Published by INSPADES Magazine, “Issue Cinque”
BY ANISSA R. STAMBOULI
In the waking hours of the morning and the prelude to sleep, a fog of ambiguity rolls over perception, subtly skewing the outlines of awareness. Through the vision of Russian photographer Dasha Pears, clouded dreams condense into droplets of pseudo-reality, allowing the viewer to experience her art as if through a lucid dream.
“I’m not documenting reality, I’m documenting myself and my imagination,” Pears tells INSPADES. Having spent the last five years cultivating her conceptual photography, this self-taught artist embeds each image with a unique story, rather than using a series of shots to weave the narrative. In each shoot, Pears aims to draw the marvelous out of the woodwork, “exploring magic and beauty in ordinary people and simple things.”
Careful not to overcrowd the message of her works, much of Pears’ photography maintains a minimalist air, allowing symbolic props and dreamlike elements to protrude with gentle emphasis. “I do believe that we are constantly surrounded by miracles, but we do not recognize them because they come to us so gracefully and seamlessly,” Pears asserts, a notion that has made its way into her visual style.
With a sense of childlike romanticism, themes of clouds, castles and crowns garnish Pears’ collection. “I like fairy tales,” she explains. Growing up in St. Petersburg, Russia, with no castles or storybook settings in sight, Pears fantasized about being in “a real castle” throughout her girlhood.
In images such as Princesses and Castle, Pears fulfills her childhood dreams with the tactful maturity of an experienced adult and the technique of a seasoned photographer, incorporating nature, crowns and castles to achieve a rustic yet regal presence.
Another consistent pattern in the fabric of Pears’ work is the appearance of clouds. “Clouds mean a lot to me because of their lightness and because when you look at them, they can be anything you want them to be. They are very flexible, their shapes are always changing and they are constantly moving.” Reflecting her perspective that magic can be found within the simplicity of life, clouds represent the fluid capability of the imagination to reinterpret situations around us, enabling life and destiny to assume malleable forms.
This seed of thought is embodied further in Pears’ Wings, where a man and woman stand together, each holding a paper wing. “Everyone interprets it in his or her own way. For some people it’s a tale of hope and trust, for others it’s a story of a relationship that is destined to fail,” she reflects. “I usually share my vision of the story with my models, but I don’t tell them my interpretation of it, giving them the possibility to bring something of their own into my final shot.” Just as clouds maintain a theme in Pears’ art, the symbolic meaning maintains relevance across her working experience, where an idea itself becomes a cloud, shape-shifting its interpretation with each interaction of both model and viewer.
Many of her photo shoots have been assembled with the help of a team, including a decorator for the props. In one image, Pears involved assistants to toss pages into the air, a feat that could not be accomplished with just the photographer and model in the room. “Organizing a conceptual photo shoot often demands strong planning and organizing skills,” Pears admits, describing how finding a schedule alone that coincides with all members of the team can be a challenge.
While Pears is currently a successful full-time photographer, having won photography contests like the Best of Russia 2015, it wasn’t until after the birth of her eldest daughter that she began to “take photography seriously.”
“I had a very stressful job in web communications and marketing, so in the very beginning I had to take photography part-time, while being a full-time mom,” she explains, “It didn’t happen in the blink of an eye for me, but as I became confident with my camera, I realized that I simply couldn’t go back to my old office job.”
Since then, Pears has resiliently pursued her goal of developing as an artist. From her home in Helsinki, Finland, she continues to define her artistic voice, while collaborating with an illustrator to “create a new imaginary reality” for her characters. If this is the caliber of her work without a “clear” style, we can’t wait to see what photography emerges once she has distinctly fine tuned her artistic trademark.