betray a secret? There’s no secret in fact. I hardly use Photoshop, just “brightness, contrast, b&w mode”. That’s all. In very rare cases I use layers because I always fail with them. So I do my best while photographing: long time exposure, multiple exposure and etc., with the one and only aim – to move away from reality. I don’t like pictures that are clear and simple. It’s my personal. I have many friends who are photographers and make such pictures cool and interesting. But I prefer fantastic and unreal feeling in pictures. No doubt, all these depend not only on color or sharpness of picture. For me it is a moment of personal preferences.

Wait, what is it “clear picture”? Is it unprocessed picture?

For example, a wineglass. You can photograph it as it is. If add a spot of light, play with view, it could become a story, field for fantasy appears, for spectators, somehow… it is difficult to speak about but easier to make.

Yes, I’ve noticed – b&w. Just b&w? 

No, not only.

Not only? You like b&w, don’t you? I do.

I do like b&w.

Why so?

For the same reason: b&w is less realistic. Our eyes see in color, and that is presence, but b&w is unusual. Generally speaking about color I have a “colorific” affair with color :) I mean that photographer should study color with artist. Color by itself is a very powerful artistic tool. And colorful photographing “as it is” isn't worth the effort. You can convey conception of picture better with color and combination of colors. So usually I use either b&w either wow-color. 

Living-living.

Yes, yes.

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{dich}I wondered how visual image dealt with human’s eye, perception, sense. For me it was some kind of parallel universe and very interesting.{/dich}
Do you draw?

I drew earlier. I attended artistic school, but I haven’t finished it and…

Decided to find yourself in photography?

Yes.

By the way how long have you been photographing? Tell me how it started.

Since I was twenty. My family is very original: father is a musician, mother is a fashion model. The air was always the same. I remember when I was seventeen, I even wrote poems, novels, awful ones. I always got need to “reveal” myself somehow, to express what I couldn’t say directly. Then I met my husband, he was a photographer. I became interested in his occupation too, I had never tried, and he got cool pictures. He thought if I could too. Then I tried and fell in love with it in a moment. 

With husband?

Either with husband, either with photography. I am surprised by myself because previously I went into drama, music, painting, but nothing grabbed me, and I left it all.

You are a “grabber”, aren’t you? Do gaze light up instantly?

I am. But photography became a whole new world for me. Many years left and I’m still in love. 

So, was that the husband who discover world of photography for you?

Yes. He “shows” me photography. Then I met many photographers who taught me, conducted me. I don’t have a diploma of photographer, I am a culture expert, and I had to study the object by myself. Then I surrounded myself with innumerous books, films and everything possible related with photo, graphic arts, painting, and everything “visual”.  I wondered how visual image dealt with human’s eye, perception, sense. For me it was some kind of parallel universe and very interesting.

Let’s face it there are two independent industries: photography and artistic world (I mean just painting), and there is a border between them, very thin, but nevertheless in general they are totally different. And it is very important to be at one and study at another. Do you understand me? I found your work that reminded me Renaissance.

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{dich}If you adore something you want to make something similar. It ways you to imitation, and I dislike it. {/dich}

Such things as visual experience and visual content surrounding seem to me to be very important for a photographer. And it is not only painting, but variety of everything: photography, cinema, immensely cinema.

Really? Do you get inspiration in cinema?

Of course. They are “relative” spheres. Cinema is moments, photo is just one moment.

Share who have impacted on you from cinema sphere most of all?

Tarkovsky, Wong Kar Wai, Bergman, Kim Ki-duk, Aronofsky are the most favorite.  I like cinema in general. 

Back to your husband, may we call him your photo-guru? If not he, who is your poster? And is there a person who directed you and played key role in your practice?

Actually, my husband have played key role. He helps me a lot in my practice, and so do I. But we are not gurus; on the contrary, we are friends and photo-companions. Together we search for contests, festivals, exhibitions. Guru from photographers is not for me. I just have a thing about plagiarism; I’m totally against it and even against borrowing. I look through many photographers, I like many of them, but I do my best to find something specific and individual. If you are focused on the works of one photographer, if he or she is your guru, direct borrowing is unavoidable, sometimes unconscious. When you adore something, you want to make similar, to replicate, it ways you to copying, and I dislike it.

And what is “individual”? I think “individual” appears if there is something other’s. You get an eyeful, change something, add piece of your personality, here it is your “individual”, isn’t it?

Yes, it is.

Anyway it is copying.

It seems to be about proportions. Not a “piece of your personality”, but whole you and pieces of different other’s is better. In cinema, painting, music, photography you can find some idea that you will keep in mind. Your “individual” consists of such tiny puzzles. Finally you will transform any inspiration, any completeness, and everything you feel to a picture.

Is there music at your shootings?

Constantly.

Really?

Yes. 99% of the time at least.

Do you make agree about music with customers?

If it is a commercial shooting – of course. Actually if a customer asks me “no music”, there will be no music. Another cup of tea is photographing for my own. 

Where does “for your own” take place as usual?

In a workshop. There is my husband father’s workshop, we photograph there.

Tell about this place, what it is for you in mental aspect and in fact.

I always feel myself like a guest there because this place is very sacred for my husband, they allow me to photograph, and I can come anytime I want, I have no limits, and nevertheless it is not mine. It looks cool: big apartment with torn wallpaper, high ceiling, and dozens of paintings, very atmospheric…

In Saint Petersburg style…

Petersburg, Petersburg. My husband’s father is an artist, and he has a workshop, where there are books everywhere, old frames, paint-brushes, oil, paintings smell, dust…Everything is organized by random way, space is absolutely not for live in, and that’s also a specific manner. When you come there, you understand at once, it’s a room for creation, no matter it sounds snobbish.

On the contrary, it sounds good. Let’s speak about your works. Can you determine the genre? Is there a name for it? Dark gothic? And why such a genre?

How should I say…

Well, anyway you take some line, don’t you?

I don’t. I just do my best to speak frankly about the subjects I am excited and I like. I hardly can answer. …No, none of the genres. Previously there were genres, but now I think if a person sees world around in a certain way, so his or her landscape, portrait and still-life are about the same. Single sound, single though stratified story, because it is a spirit of a certain human being, as it were inner music. Musicians are about the same, the “style” or the “hand” is always recognizable.

How do your ideas appear? I mean your ideas of photographing. Ideas of series.

It’s an odd story about series. When I just started photographing, it was like that: I took photos of everything I liked, with no intention, and when I came at portfolio-review for the first time, they told me why you wouldn’t assemble all of that in series. I was surprised because I felt those pictures very particular and not compatible. Later I understood that every idea and thought had its own cover, and there were times when you had been taking photos for a year and then realized it was about the same. Then you comprehend what happened, and pictures come together to form series.  Or there is an idea and you want to expand it from different angles. Moreover you can write something using words.

What do you like more, portraits?

I like photographing people who do what they like, in a process, when they are inspired. For example, musicians while concert and practice, or dancers. I have wonderful friends form the “Poema” theatre. I photograph them while dancing; I try to feel, to catch and to enter the moment. A human beings are so attractive when do what they really like, either music or dance, you can open a person from other sides, he or she reveals fresh energy, and that reflects on pictures. Generally it is exciting to photograph interesting emotionally filled people.

In every field there is certain quantity of people and everything is connected. Is it right for photography?

Yes.

Annoying?

No. On the contrary, it unites. You just should find “your” people – kind of a club, and keep staying with them. It’s a great happiness to communicate with the people who are on the same page.

What is your attitude towards the critics?

In a positive way. It depends on the matter who is a critic. I would listen to and try to aware the critics from a person who is from another planet as for art conception but the critics from the experts that I respect is much more useful. In general the critics are helpful.

I’ve read a little about you. And if I got it right you’ve been born in Moscow?

Yes.

Then you moved to Saint Petersburg?

I moved there because of the marriage.

Oh, it means you were adult then.

Twenty two. 

Well, these two cities are very different energetically, different in history and in power. Tell me how St. Petersburg impacted on your works.

It made them.

So Moscow is not about photography?

Well, now is everything is about photography. But firstly I’ve fallen in love with St. Petersburg. It’s an absolutely my city: its greyness, darkness, eternally beautiful architecture and those scuffed walls…

Does it whet you?

I do like it. When I came to St. Petersburg, I have been walking with the Walkman and photographing for hours. I went out and walked, walked till I could stay on my own legs, every day.

We are born and dream of being singers, doctors, teachers as a rule, but while time is going many things change as like as actuality, trends and abilities. And finally you form as a human, become mature and become filled… and your occupation can occur a surprise for you. However it was your predetermined fate or combination of circumstances. How do you feel? What do you want to believe in?

You know there are different “happy” places such as arches or wells where you can make a wish. I always wanted to be a good photographer. Always. I always wrote the same. Honestly the time I was a little child I don’t remember. I probably wanted to be an actress, then I wanted to be a director, I still want. Many times I got stuck on photography, many times I tried to find a usual job: an office, earning money, making career. Every time I understood that it was not mine, I did my best but I failed. Then I returned to photography and felt better. When first exhibitions and publications occurre you understand that everything happens, people’s work, who knock themselves out, have their photograph taken by nights, it was useful and it is interesting to someone beside you. Then you are aware of fact that it makes you happy. And life is so short and you should do the only things that make you happy, inspired, shine and alive. Probably once I will gather myself up and enter director department. I am preparing myself morally. That is what I really interested in.

Could you tell about  Photodepartament . Do you work there?

I don’t, but I like it, fine people are there. Nadya Sheremetova, for example. She makes vast work to clarify what photography is today. They turn really magic things there. I have studied two courses there with a great pleasure. 

There is no good photo-school by the highest standards in Russia today, isn’t it?

It is a critical theme, may be it exists, I don’t know. There are certain schools where you can get higher education in photography. Someone is satisfied with it, for someone it is not enough. I know they teach well in Photodepartament , I know they teach well in The Rodchenko Art School in Moscow, at least they did while my friends were studying there. But most people move to Europe…

Have you been in Europe?

Yes, I’ve been in many places there.

Did you photograph there?

I did.

As you like? Or in color?

In different ways.

Have you already arranged your own exhibitions?

Yes, I have.

Would you tell about them? Do you remember the first one?

That was something incredible for me. I had been photographing just for half a year when the magazine applied to me with a request to use my photographs as illustrations. That was their pilot and due to magazine’s start that exhibition conjointly with presentation ceremony was arranged. It turned out to be my first exhibition and publication.

How does it happen? For me it is inconceivable how someone becomes an owner of a shop, apartment, or exhibition.

It’s my bad trait, I do my best but I almost don’t work with PR. Usually some people find me...

As we are.

Yeah. They send me emails, write to social accounts, suggest something, In general all my exhibitions both group and personal were arranged. Someone offered me, I agreed: «Of course I agree!»

They come across over you by themselves.

The same story with publications is, with the first ones at least. Then I have gained control in a way. 

In the scientific community publications are made under the following scheme – to write a learned work you have to spend certain sum of money. Does it works under the same rules in photography? Or are there any sponsors?

It depends. If we speak about magazines, a photographer does not pay of course, there are cases even when he or she gets paid. If we speak about books, it is another case and other expenses. As for exhibitions it occurred that galleries had covered costs of printing and others. 

Could you tell about your feelings? Are emotional conditions rather different while personal and group exhibition?

Yes, of course. You are a part of single idea in group exhibitions, there are many of you, and there is unity sensation. When you got a personal exhibition, it's quite another matter. Your idea, your responsibility. Some people come, you don’t even know most of them, and they approach you and tell something. As for personal sensation – very nervous – but you watch your exhibition and realize that all these works reach some logical aim as a result.

Was there any failed shooting you could tell about? Everything doesn’t run in a good way always, does it?

Hard to say, usually everything runs well. I face another situations, I often photograph my friends. Many of them live in other cities and we don’t see each other for a long time. And then before shooting we drink tea and forget our time in conversation, and we don’t come to shooting even. Such thing happened very often. Here is another story. There is a wonderful photographer Michael Ackerman. Few years ago he came to Photodepartament with a workshop. I want pay your attention that I admire everything he does and his level of inner involvement in photography. He is one of my favorite authors, so it was for me as like as to come to George Clooney for someone. I came to him, we agreed about next-day shooting.  And when I came for shooting I understood that I was too nervous, my hands were trembling. I forgot all the settings, I even forgot to ask him to come into light. He was smiling all the time and finally moved the chair to the window by himself.  I wished the ground would swallow me up. I felt shy, but the photographs were good.  Until now I can’t help smiling when remember it.

How long does your shooting usually last?

Three hours usually. It happened that I was photographing all the night long. Sometimes I can finish in one hour. And sometimes good photographs occur absolutely occasionally.

Are expectations and the result of shooting frequently similar or different?

It always depends. Sometimes while process you feel that the shooting is successful, then you see the result and you realize it could be better. Or after ordinary-felt shooting you get good photographs. Perhaps it depends on mood or on good team-work with a person which you photograph. Photography is a photographer up to 50% probably. There is a chance of occasionality. There is a model, a man who agreed to confide himself or herself in as much as you need, so everything can happen not the way I want. Perhaps painting is more under control in this context, though I don’t know, I am not an artist.

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{dich}I admire people who burn with their occupation, who despite difficulties keep inner will. {/dich}
Do you relatives support you?

My husband supports me a lot. Mother tells that she doesn’t understand my photographs. She was a very successful model previously, and she was eternally involved in fashion-industry. But fashion-photography is about other things. And I am very thankful she never told me such things as “Go and find normal job”. On the contrary she always insisted that I should keep doing my favorite work and not give up photographing. 

Did any mother’s photobook remain?

Yes, there are few of them. May be it has influenced on my decision to engage in photography. I spent all my childhood within mother’s photographs, shootings, fashion shows; she took me out everywhere.

What are your sources of inspiration if speaking frankly?

I admire people who burn with their occupation, who despite difficulties keep inner will. Sometimes I ask myself if I may allow myself to occupy with this only thing. Is it worth doing? I try not to despair, not to give up and not to spare myself. It is always important to remember why you have started doing this. What do you like most of all in it? If you like photographing tiny flowers, ok, photograph them till you make the most beautiful photograph of a flower. You just should do what you love doing. Otherwise there is no sense in anything. 

Could you tell about the things that affect you?

I do like spontaneity. I like such a human’s impulse, even break-down, certain despair in gaze, and passion. Such a savagery always affects me both in people and in surrounding world, in nature for example. So I do like storm, nasty weather, I like everything that reveals highest possible emotion, maximum tension, and frontier condition, when one is ruined up, it is very intimate with me. I adore people who can allow to be ruined in this manner. I like music that is broken even.

Do you play any instrument?

I had been learning to play saxophone for two years. I tried to practice music and I am still trying, all my life. My husband is a musician apart from the fact that he is a photographer and my beloved. He tried to teach me to play guitar many times. But something went wrong. I like music, but I’m not a musician at all.

Today they usually say that a photographer is not a person who processes images but who photographs naturally. What is your opinion about that?

If taking it literally it is fair. An author is responsible for a result. If you need just a clear frame by conception – OK. But I don’t even understand discussions against processing. It always existed in film photography not in Photoshop but in laboratories. Processing is a part of technology, part of idea of picture.

So you say “yes” to processing?

Each artistic idea should have its design. 

What part of face do you focus your attention on when you see a person for the first time?

Eyes. Gaze. I like long hair. I don’t know why. I like scrutinizing people thoroughly. Every human being looks differently and is reflected inside you differently. It is not related with actual beauty, it is something subjective. You look – it is beautiful. And you can’t say why, but your heart is sinking. 

Here is a cool question: do you read fashion magazines?

I don’t read fashion magazines. I act in a different way: I look through some collections from fashion weeks and make conclusion what is fashionable. There are trends that can be easily guessed any season, there are others, Yohji Yamamoto, for example, whose fashion is different each season, or Rick Owens who uses black and it is always fashionable. Of course it is interesting to be well informed in fashion, to play in fashion, but it is much more interesting to find the people in fashion industry who have been extracting from themselves something new and something personal for years. I can’t help liking clothes, indeed it is nice. Fashion shows are also creation. Any creation seems to me to be similar by its essence. In other words there is a sense that you want to express. Any author’s collection is an expressed thought, any picture is expressed with artistic devices, any film is a though expressed by means of cinematograph and so on. It is a thought in human’s head and he or she tries to express it without words.

What is your element?

Water. I don’t mean a sign of the zodiac of course.

Do you dream about underwater shooting?

I do. I haven’t made it yet for some reason to my shame, there is no time, but I would like to.

What is photography as condition for you? Photography as spirit, as space, as substance, as relations, as energy, may be as lifestyle, as data, as time?

It is a very difficult question. As inhalation and exhalation are, I think.

So you have no relationship to Photodepartament, don’t you? I decided that you taught there for some reason.

I had been teaching for two years in Shot photo-school. It was an absolutely splendid place.  It just turned out that its story ended. Teaching is interesting. I probably would have returned to it but it would be another story: my own creative studio where I could observe and direct.

Do you remember your audience?

They are absolutely different people. Men, women, from 15 to 50 years old. Different people with different goals: to discover something new, to revive.

How do you think, if “bad dancer” principle works in photography, or technique plays key role?

Good equipment is a great bonus, but not everything. It is not photography by itself; it is just a tool like good brushes and paints for an artist, why should he or she paint with a tooth-brush. Though a good artist will paint something even with tooth-brushes. Photo camera is a tool. There is no ideal one. Someone photographs with digital camera, someone with film camera, someone with a smartphone. The aim assigns the tool.

So it is not necessary to buy a photo camera for 90 000 Rubles (about $1300) if we speak about a beginner, is it?

Better not. Just if he or she don’t know how to spend 90 000 Rubles. I think it’s better to start with something simpler. Canon 400D was my first camera. I photographed with Kit-lens for a long time. Then other goals occurred – commercial shootings in particular, and I passed to more professional camera. But in general there is only one difference – picture quality.

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{dich}I can’t avoid destruction. It seems to me to be one of the human features: to destroy and to renew. If you don’t destroy something in the proper time it will become stagnant and waste away one after another. The same situation is with good and bad people. There are both black and white in a man.{/dich}
What do you feel while photographing?

I feel myself charged; I feel that I am alive.

Could you tell about a day of your life? I imagine photographer’s life very amusing: you wake up and go photography.

Ahaha. Of course not. I have a little baby – the son, he is a year and five months old. And my day doesn’t look like a photographer’s day; it looks like young mommy’s day.  Instead I work hard in the days when I go to photograph.

Destruction or construction?

I can’t imagine one without another. I can’t avoid destruction. It seems to me to be one of the human features: to destroy and to renew. If you don’t destroy something in the proper time it will become stagnant and waste away one after another. The same situation is with good and bad people. There black and white in a man. Dark side can’t be denied. You should accept it, sometimes struggles with it, sometimes accept, to search for balance.

 Could you tell if knowledge of anatomy and body organization helps you in the shootings?

It is more likely I enjoy watching the way artists depict human’s body.  

Could you advise any professional literature, a good one, of high quality, kind of the Bible for Photographers?

I won’t name the Bible, but my favorite one is Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. I found this book to be very gentle, delicate and accurate.

If you had a chance to change something what would you change?

Nothing. Though, may be I wouldn’t enter World Art but went to Directing. That’s all.

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kristinalerner.com

 

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