In Touch With Still-Life Photographer Anna Pogossova - Par Femme

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by Maddy Woon

Pluck a clever, peripherally observant, and beautiful woman from the world. Literally any part of the world—far or near, rich or rare, physical or internet. A skyward follower count is not a determinant for selection. Ask her a set of questions that invite a discussion of sexuality, sensuality, modern feminism, career, and creativity, explored through her very personal lens. Have her answer them. And there you have it: that’s In Touch, a Par Femme segment, assembled, for you, with pleasure.

In today's episode of In Touch, we chat to Anna Pogossova, the brains behind our latest Par Femme x Anna Pogossova sweater collaboration. Anna is, in her words, a "still-life photographer, artist, occasional sculptor, sci-fi film enthusiast, and hardcore Scorpio." Her brilliant work is all about objects, images and symbols.

Find out what inspired the #soapladies project, why she's so drawn to working with objects, and what she finds sexy below. 

Madeleine Woon: Your aesthetic is super distinctive (and beautiful!). How did you develop it and how do you manage to retain your trademark aesthetic while also evolving as an artist?
Anna Pogossova: Thank you so much! Everything along the way has contributed to my identity and my aesthetic, in some respect. I imagine it being like a snowball of all my interests, experiences and previous jobs, collected over time.

I actually think my trademark is that I don’t really have a specific aesthetic—like a go-to lighting set up or a favourite colour palette—and that it’s always shifting. But, that could also be characteristically mine, even when it’s harder to pin point. At the centre of it all is everything that truly interests me and inspires me, so I think it informs all my work in meaningful ways, even if I’m not always aware of it myself. I believe that if you’re honest with yourself about what you like, you will always have that creative equilibrium, and a discernible style.

Above: Anna wears the Par Femme x Anna Pogossova Cropped Hoodie in Black 

What initially drew you to shooting still life as opposed to working with models? 
What is it about working with objects that appeals to you?
A very, very long time ago, I had a brief foray into shooting models, before I discovered there were other photographic genres. I enjoyed the energy and collaborative aspect of shooting people, and the element of the unknown which they brought. The magic! I get it, and I do miss it sometimes, but ultimately it was not for me. 

I felt like there were too many variables, too many compromises, and a watering down of ideas along the way, with too much riding on the celebrity of the model. There is such an art to communicating your vision to someone else, and getting those moments out of them on camera. I deeply respected it, but it wasn’t for me. I really wanted to be able to experiment freely by myself and construct something from scratch, which still life allowed me to do. I found the pace and nature of still life photography more akin to art making in a studio, so I was much better suited to it; I love details, finicky things, impossible structures, precision, and invention. 
The other special thing about objects is that I see them as direct projections of our desires. Objects propose an ideal, and simultaneously mirror something of the world we are in; even everyday items like lipsticks, yes! They are highly symbolic and loaded. Every object transcends its physical form into language, and has a story to tell. It’s not simply a thing, but an invisible network of histories, metaphors, and references which are culturally inherited. This is why I love working with still life so much. I also appreciate that this incredibly nerdy.

Can you run us through your recent collaboration with Par Femme? What was the initial idea spark and creative process like? V
enus statues carved out of everyday beauty and food items seems to be a running motif in your work. Where did this idea initially stem from?
A couple of things happening simultaneously led me to the idea. Wonderful person, and previous collaborator, Chloe Hill, who is passionate about the environment and sustainability in our industry, got me onto soap shampoo bars and thinking about how to reduce packaging and waste in my day-to-day life, as well as in photographic practice. It was always so upsetting throwing things away after a shoot. Most people, including myself, take as much home as they can, to reuse or give to friends or housemates. I had taken in so many orphan lipsticks over the years, which I rarely wore, so decided to experiment with them as an art material instead.

I love the idea of wearing a material away with your own body, to create form. It’s a very intimate action. If you have ever noticed how lipsticks are worn down differently depending on the person, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The same goes for the soaps, and even food. It’s the unique language of daily rituals and tasks. 

So I had the lipstick sculptures, and a growing soap collection in my shower, then the lockdown happened, and washing my hands became such a frequent ritual; so more soaps, and more washing. I got quite into it. All my soaps would wear down in the middle like a little waist on a torso, so I began adding some very small detail cues to suggest breasts or belly buttons. The eye and the brain fill in the rest. What I found really interesting was that they always resembled a female form to me. Its representation is so deeply ingrained, and so frequently reproduced and coded, that my mind anticipates it from arbitrary details or patterns. This series is very much to do with intimate actions but it’s also about meaning-making and cultural symbols.

Who or what continues to inspire you? 
Louise Bourgeois. 

What are some things—obvious and obscure—you find sexy? 
Scent. Stories. Stories about scents. One of my favourite books is Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, which is about immortality, two lovers and perfume. It’s a very sexy story.

What is your idea of pleasure? 
A swim at night.

When do you feel most alive? 
When I see, learn or do something for the very first time. 

Shop the Par Femme x Anna Pogossova sweater collection here.

All images by Anna Pogossova. You can (and should!) follow her on Instagram here. 

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