Interview with Photographer Julia Skobeleva

Vinous © Julia Skobeleva

Vinous © Julia Skobeleva

HESO: Who are you and where are you from? Give us some background please.

Julia: I was born an only child in an ordinary Soviet family from Kazakhstan. I graduated from the Faculty of Journalism and worked as an editor in glossy magazines for a long time. I had no dream of becoming a professional photographer, I just want to do what I love–genre portraits and nude photography. But my passion led me to shootings for the money. I was invited to different magazines as a photographer and then to advertisement.

HESO: When did you first pick up a camera?

Julia: I was fascinated by photography in university when I was 19 years old. But then I had a small daughter and I have not had time to do something else. But my dream did not die. When my daughter started to walk, I began taking pictures with the old grandfather’s Canon. At that time I worked as an editor in a glossy magazine Cosmopolitan Kazakhstan and had been saving money for my first digital camera. I was able to buy it only at 24.

Fairy Tales of Freedom © Julia Skobeleva

Fairy Tales of Freedom © Julia Skobeleva

HESO: What work interests you as a commercial photographer in Kazakhstan?

Julia: I am rarely interested in commercial photography in Kazakhstan. It is monotonous and the mechanical work. In our country, a photographer is not an artist, just a technical executive of other peoples’ ideas, just lots of smiling people against a white background. But there are exceptions, for example, I love to do food photography. So I often shoot cookbooks and menus for restaurants. I like it, so I put my soul into this process, but everything you can see on my site in sections nude, fashion or portrait – my creative non-commercial projects. Unfortunately, such photoshoots do not happen for money because glossy magazines and fashion are poorly developed in our country.

HESO: Do you prefer analog to digital photography or vice versa. Or is it not important? Explain.

Julia: I love film, especially black and white, and especially when it is nude. It gives an incredible volume, beautiful grain and creates a unique mood. It places emphasis on form and light. On the other hand, in fashion photography I use only a digital camera, because it is practical and allows for post-processing. As Candace Meyer said, “Digital makes it easy to shoot, but you still have to have it down technically to make things really work.”

HESO: Many photographs have the feel of a memory or a dream. Is this purposeful? To what end?

Julia: In fact, I’m just dreaming about the large-format camera Deardoff. I like the floating focus, color and most importantly the incredible depth. I try to copy that style with my other camera. I like taking pictures as if it were a painting. I reflect the truth, but it’s a little deceptive, because all the photographers are liars. We show what we want. I want to create portraits, which will show beauty for many, many years. My model will put her picture in a frame, and then will show it to the grandchildren, as memories of the best years of her beauty. Because the photo was created specifically for this – to give people good memories.

HESO: About your shooting style, do you have a preferred method?

Salty wind © Julia Skobeleva

Salty wind © Julia Skobeleva

Julia: I use my camera only when I have a specific idea, a clear image or just a strong desire to photograph something. Perhaps it is because I am a posed photographer and never fond of reportage. I love natural poses, as if taken out of someone else’s life by accident. Maybe my models are just good actresses:)

HESO: Some of your nudes are not the typical “Beautiful”, which is a good thing. What do you want to portray when you photograph the female body?

Julia: As I said, I want to show the naturalness and truthfulness. We do not think of a straight posture when sitting in a room alone with ourselves, we do not think about the makeup, hair, or do not want to look better than we are. I want my audience to look a little deeper than they usually look at pictures.

HESO: Who are your favorite photographers?

Julia: Paolo Roversi, Sally Mann, Candace Meyer, Ryan Mcginley and Alina Lebedeva.

HESO: You work with charities, notably the Asian Children’s Paralympic games. How did you become involved with this?

Estrangement © Julia Skobeleva

Estrangement © Julia Skobeleva

Julia: The girl from this organization was looking for photographers who will agree to shoot the children for free, because they had no budget. And I agreed.

Also, later I participated in a controversial project, where 12 female-photographers took nude self-portraits for the annual calendar. The money received from the sale of calendars, we were able to make the expensive surgery for a few poor children. But many people condemned this way of charity. They called us licentious and ostentatious persons. It was very sad.

HESO: What is your favorite food? If you could eat with anyone, alive or dead, in any time period in history, in any place, who, when and where?

Julia: I love Asian, Italian and Czech cuisine. I generally like to eat :) and I love to travel. Especially by car. Kazakhstan is a very large and beautiful country, my husband is also a photographer,so we always shoot on our journeys. I always thought that life was better during the hippie period at 60s-70s. This should be great fun to ride in a hippie bus with Beatles, eat some beans or broccoli :) And if seriously, I would like to talk over dinner in the artist Frida, I was very close to her work.

At the moment I am working to get out to other countries. I would be interested in working with foreign magazines or go to the master class of professionals in my work.


This interview is part of HESO Magazine’s ongoing Summer Interview Series, where we interview photographers, musicians and artists about their work and what they think about the world of 2012. We may ask them similar questions, but the answers have been anything but the same old canned responses. Check out the entire series here.

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