In the Limelight with Ilona D. Veresk

Published for INSPADES MagazineIssue Sei, August 2017

BY ANISSA R. STAMBOULI

Rising from the Moscow art scene, photographer Ilona D. Veresk skillfully presents a world of romantically luminescent works that is catching eyes around the world. Specializing in fashion, beauty and advertising, it is within the frame of her elegant and alluring images that Veresk has established her creative capabilities within the sphere of photography, tenfold.

“At first, becoming a photographer was not my dream,” Veresk admits.

Fantasizing about careers in voice work or costume design as a child, Veresk’s early dreams were swayed by the permeating culture of Disney. Yet even as she studied fine arts in her teenage years and pursued interior design in university, Veresk maintained a fascination with romantic visual styles.

In tandem with her studies, Veresk began to explore graphic design and photo manipulation. Designing covers for albums and singles, she earned revenue and a widening reputation within the local circle of musicians. It was during this time that Veresk developed her skill for digital art, a knack that would later spill over into her photography’s editing style.

A year after graduating from university, Veresk left the little town of her upbringing, Izhevsk, and headed to the Russian capital to try her hand at success, but first, she would be met with struggle.

“Life in Moscow forced me to rack my brain for ways to pay for housing and food. I set myself up in a photography studio and took my camera along to earn something,” recounts Veresk.

They say that ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and, during this time, the proverb rang true in Veresk’s life, as her scant circumstances drove her to develop as a photographer. While Veresk had previously owned a camera, her use of it was merely casual, however, near the end of 2013, Veresk’s financial state forced her hand at artistic experimentation within the art form.

“When I started to dip into photography, I thought it was a temporary fix,” Veresk admits, “but the more I dipped in, the more I understood that if you treat something seriously, and use your imagination, it can become really compelling.”

And so, the idealistic imaginings of Veresk’s childhood resurfaced with renewed vigour. “My dream found me,” she adds with pleasant irony.

Today, the alluring subjects of Veresk’s personal projects and haute fashion editorials boast of her predestined talent for photography. With minimal edits and heightened lighting technique, Veresk extracts the organic beauty of her subjects with a luminescent presentation.

“I don’t use Photoshop on my subjects’ body or skin—they are perfect just as they are,” Veresk attests, alluding to her tendency for selecting models with naturally “ethereal and elusive” qualities.

In her underwater series, The Siren, delicate fabric and tendrils of hair ripple gently and seductively around the subject. Suspended in graceful movement, the subject invites innocent admiration and placid contemplation. Unlike the mythological siren, whose luring beauty and melody dazzled men toward a vicious demise, Veresk’s sirens emanate a purity of intent.

When asked about the challenges involved with shooting such elaborate scenes beneath the surface, Veresk recalls, “Underwater portraiture wasn’t too hard, but communication between the model and team was a big problem.”

With her mind reeling with the logistics and organizational tasks relating to the shoot, Veresk “couldn’t sleep normally” leading up to the event.

“It was my first underwater shoot, which was very exciting. I rented two different cameras and brought all the possible lenses I could use,” she explains, “I had a lot on my mind and was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to shoot in the conditions.”

Despite her initial stress, Veresk captured The Siren beautifully. Particularly noteworthy in the series, as with her work in general, is Veresk’s controlled use of light. As one of the broncolor Gen NEXT beneficiaries of 2017, an organization that “equips the next generation of young professional photographers with cutting edge lighting gear for photography and videography”, Veresk has been given access to top-tier products, along with the creative freedom to experiment with her personal photography.

“Light in photography means so much more than cameras or other tools,” Veresk explains of her meticulous use of lighting equipment, “Gen NEXT is a big honour and an awesome creative kick for me.”

With numerous exhibitions since 2015, awards and press coverage, Veresk supports her entire income through her photography services. “I’m really addicted to this lifestyle and enjoy every minute working on personal images and client content,” she says, “I have worked as a freelancer for my entire adult life. It’s my way of fighting the system and corporate slavery,” she quips.

Leaping from her nest in Izhevsk, into a financially meagre living in Moscow, Veresk has since sprouted wings through her photographic explorations and continues to soar toward endless opportunity.

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