Meet Conceptual Artist & Photographer Elena Kulikova
Brought to you by our partners at Talenthouse.
Picture yourself as Alice as she's just about to fall down the rabbit hole. What's at the bottom? Now, picture a trippy, romantic world dripping with neon lights and sensuality. That is the work of photographer and artist, Elena Kulikova (@elenakulikova). Capturing immeasurable themes of love is a nearly impossible task that Kulikova approaches head-on in her work, showing us a new, fresh perspective in a way we've never seen before. Meet the artist as we dive into the theme of love, passion and photography.
Want more? Discover the theme of Love featuring curation from Elena Kulikova here.
Interviewer Mayah Taylor (@mayah) is Ello’s Community Creative Manager. She loves tacos, fashion, Doctor Who, and wears too much black.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you found photography as your passion? What was your first job in the industry?
I was born in Alma-Ata, Russia, where apples originate. I loved traveling on the trans-Siberian Railway with my mom when we would visit my grandmother. I remember a huge airplane sticking out of a field from our balcony view. I moved to San Francisco when I was ten which was definitely life changing seeing such an abundance of things I had never seen before. At seventeen my first job in the industry and what initially introduced me to photography was modeling. I was lanky and slender. I first modeled in Vancouver, and when I moved to Amsterdam I had an agent there and one in Belgium. I learned a lot from observing other photographers. Multiple exposures and light leaks really enchanted me; I was really intrigued by the idea of bringing two scenes together and started photographing on film.
How has your photography evolved over time? How did you find your unique “voice”?
My beginning work looks nothing like my current work; it’s old, grainy film with tons of light leaks and strange mashes of nature and people’s faces. I loved double exposures because to me it seemed to point at the depth of a human being. Now my work is more vibrant, still dreamy and I try to capture the depth of a character with some kind of ethereal essence in an image.
Who and/or what inspires your photo series?
Music is by far my greatest inspiration. Sometimes a song will come on that I’ve never heard before and suddenly great ideas and concepts flood my mind. I have a notebook of personal ideas I’ve written out over the years and unfortunately don’t have enough time to execute them all as fast as I’d love to, but all in time things that are meant to come to fruition perfectly.
You have this amazing ability to capture the vibrancy of color while creating an ethereal quality of people you shoot with. Have you always seen it all this way or was this a style you developed recently in your career as a commercial photographer?
When I first accidentally discovered double exposures because I forgot to advance the film I started striving to figure out the best double exposure techniques for that ethereal film look. Film has a dreamy essence of its own so I think in many ways it was easier to create that. When I started shooting digital it was more challenging to create ethereal images in camera. I definitely love fog, wind, flowing fabric, and light refractions to add softness. Lately, I’ve been loving photographing underwater, or infrared on land.
Do you have any favorite photographers or artists that have inspired your work?
Doug Aitken https://www.dougaitkenworkshop.com/
Arne Quinze http://arnequinze.com/
Lala Abaddon https://www.lalaabaddon.com/
Let’s talk about your recent series, “To Love Beauty is to See Light”. Can you tell us about how you were inspired to shoot something as big as love and how you wanted to convey its many forms through your photography? Did you learn anything from interacting with the couples featured in the series?
The expression of love between two people has been the focus of my recent photography, especially around Valentines as a celebration of love. I wanted to capture couples in love because love is such a beautiful and inspiring driving force. Lovers have been my greatest muse thus far, in refining my vision to capture real moments that inspire me. They have appeared as my source for creativity, as teachers of new knowledge, as best friends, and as incredible collaborators. There are so many kinds of people, so many kinds of love, these images are my celebration of people in love and the lovely emotion that has brought me countless inspiration. I bring lovers together in my studio and photograph them nude, with nothing between them. I seek vibrant and expressive color to dramatize the energy of the emotion flowing between them. When I have couples over in my studio I’d like them to be as comfortable as possible, so I’ve created a Lovers' playlist that is modern good feel music, have chocolate and drinks, and provide anything else they might need. I’ve learned nudity isn’t for everyone and I understand that of course but it makes me sad that the human form can’t be celebrated without the sexual stigma attached even when images don’t show anything graphic or private. So far all the couples I’ve photographed are in their late 20s or 30s and I’d love to capture love outside of this age group.
Tell us more about Prohbtd; as Art Director, what does your role look like?
PRØHBTD creates and markets lifestyle and wellness brands to global audiences. Our mission is to lead cannabis from the black market to the supermarket. I love working at Prohbtd because there are so many exciting projects I’m part of in a new thriving market. My role includes creating visuals for marketing materials, whether I create something on my own or find someone to create the perfect visual that conveys the message we’d like to share. I love cannabis and I love my colleagues, everyone is innovative and brilliant at Prohbtd. It’s a relatively new company but I think it won’t be long until people recognize Prohbtd as an inspiring digital media channel for culture, and lifestyle destination for modern cannabis enthusiasts.
What advice do you wish you had when you first started out?
I was introduced to photography through modeling, and for a long time, I thought fashion was an important part of a photograph for me. In some ways, that was a good thing because it pushed me to “sell” a product and I was hired for my fashion and commercial work to shoot look books. If I could go back in time and tell myself to start exploring my own personal art projects sooner and get hands on that would be the advice I wish I would have realized sooner, but it’s all unfolding well and I love the artistic path I’m on. Also, I didn’t realize that living in Vancouver and Europe for so long would be memories I’d cherish, I wish I had taken more photographs of destinations and documented the places I had lived at.
What are your plans for 2019 and who and what do you want to shoot next?
I’d like to take over LA with an EYE street project, it’s something I’ve been working on for a while and excited to make big prints of beautiful eyes. Each print has a mirror in the pupil so a person walking by will see themselves in the eyes of another human being.