Featured Guest: Kira Likhterova, Award Winning Photographer
Location: Sydney, Australia
Special Focus: Capturing Beauty from the Inside Out…
Welcome to World Wise Beauty Kira. With no pun intended, you caught my eye with a video posted on LinkedIn of all places. Capturing beauty from the inside out is your specialty and World Wise Beauty’s mantra is to be “comfortable in your own skin”. Once I saw your video about your photography, personal philosophy and art, I knew I needed to share your work and your story with my readers! Being comfortable in your own skin is no easy task for most of us and you share this in your video from a personal perspective and via the female clients you feature. I will share your video later in post but first let’s have a chat and focus on how you apply your philosophy to your artistic photography.
Lauroly Q- We learn through watching your video that you really are a storyteller using the photography medium. It’s interesting you did many other things before you became a professional photographer and received industry awards. You were a late bloomer! When did it all “click” for you? What lead you to the camera?
Photography by Kira Likhterova
Yes, I did other things before taking up Photography, but almost always artistic. As a child I was training on the piano and even had a place ready for me at the Moscow Conservatory of Music; but an accident at school finished all that. I always drew and loved to sing and dance. I moved to Australia with my second husband almost 20 years ago; but that relationship became abusive, so I needed to find a release. To escape, I took an evening college course in painting; but was intrigued by the camera.
So I changed to a photography course, and that is where I first held a camera. For me, the connection was instant. While not technically proficient; I could always use it to see and capture the things around me. I started with landscapes, because that was a way of taking a few days away and alone; capturing beauty as a form of release for me. I tried to sell my images at weekend fairs and markets; but that never worked. I had already photographed some people, including one of my sons; whose picture won a local district award. So I managed to convince a couple to allow me to photograph their wedding free, so I could build a portfolio. I loved that. The romance and emotion of the day coupled with seeking out and finding beautiful light to capture who they truly are on their special day. That led to another wedding, and another; before I knew it I was regularly photographing weddings and getting rave feedback. My brides would tell me I had delivered their “dream”, their “fairytale” for their wedding. I was also able to grab those moments, so often missed; of powerful emotions. That was great for my self-esteem! So I guess it was about that time it started to “click” for me; although I always felt I was somehow a fraud.
During this time, I joined the peak Australian professional body [AIPP] as a student member; and was encouraged to enter competitions. That first year, to my great surprise I won NSW Student Photographer of the Year. Feeling that was a fluke; never the less I was encouraged to enter the second year, but was warned that no student ever wins twice. I was so convinced; I did not even go to the award ceremony; only to be called to say I had won again. I did not believe it, thinking that somehow I had deceived the judges and they would eventually find out I am a fraud! So it was adversity that led me to the camera; as an escape. A way to find something that expresses “me”. Despite having won many awards; I still struggle with belief in myself and my ability.
Lauroly Q- You emotionally connect with your clients and help them to connect with their sense of self from the inside. But you also are an artist with a wonderful rich imagination. You see things that others don’t see. This to me is a sign of a true artist. How do you come up with the creative concepts for the women you work with?
Portrait by Kira Likhterova
This is hard to describe, as it comes instinctively for me. I know I need to sit and speak with the subject; to gain an insight into who they are. I ask questions and obviously listen to their answers; but I am also aware of the answers they do not give. This often reveals far more about the person than what they say. It allows me to understand and then encourage them during their photographic session with me. My clients trust me, and allow me to lead them to parts of themselves they may have forgotten; or perhaps believe they can no longer be. Nonsense, of course; everyone has something that is beautiful and wonderful; but this modern world with its vulgar advertising and brain-washing convince us all that we have nothing left. Nothing to compare to the ‘ideals’ of glamour, movie stars and contemporary “beauty”. I find people are so “down trodden” after years of daily mediocrity; they start to believe they have no hope. Because they believe it, they project it; and that becomes “truth”, verified each day, each moment with everything they do, how they present themselves and what think about. To twist the cliché, “As I think, therefore I am”; it becomes a cruel, negative presentation of themselves.
So the concepts I find are actually those within the person themselves. Newly rediscovered and released in a way that is undeniable. That is why I make sure my subjects see at least one image in the back of the camera early on in the shoot. They realize this is no post-production Photoshop “trick”; as many believe. This is actually them; shining through. The concepts I have in my studio, the props, sets etc are merely ‘fantasy’ tools that most people would relate to at some level; and these get applied in a playful way to a lot of clients. Sometimes, the simplest prop or set is the best.
Lauroly Q- Some might say you are creating another “persona” for the woman—almost like a reinvention. But I would counter this with the idea that all of us are multi-dimensional and sometimes we go through our entire life almost typecast into one look and part. How do you feel about this and how would you address the idea of true natural beauty?
Link to Kira’s “Behind the Scenes” Video at Bottom of Post
I get that a lot. People look at what I do and say “Oh, that’s Glamour”, “Oh, that’s Boudior”, “Oh, that’s Photoshop”. It drives me crazy; because it is none of things, and yet all of them in some way. That is why I came up with the name “Discover Sensual You”. Even that title scares some people, but I have no idea what else to call it! It is true, I encourage clients to ‘play’; and perhaps become a fantasy persona; but that is not the real point. Let me give an example. One of my brides, a young woman; absolutely stunning girl, whom I have photographed a few times; was tired of being told she is beautiful. That was what everyone expected of her. She needed ‘release’; so she wanted to be a vampish, lingerie-clad dark siren. Like something out of those modern vampire-movies like Underworld.
For her, this type of photo was a release; empowering her to break the mold her family and society was putting on her so she could be more comfortable in her own skin. If this were ‘simple’ Glamour or Boudoir, that would not happen, would it? This was not another ‘persona’ thrust upon her, was it? I can see that people would think this is ‘re-invention’ but in reality it is highly personal for the subject and ultimately comes from within. I simply take their hand and lead them to themselves. No two are ever the same, and thus can never be viewed as ‘formulaic’ where the subject is plunked into a set. That is what others do. That is not what I do. True natural beauty, is therefore inside us all.
Lauroly Q: Bravo Kira! I encourage everyone to read your personal profile on your website because it is so honest and so interesting! [Meet Kira] You were born in Moscow and then moved to Australia. Which culture shaped you and which one had the most influence on you as a woman? How did you become comfortable in your own skin and in touch with your own colorful dimensions?
Kira Likhterova: I’m not sure which culture influenced me the most. I refer to myself as a Russian Jew; so I guess I take a lot from that. Having my first marriage collapse in Russia, and the pain or persecution because I was “different” pushed me to escape to Australia. Then life in Australia brought many experiences. Amazingly bad and amazingly good. I think the experiences and adversity I’ve been through, shaped me as an adult. When I teach, I encourage people to go through pain and adversity; as without those challenges, how do you know what you are truly capable of? Failure and pain can be your friend. Recognizing and understanding the things in life that happened and incorporating them shape you. It is the scars on leather that make it unique and interesting; whereas manufactured leather is perfect, yet boring. Like a Barbie doll.
Lauroly Closing: Thanks so much for stopping by Kira and sharing your worldly wisdom with us! May you continue your exceptional creative artistry in photography. Your greatest legacy just might be touching so many women’s lives with your gift for seeing the “whole” person inside… and out! We all want to be “seen” for who we really are and ultimately loved.
As promised, here is Kira’s story and video Blog entry Behind the Scenes where you can learn more about her authentic passion for capturing beauty from the inside…out.