Love Series – Kristina Shakht

Kristina Shakht
Jo Rosenthal

In Kristina Shakht’s new series, viewers get an inside look at tenderness and intimacy through ideas of post-sexualization and realness. Without any direction, her subject matter was able to freely move about and express themselves without any certain type of judgement. The goal was to tell a story about females from a female perspective, so this paved the way for a stunning photo series about how real one can get in front of the camera, especially when posing with a partner or loved one.

We sat down with Shakht to discuss her new project, what the series means to her and how as viewers we can look and accept things with the perspective of fresh eyes and honesty.

JR: Talk to us a little bit about this project…
KS: Love series is a project about tenderness and intimacy. The goal was to tell a story of a female couple from a female perspective where models would be shown without sexualization – being documented as they are without specific guidelines for posing or acting. Female couples are often objectified in pop culture and that’s why there are no accents on clothes or make up, the idea was to make snapshots of daily and natural looks. The project contains pictures of Kovich and Helga engaging with each other – kissing, hugging, as well as separate shots of them – close ups, portraits.
This project is my way of showing support and solidarity with Julia Tsvetkova and other LGBTQ+ activists in Russia. Julia was sentenced for 6 years of jail time for gay propaganda and distribution pornography because of her drawings of vagina shaped flowers. Just the fact that for these (Love series) images I can go to prison in Russia is inhumane and makes no sense in my perception of the world. 
JR: How do you think sexuality plays a role in everyday photography and where do you see yourself within that?
KS: I feel like it’s different in different countries. For example in Russia, where I lived for 20 years, posting a nude picture on instagram or a picture in a bathing suit/bikini would be criticized by the majority. The relationship with the body, especially for women is very linear and simple – if you post something it has to be hyper sexualized and very male oriented.
I’m happy to see that narrative is changing, women are less sexualized and objectified in campaigns and commercials. I love that queer community is being seen and celebrated by big brands. I understand that being more diverse is profitable for capitalism, so we have a long way to go to reach a healthy balance.
JR: What was the process of shooting this project like?
KS: I did 3-4 shoots during August and September this year. It was mostly last minute arrangements. I’d choose specific clothes in advance from girls wardrobes so it could look ‘regular’ and won’t take that much space and attention from both of them. We would meet in downtown Brooklyn and shoot on the Piers for 1-2 hours each time. It started as an experiment but along the way I saw there I would like to go with it in terms of creating a story. It was very chill and natural overall – we are good friends with Kovich and Helga.
JR: Who are some photographers who’ve inspired this new series of work you’ve been doing?
KS: I really love Carlota Guerrero and Carolyne Loreé, they both embrace women and shoot a lot of body photographs. It’s very sensual, and I wanted to create the same intimate feeling of closeness. I also get a lot of color inspiration from fine art, I love color and the way it affects your mood.
JR:What projects are you working on next, and how do they play a part in the themes you’ve used for this project?
KS: I’m planning to focus a lot on body and mental health, on sensuality and intimacy. For the last 6-8 months I was working on shaping my visual language and understanding what my photography is about. I’m not sure that I have figured it out, but I know that I like beauty, I love showing intimate moments and  creating a diverse space. I feel like there is a lot of pressure now to find my voice, and I know that I’m close, but I’m taking it day by day and trying not to force it. I’m figuring out how I can transform my experience living in Russia and seeing all the horrible things that Russian government does to its own people, all that fear, pain and hopelessness that I learned to carry around on the daily basis to something that can help people go through tough moments – the way art always helped me.
Photography & creative direction: Kristina Shakht
MUA: Sasha Knysh & Kovich
Kovich & Helga @ Supreme New York