One of the things I love about being a photographer is the admittance into the intimate world of people. I was recently invited into the haven of a Russian multifaceted artist Elena Nesterova who goes by “Sova”.
As a photographer, I often cross paths with the designers of all trades. Fashion photography introduced me to many and I forged a decade-long friendship with a fabulous milliner Anya Caliendo, knowing her like a family member, like a few people in the world. We once did a behind-the-scene coverage in her atelier to shed a bit of light on the master at work. Commercial photography brought me to Lillian Gorbachincky of Cosmopolitan Glass who gracefully modeled around her own luxury creations in New York and Florida.
Every time I work closely with such designers, I am in awe. Think of meeting an author of a book you love, or a singer you listen to on special occasions. And not simply meeting — going into an intimate chat for hours! One thing is to see a couture hat in Metropolitan Museum of Art or on Rihanna or Lady Gaga, and another — peek behind the curtain to watch the hands working on such hats, see the tools they use, witness how the lonely, seemingly insignificant pieces come together and turn into a marvel, ready for the lights of the world-class stages and runways…
It is an experience that feels like a privilege to me to portray those artists. They are still humans like us, not the production tools akin to 3D printers or AI machines. When you look into their eyes, you want to read them, to understand what makes them see differently. You listen to them as when trying to decipher the words of an enchanting song. You follow their fingers wondering what is it that you cannot move yours around to create the same thing?
But of course, it’s all in their bottomless minds. You can try imitating but cannot breed the exact same vision. So, you’re left to painting the physical outer wraps of those beautiful minds.
When Lena got in touch with me, Sova-related design rang a bell. I was using my friend photographer Anya Maftser’s studio in Brooklyn for several local massive projects in 2012-15 like one of my boudoir marathons, a super conceptual Russian Calendar Girls shoot for DaNu Radio, and a commercial bridal shoot for Bridal Styles Boutique, U-Mode Salon (now Frizo Salon), and CT Bridal Couture. For a period of time, part of Anya’s studio space was also used by Lena as atelier. She designed and sew women’s clothing for her apparel brand! I don’t recall introducing myself to Lena back then, however.
Lena Sova approached me for a two-fold project: create soul portraits of her but also more of a commercial portraiture with her business partner Lina Kreymerman. They are now reinforcing a bespoke home design brand, Sova Home Design, which can help you fuse comfort, practicality, and art. I started with them in a work environment, then did several solo portraits. These could go on their website.
Then I switched my entire focus to Lena. This is her office. The room, just like the rest of the apartment, feels like a museum or a movie set. Almost every exhibit is hers, including the curtains and wallpaper! Her adobe is a live-in showroom. One day I will also show you my home office…
I mentioned the talents of this multifaceted artist. She paints. She also made these exquisite frames.
One discovery felt sad to me. Turns out that she was also publishing Sova Magazine for over a decade since 1999, filled with art, culture, fashion, news, and entertainment. I saw several printed issues of this full-fledged publication infused with personal passion and her outreach to the audience. I know how it is to curate and share: I created studio’s newspaper Zoracle Daily 5 years ago and it is dear to me despite its low profile. It is online only so I can imagine the effort that a printed publication would require. It was heartbreaking to learn that her magazine seized to exist years ago. I didn’t ask her of the reasons. It would be painful for me to kill such brainchild, and talk about it.
We moved to another room and went outside a little. I was craving for inner world portraits. Reading usually helps.
There was another character in this shoot, a 12-year-old sphynx cat. Her look was deceptive. A very gentle and loving soul hides behind that heavy stare.
Ah, one more character! Lena’s grandson, adding an additional layer of her artistry of juggling so many exciting and fulfilling things in life!
A painter, fashion designer, publisher, editor, craftswoman, home interior designer, decorator, entrepreneur – she truly is a multifaceted artist. And, get this — self-taught. That’s more than picking up a camera to be called an artist. Something’s telling me she excelled at a few more things in her creative life. Thank you, Lena Sova, for this private look at your talented persona!
No behind the scenes but here’s what I snapped earlier that day, driving from my nook in Pennsylvania woods to an urban luxurious complex in New Jersey. And speaking of my nook, there’s the pier where I wrote this blog today. Why haven’t I done it sooner in the past two years that we moved here?