Artist Spotlight: Natasha Masharova

This week’s StandardVision artist takeover on the SVLA1 screen at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles features work by Natasha Masharova. Masharova is the latest of many artists to be invited to take over a two week-long recurring 15-second spot to showcase their work to the public.

We had a chance to ask Masharova a few questions, learning about her photographic process and her fascination with Los Angeles.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography.

My way into professional photography started from reportages and editorial portraits in 2005 in Ukraine. I’m a self taught photographer (also I have a BA in Sociology), and that was a great field school for me, although what I do in photography now is a rather different in approach, subject and style wise. Besides photography, together with my partner, I was a cofounder and visual editor of several controversial art and culture magazines, working on which led to our exile in 2009. After the persecutions from the government censors and right wing paramilitary forces, we had to leave our home and families, and started to travel, eventually getting to New York City. The de-socialization process brought me much closer to myself. Photography became my way of expression in a much deeper and intimate way than before, becoming my life as opposed to being my job.

What are some of your favorite things about Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is probably the first place where I felt as comfortable being at home. I love how vast and endless it is, how it allows you to live at your own pace, unlike New York, which forces you into its tempo of a crazy rat race. I believe it’s probably one of the most important things for an artist – being able to live in your own atmosphere, your own tempo.

I love how LA is like a universe which contains so many different worlds in it, they live almost independently from one another, and you can discover and travel between them endlessly.

The light and weather here are absolutely spoiling, you can shoot all day every day, winter, summer – doesn’t matter, conditions are always “navigable”, and this is invaluable.

For some reason, LA doesn’t leave you with a feeling (like NY) that everything has already happened here, and you can just recreate what’s been done. Although LA, as much as NY has been culturally outlined by numerous artists, LAgives you the feeling of a constantly renewable canvas, feeling that you can thrive here, and you can grow something new in here.

How do you think being from Ukraine affects the way you look at Los Angeles?

It’s like different planets, or different epochs. It’s actually hard for me to compare now, because last 9 years I lived in many places and haven’t been back in Ukraine since 2009. But definitely very much appreciate the climate here, living most of my life with depressing gray thick sky above my head. I think being form Ukraine probably makes me notice and appreciate very many cultural small and big things that are taken for granted by somebody local (which is absolutely understandable). But I think the most important and crucial difference for me is the color palette. Starting with the nature and the architecture, and continuing to the diversity of people’s races. LA definitely influenced the color palette of my art A LOT.

Your work reminds me of gritty 80s films such as “To Live and Die in LA”. You also make films. Have you been influenced by film at all in your photography practice and how does your film work cross over with your photography?

I’ve just recently seen “To Live and Die in LA”, can’t say I’m a fan, but I liked the chase scene, mostly because the LA river is there – which is probably my favorite river ever.

My film work is mostly documentary, although documentary for me has no boundaries of conventional “fly on the wall” or “talking heads” approach. In my films and photos I am eager to capture reality, but it inevitably transforms through my eye and my personality. And I see no reason to hide it, on the contrary, I choose to emphasize it. I believe that documentary as any other form of art is interesting only when there’s an author behind it.

In my photography I focus on landscape work, and in my films – a person, a character or community are the center of my attention. So, these two medias realize quite different parts of my personality.

I can’t pinpoint what exactly influenced my photography, I think it’s mostly influenced by my life, my personal experiences, which of course contain art, in all it’s forms.

What are some of the challenges of shooting at magic hour? Can you describe your approach to capturing these moments?

Magic hour (MH) is the most important time of the day for me. The color palette and dramatism it gives are like nothing else. I feel like all of the time before the MH is like a rehearsal or preparation before the main act, the culmination of the day. The difficult part is to be patient, to wait for the perfect light on your scene, but in the same time you need to react fast, because the light changes so rapidly, and sometimes the way you expect a scene to look during MH is not the way it looks in actuality. The most challenging for me is to accept that I can’t be at different spots at the same time, that I need to choose which scene I’m going to shoot today and not to try to have it all in one take. 🙂

Do you have any upcoming series or projects that you’re excited about?

I don’t like to talk about plans and projects that are in the fragile stages of development, but I’m excited about them internally. 🙂 I’m definitely going to continue my Industrial Dreams series, I’ve been working on it for more than a year and am still passionate about it. Besides, I’ve just released a short doc about very eccentric single mother, who is a vintage cars and weed lover form South Central, and I’m looking forward to discovering more of the LA’s infinite communities and meet more amazing people, who would introduce me to their personal LA.

You can catch Masharova’s work on the SVLA1 screen through May 13 as well as on her Instagram here.