Masha Demianova is a Russian photographer that tells stories with her camera, focusing on elements that bring her back to her origins: forests, windy fields and other natural elements. These, along with major artists' influences, create an idyllic fairytale in which beauty is in the eyes of the one who observes, and not the contrary. 
Tell us about your origins. What was it that made you start taking pictures?
I took my first pictures in school – I brought my parents' simple film camera to classes and started capturing my classmates and everything around. I bought my first camera at around 16 years old, a Canon AE1. Since that time capturing things on camera became a part of my perception of the world. There is a very accurate phrase of one of my ‘teachers’, Nan Goldin, about photography: “I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.”
Your work on fashion photography and your perspective on female beauty can be considered a study on the perception of women. How do you think your projects can empower women?
Creating a story, a myth, that's what I am interested in. Characters in those stories can vary, but mostly those are female characters because it is easier for me to transmit ideas or feelings over to someone who is similar to me. Every staged image is a self portrait in a way. I definitely would be glad to know that my images empower people, but this is not the purpose of my work. Discovering the new ways of perception, exploring the world of metaphors – all this helps the image to receive its voice. And this voice is not following any standards, it’s telling a story.
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Natural elements along with rusty environments seem to be a signature of your work. What is it about these environments that inspires you?
Spiritual and strong, nature is the most inspiring environment for me. If you look into Russian fairytales, most of the events there happen alongside nature, in the deep dark forests or the wide windy fields. Those fairytales are part of my culture and their impact on me is huge, for sure.
Recently, your work has been identified as a new way to define Russia nowadays, and therefore as a new view of Russian youth. How do you think your work can inspire a change in the perception of your country?
First thing that I hope I can bring into young Russian photography is the idea of not being afraid of doing things. Sometimes I have to stand up to my ideas even when dealing with friends. People in Russia are very judgmental. The second thing is to think through why you do things and what do they represent.
Your work also features a wide range of models that are unconventional to occidental beauty standards, modifying perceptions of modern beauty. What is the importance, in your opinion, of widening the beauty spectrum to include a more varied definition of beautiful people?
Beauty lies in character, not the looks, so the energy is more important than bone structure or height. Of course every story is different and every story requires different characters. The important part here is to let people more easily identify themselves with a person on the picture, who looks like them and not perfect. Because nobody ever is.
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Among your work, we can also find a series of personal projects that show your interest in film photography. What inspires you to take pictures with 35mm film? What is your motivation behind these shots?
Documentary and art photography started to be way more interesting for me than fashion, the range of ideas that you can bring into a fashion story is still limited by necessity of selling the garments that are represented on those images. And the images made with film are in a way unpredictable, that gives it a value.
Many photographers are shaping the perception of beauty, fashion and sexuality in our societies, like Ren Hang who passed away recently. What are the photographers and artists that inspire you to create your personal landscape?
There are many, I have two friends from New York, both great people and artists, Yelena Yemchuk and Leigh Ledare. Both of them inspire me a lot. As of art, I also love the work of Ana Mendieta, Maya Deren, Matthew Barney, etc. In photography, Rayan Mcginley’s work had a huge impact on me as a teenager, and I've already mentioned Nan Goldin as well. But the most inspiring area for me is cinema. Robert Bresson, Bela Tarr, Bruno Dumont, Werner Schroeter, Jean Rollin and many others.
Finally, we would like to know your personal opinion on modern photography. In what sense can photography change societies and daily lives?
Images took over people's lives. If you don’t have an image of something, then it wasn’t real and didn’t happen. People are eager to gaze at stuff and that’s why it is definitely a good time for photography and videography. But because of the availability too many images are being made and this is chaotic. In this chaos of postmodernity people rarely can tell what is actually valuable. So then the only thing you can do as a photographer is to find your own way of ‘seeing’ things right and transfer it to other people with your images.
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