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behind the LENS: interview with Elena Lyakir

Photographer Elena Lyakir unveiled her latest works with a recent NYC exhibit. The display entitled Punctuated History, kicking off with a reception at the Highline Loft at the Naftali Building earlier this month. The Ukrainian born talent showcased poetic imagery motivated through a personal journey.

In 1990 when Elena was 16, she immigrated to the U.S. with her family seeking political asylum and moved to New York City. Inspired by the art form as an expressive outlet, the passionate creative draws from her oppressive past to motivate the nature filled scenes she reveals with her lens. We caught up with Elena recently for an interview:

Elena Lyakir 

FashionDailyMag: Your work is very close to your heart, but what drives you to capture the emotional scenes?

Elena Lyakir: The inspiration for emotional esthetic in my work comes from direct contact with life. There is no pause between me and the present. I feel things directly and immediately. In my work I use personal experiences and emotions that follow, whether they are real or fabricated, as well as the echoes of my past. This kind of self-exploration and exposure connects me with myself as well as my audience.

FDM: At what age did you start taking pictures? Is that when you became a photographer?

EL: I started using a camera when I was about 7. However it was a rare hobby where I grew up and cameras were difficult to obtain for many. When I didn’t have a camera available I tried to capture images with my memory. This practice resonates in my work to-day. My work sometimes resembles memory as it is interpretive and not literal. I began experimenting with photography in a more dedicated way when I came to NY at 18 but it took me a long time to find my voice. I suppose I first had to mature personally. And then it came to me…

FDM: In what way does nature capture your story?

EL: Connection to nature comes from my childhood. Near my hometown in Ukraine I spent much of my youth alone in the wild dreaming and fabricating illusionary worlds. It was a safe place and a place I could be free to express and create. I feel nature has a universal and biological language which all of us understand. Being in nature allows us to be more in touch with our own truths and thus what we see becomes what we feel inside. For this reason, I use nature in a visual way to inspire emotion from the viewer.

FDM: What does the future hold for you?

EL: The French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy has recently curated an exhibition about the eternal struggle for truth in which he fuses art and philosophy. This is very inspiring to me, it breaths fresh air into my work and what I am trying to achieve in my next series. I am excited to explore new ways of communication.

Elena Lyakir currently resides in New York City, where much of her work is on display at local venue like the Spring Gallery, Clic Gallery, and Ochre. Additionally several large-scale images from her “Aves” and “Poetry of Nature” series decorate the walls of renowned Manhattan eatery, ABC Kitchen. behind the LENS: a visual history with Elena Lyakir.  Check more selects here. Interview and words by Sarah A. Freiseis.

photos: courtesy of Elena Lyakir