Cristina Vâjâean explores the female side of sensuality through her provocative, yet sophisticated nude photography. It is evident that the artist’s photography has undergone a certain transformation over time. Her earlier pieces featured mostly landscapes and portraits, while her recent work focuses mainly on the female body. In our conversation with Cristina we talked about what interests her the most in photography, her biggest influences and also about her style.
First things off, how did you get into photography?
I am passionate about photography since high school. My very first photo camera was a Nikon D40 bought by my brother on my 18th birthday. I started photography without any direction and I started from landscapes, plants, and static nature, to portraits. I didn’t feel like I had a purpose in photography, so I abandoned it for a few years. It is said that you do not buy photo lenses if you don’t know what you want to shoot. One of the times when I felt that portraits are what I want to do, was after I bought a wide lens and after a few days in Bali, I realized that it is not my kind of photography. Beautiful landscapes need a human subject to tell a story. I sold all my gear and bought my first full-frame 2 years ago.
Out of my passion for film photography, I tried to edit the color scheme in Lightroom in order to get the same mood and color palette on digital. When I felt like I could do this, my desire to experiment in photography came back. For about 1 year I tried to discover my own style and add my signature to my photos.
What is it about nude photography that interests you the most?
I don’t know if I want to name it nude photography. I really like to combine a woman’s sensuality with her personality, and this is not just about nude. Some women are more gentle, shy, but still with a hidden side that they do not overlook, and this transpires in photography. My motto is Reveal the Hidden You – because this is what I’m trying to do with my photography, to highlight a less visible side of the woman, a confident and sexy one.
Can you tell us a bit more about the process of how your images are born?
To be honest, every shooting starts with big emotions. I wake up with these emotions that stay with me until the actual shooting. Most of the time I don’t know my models until the day we meet. I mostly talk with my models on chat in order to plan the concept, clothes, etc. but this chat does not help me to get rid of these emotions, because in the end, it is just a chat. To overcome this I try to keep in mind that everything is based on mutual trust.
Firstly, no shooting day starts without a coffee with my models, usually in a coffee shop from town, before going to the shooting location.
I use only natural light, so my photos are born in cozy apartment rooms. The creative process may begin nights before, but the most inspiration comes from the personality of my models. Once I meet them, I try to figure out what kind of photos/projects fit with their style. The first 10 photos are the most challenging part because I feel like I can’t find my inspiration. As my models begin to put their emotions aside and I begin to feel comfortable with them, the creative process begins. Sometimes I start from ideas that I find in other artists, but almost always something totally different comes out. Starting from a particular photo, we come up with many ideas that we want to shoot.
I always look with my models at the pictures we get during the shooting. Everybody becomes very excited, and I can calm down because I know I got it, so everything becomes more natural. I can say that after about 30 minutes of shooting, the first good frames and authentic ideas begin to appear.
Are your models nervous about getting naked? What are some of your tricks or techniques to make people comfortable?
One advantage that might help is that I try to be authentic when I’m in my photographer’s role. It’s still me, caught up in my creative process, but still the same person you meet in the coffee shop. I consider myself a warm and open person, so I convey and inspire this attitude to my models. Also, I’m very empathic. I always take care of my models in order to make them feel comfortable. Sometimes I think this empathy can affect my creative process because there are times when I don’t know if I’m more focused on photography, or on the need to know that my models can be themselves, but it compensates a lot with the fact that everything becomes cozy and natural.
How would you describe your style?
Intimate, authentic, moody. Intimate because it reveals a hidden, more personal side, in a cozy light. Authentic because each girl has her personality and the photographic concepts are based on the characteristics of each one. Moody because the colors are more desaturated, in shades of brown, trying to express an emotion of safety, of closeness – is that feeling when your skin touches the skin of a loved one – you feel warmth, closeness, but also this moment reveal other desires.
Trends about what is considered attractive for the female body has changed so much — going from the Marilyn Monroe hourglass to the skinny runway model, and also going from breasts being the main attraction to the butt taking center stage. Does that influence how you shoot?
I think now is a trend where the butt takes a special place on the stage :)). Funny. I honestly tell you that I didn’t follow some trends. On the other hand, I believe that I’m a little bit biased by my own body image and there is a possibility to put more emphasis on specific parts of the body like neck or legs. Most of the time I take the female body as a whole and try to let myself inspired by the parts of the body where my models are more comfortable.
On the other hand, I noticed an important trend that I felt as I approached my photography. I observed a shift from very edited, perfect skin to something more close to reality. I’m not even talking about the type of editing that promotes the top model look, which is trying too much to fit every single body into a standard.
I admit that in my photography I clean the skin in post-processing, but I keep it in a natural line and I never change the shapes of my models. Each difference makes us unique and I love to illustrate this in my photos.
Why do you think society always falls into the trap of having certain standards of beauty?
Unfortunately, it is hard not to get lost in society standards. Even when my models appreciate a photo, their perception is based on the standards that we have been taught. So far, even unintentional, I worked with the same type of beauty, because most of my models are skinny with small breasts. But this is not a standard in choosing my models. I believe that I can reveal the beauty of any woman I work with. I don’t know if I can highlight this here, but I really believe it.
Who would you say are some of the biggest influences on your work?
Because you mentioned Marilyn Monroe, there is a famous photography of her and Douglas Kirkland as a photographer, in Los Angeles. I liked the intimacy between them, an intimacy that seems to inspire both the photographer and the model.
There are a number of current photographers who inspire me a lot. For example, I really appreciate Bob Sala’s work. He is a photographer who manages to bring exactly this sense of warmth and sensuality into one photography. He was one of the first photographers I have been following since I started shooting this style.
Another photographer who adopts a conceptual style that I don’t feel like I’ve reached yet is Ryan Muirhead. From him and many others, I learned that you need to create a personal style and to have consistency.
In terms of post-processing, I’m inspired by different 35 mm films like Portra 160, maybe a little bit warmer. But in almost all my photos, the green is desaturated, and the blue has a special hue inspired by Agfa Vista 200, with a yellow tint from Kodak 200.
As you grow as a photographer, are you seeing your style and interests change?
I have often thought about this, what will I photograph when I am 50? At this moment I know that the way I perceive my body influences the way I create my photos. My ideas arise from things that I like, so that’s why my photography may change with time.
As a pure style of photography, I would like to start by posing more conceptually, more minimalist, using light in more creative ways. It’s an area I haven’t explored so much yet, and I’d love to evolve in this direction. Mostly I would like to photograph a lot more on film and let the colors come together without digital post-processing. But as I said before, for me it is important to have consistency and a personal touch, because it feels so awesome to hear that when someone sees a random picture they think it might have been done by me due to my style.
Follow Cristina on: Instagram