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Being an artist in the United States right now for sure is an interesting and demanding position. Especially if you are one affiliated to the queer scene and defy mainstream beauty standards. Eva Zar shared with us what moving to New York and working in one of the biggest creative bubbles has been like and how picturing queer identities has always felt natural to her.
You are originally from Russia but grew up in Vienna (Austria). Now you are based in New York City. Can you tell us a bit about how that shift happened?
I was twenty-one and all I wanted was to express myself creatively. I knew I couldn’t stay in Vienna. At some point I just wasn’t happy there anymore, so I moved to New York for a couple of months and secretly applied at Parsons. Blessed as I was (and am), I got a full ride and that’s where I am now.
In which ways did this switch of locations influence your creative work?
Vienna is a good city to grow up and to be around people that are kind and honest. But I think that as a young female with a specific style it can get very narrow-minded. You also can’t compare a small city with a huge creative metropolis. Moving to New York City helped me start finding my own style and the way I want to work creatively. It has allowed me to experiment on every single project – from branded content to editorials, almost every client gives you room to try new stuff and that’s amazing. I do feel like I’m travelling around a lot for work, though – that definitely influences my creative process even more.

What is your relation to the scene in New York City and how is it different from anywhere else in the world?
Every new environment changes the way you see things but I think New York City is unique in that sense. You’re a fish in a huge sea and for someone to recognize your work, you need to make it work on the daily. As a creative person, you depend on what and who is around you because that’s your inspiration – and New York will always be my mecca of inspiration. 
You and also your subjects evolve around the queer community. Have queer identities always been part of your life and work?
Queer personalities are definitely an inspiration when it comes to my work but not only. I’ve been driven to capture the ‘other’ in a beautiful glittery way. I think that by photographing people who are not considered to fit in traditional beauty standards I’m able to redefine them one photo at a time. I’m not here for queer niche photography; I want my photos (of queer fabulous personalities) to be on Vogue’s cover redefining boring white male gaze beauty standards. That’s why seeing my work published in more mainstream publications means so much to me.
What does portraying all these shining personalities mean to you?
I have a crazy weakness for what I consider beautiful. Photographing all these gorgeous babes around me excites me, especially when I look at my work and I really like it. I guess if I was married to my work, the moment of portraying a shining personality would be my honeymoon phase. I have a bunch of butterflies in my stomach shooting them and scanning my negatives.

“I’m not here for queer niche photography; I want my photos (of queer fabulous personalities) to be on Vogue’s cover redefining boring white male gaze beauty standards.”
Have you and the community experienced any changes due to the political situation in the United States right now?
New York City is definitely a safe bubble when it comes to any political aspect within the States – although I do think that things have changed since the election. People are becoming more aware of racism, sexism and homophobia and a lot more people started to speak up. If anything, a lot of people finally realized that it’s time to walk the walk and not talk the talk, and that’s awesome.
Do you also see an activist aspect in your work?
I never took a picture with the aim of creating a politically valuable Diane Arbus sort of image, and my photos are mostly highly staged and posed. But for some reason, anything that isn’t a white, tall and pretty girl is already considered activist work.
All your pictures are taken with analogue cameras. What do you feel film can express better than digital photography?
It’s the interaction with the subject I capture. A lot of photographers who shoot digital interact with the screen on their camera, looking through thousands of images. When you shoot on film you have to build a relationship with the person in front of your lens. Even if it has to be fast and superficial, you might get to know something exciting about them.

Is there anything specific that inspires your imagery and the way you see through your camera?
Everything around me – I know it’s sounds so cliché. I think that as a visual person you have to use everything to your advantage: good moments, bad moments, moments on the train. I absorb everything and put it into my inspiration folders and, when it comes to creating a project, I go through all of that and select what I need.
Are there any new projects coming up for you? Something exciting or anything new you can’t wait to get your hands on?
Yes, so many amazing things are happening right now. I just shot Hayley Kiyoko for Refinery29, Rain Dove for Gay Times (which will also bring a special surprise), Aleali May for Wonderland, Uniiqu3 and Anajah for Chakrubs, and Merlot for Time Out — all of these will go live very soon and I can’t wait to share these amazing photographs with the world. I’m also going to direct Sateen’s new music video, so stay tuned, sis!

Julius Pristauz

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