Interview by: Vanessa Peters
SKYN: First of all I want to thank you for interviewing with us, we know you’re a busy person, you are literally catching flights all over the place and being fabulous so we appreciate your time. So first things first how did you become a photographer?
TF: My grandfather was taking pictures of our family all the time; he collected cameras as well and was obsessed with devices, so I caught his passion. But beforehand I didn’t know that you could just be a photographer because in Russia we don’t have a Bachelor of Arts in photography, there are just short courses for that sort of thing. So for the older generation it’s not a ‘serious business’ if I can say it like that. But once I just started to take pictures with my 1 pixel camera it took off from there.
SKYN: Oh wow you really started early, what else are you passionate about besides photography and creating art?
TF: I love music; I’m even thinking about starting to DJ. I mean why not? I also love movies, I used to be a journalist and wrote about films and I’ll admit I wasn’t the best author, but I was an avid film watcher.
SKYN: Even if you admittedly aren’t the best at film critiquing at least you got into it, a-lot of people are afraid to try their hand at their interests so it’s refreshing to see. Getting back to the subject of photography though, what Camera(s) do you use as a go to whenever you photograph?
TF: I have a big collection of old film cameras, literally over 40 pieces of them. I used them a lot more before, but now I like to be more practical; I use my digital Canon Mark III, but I’ll be going back to the medium film format again.
SKYN: 40 pieces, that’s incredible, on your website www.turkinafaso.com I know you have photos of a lot of those cameras and so many of them are these incredibly vintage cameras so I would urge our readers to take a look to get a better idea of what we are talking about. Alright so tell us, what is a tranquil day for you and the Turkina Faso brand and what is a hectic one?
TF: When I don’t have emails every 5 minutes, calls, inquiries, tons of picture to give back to clients I would probably just take some time to watch a movie and spend time with my family.
SKYN: Family time is quality time! From my understanding you are based out of Moscow and London do either of those places have any influence at all over the way or what you take pictures?
TF: I travel a lot. For example during the last year I was in Paris three times, once in Milan, spent one month in Los Angeles and New York, and then I went back to Moscow a few times. I also worked in Hong Kong, Mykonos and South Russia, so even though I spend most of my time in London, I still feel like a gypsy. With that said I love meeting people, I love exploring, I’ve moved to new places every two years since I was born. So, I don’t really know how to settle somewhere. Obviously I will try but I do love London, but it’s so hard when you consider bureaucratic things like visas.
SKYN: Having that wanderlust aesthetic is powerful; life never gets all that dull I’m sure. Something I noticed was a project you had called #sisteralice can you tell us a bit about that?
TF: Sister Alice is a 14 year old girl, she lives in North Caucasus, which is in Russia and it’s beautiful but is in the middle of nowhere. I’ve been shooting her since she was 4. For me it is not just a photography project, it’s a conversation with time, with the person and with myself. We mirror each other and I think the farther we go the more interesting it gets. I made a book about Alice recently called ‘ME&THEM: Back home with Alice’.
It is so nice to work with her; I try to maintain the frequency of our shoots to every three to six months to capture the changes because she’s growing so fast. Each time it’s like she is a different person.
SKYN: That’s such a great photographic representation of a dance with time, for all our readers who would like to see ‘ME&THEM: Back home with Alice’ you can find that book here: https://issuu.com/katiturkina/docs/meandthem-alice_web_pre .This kind of thing makes me curious about how you would define what keeps you motivated?
TF: Internal wonder.
SKYN: Clearly it’s a resilient sense of wonder. You already shoot so many subjects as it is, do you intend on expanding into subject matter like bridal photography, pregnancy photography, couture photography, nature photography or something else
TF: I only do fashion photography, portraits, my personal projects and that’s enough in my mind. I would like to work with big brands and of course, couture is a dream to work with, but for me clothes aren’t the aim, they are just a tool to express ideas. I am a fan of shapes and moods, not of brands and fashion itself.
SKYN: I feel similarly, aesthetic is more arresting than a brand or something as transitory as fashion, so I can relate to that. On the topic of brands though what brands represent you at this particular moment?
TF: Comme des Garcons, Saint Laurent and Dries Van Noten.
SKYN: The love I personally have for Saint Laurent is painful. All of those brands that you mentioned all have talented photographers that they routinely work with. Is it hard for you to get out your comfort zone to work with people or clients?
TF: I think I’m mixed on that, I am so open to people but at the same time I’m so fragile of a person. I think the older I get the more I become an introverted person, in the past I was too crazy and energetic.
SKYN: We all have our regrets. Where would you live if you could just up and leave your current home?
TF: I would like to have my own house in Tokyo, LA, London, New York, Lisbon and Moscow and live in a different one every two months.
SKYN: Wouldn’t we all. It takes a lot to get there but anything is possible, within that same vein, your CV is extremely impressive and speaks for itself, what do you feel was your most challenging work experience, publication or exhibit you encountered?
TF: There have been challenges where people have asked me to not only do technical photography, but something that keeps me as the photographer and the client happy as well, this happens in personal and commercial photography from time to time. It can be a huge challenge to understand each other and each other’s expectations without getting lost in translation while being honest and not too direct or offensive. It’s also a challenge to keep on going even when you are mentally tired but you still have to be nice and be strong for the sake of the team. I mean sometimes you don’t have any other chance than to redo certain things right there and right now.
SKYN: Right, pressure can be a hard thing to deal but it makes us better in the long run, after all pressure makes diamonds. What makes you happy?
TF: I feel happy when I feel like I did exactly what I planed. In terms of responsibility it such an important thing when you work as a freelancer. You can miss opportunities, if you are not responsible, people are not going to trust you and they may not get back to you. On the other hand Nature, like the ocean and the sea makes me happy, completely excited actually. And of course being with my family that goes without saying in this category of ‘happiness makers’.
SKYN: I know as a photographer all your photographs are going to be your favourite, but what is your favourite photograph at the moment?
TF: This Portrait of my sister (surprise!).
SKYN: Her slay eyes kill. You know what? One thing I’ve wondered about, and correct me if I’m wrong, but your name Turkina Faso, is it a play on the name Burkina Faso or is something else?
TF: My friend made a joke about my last name by calling me Turkina Faso which alludes to the country Burkina Faso. So I fell in love with the name, I think it is suits me. Also I always never liked my name Kati, so I didn’t mind switching it to a new one.
SKYN: Ah so I wasn’t too far off! Who is a part of the Turkina Faso team?
TF: Oh, a lot of different people. I always put credits in my series, so you can find all of them on my website. It is all depends on the project though. Sometimes I work by myself, for example most of the projects with my sister were just the two of us.
SKYN: What do you think is your greatest accomplishment as far as your photography goes?
TF: The fact that people will remember my pictures and that the amount of my images will increase each year.
SKYN: Alright fair enough, who has been your favourite model to work with so far and who has been your favourite designer to shoot with?
TF: My sister Alice is the best model even though I love to work with different people As far as designers my favourites to work with have been Fakoshima sunglasses, Asiya Bareeva and Forms Studio. They are my best friends, great collaborators, talented people and hard workers.
SKYN: From what I’ve seen they are all incredible collaborations. It makes me curious about what were you doing before you got into photography?
TF: I was a medical student, I worked as an editor for a photography magazine, I did a lot of things all the time, but now its only photography.
SKYN: And as a photographer what is your editing philosophy?
TF: I learn new things everyday so, I’m nice to the models, it’s important for me, I care about the people that I work with and I love to have good moods on the set. I know what will work and what during a shoot. I have technical retoucher for some routine work, but I do colour correction by myself. My aim is to reduce the amount of pictures I take per shoot, that way I can I choose two or even one photo for a look, it’s more in-line with precise film photography which I would like to do more of.
SKYN: Kati, you are clearly far more accomplished than many photographers I have come across, from your videography, to your perspective on still life, high fashion and everything in-between, you quite literally do it all, How do you do it?
TF: I think I’m not afraid to try new things. I’ve worked almost every day, almost since 2004, on personal projects, commercial, whatever. I think it is better to concentrate on one main thing but be ready for experiments.
SKYN: What you said about not being afraid to try new things is such a great takeaway, I know photographers take a lot of risks with their equipment since it is quite literally an investment in hopes of etc etc, what’s your most expensive piece of equipment?
TF: Everything in this profession is expensive. I think, my camera is one, but my eye is probably the biggest thing because it doesn’t matter what camera you use, it's more important how you look at things. So cliché, I know! But it’s true.
SKYN: It is true and that’s an excellent point. Speaking of eyes, do you have a significant other in your life that you only have eyes for?
TF: Of course we’ve been together for 5 years already, his name is Stas and he is my best friend and future husband. Without him I wouldn’t be the same person, in a bad way *laughs*
SKYN: What can we look forward to from Turkina Faso?
TF: I would like to do more videos and books. It’s important to maintain my personal research and also not get lost in commercial work. I want to have more exhibitions as well.
SKYN: Do you have any advice for our readers?
TF: Don’t wish, just work, keep your dreams close to you, don’t be crazy and don’t push situations. Everything will come to you in due time.
SKYN: When next we get to your city, do we have an open invite to come and spend time with you?
TF: Of course! You are very welcome even though I don’t know where I’m going to be *laughs*
SKYN: Sum up Turkina Faso in 3 words.
TF: Movement, Moments & Experience
Skyn: Where can our readers find you on social media accounts?
TF: IG @turkinafaso – personal one with everyday life. @turkinafasophoto – work account with photo stream from current and old projects, facebook: Turkina Faso & website: www.turkinafaso.com
@turkinafaso | @turkinafasophoto | @Turkina Faso | www.turkinafaso.com
Vanessa Peters | www.sofxposh.com | @sofxposh
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