Elena Paraskeva: Surreal and Expressive Editorial Portraits

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All images by Elena Paraskeva. Used with permission.

Elena Paraskeva is a freelance portrait photographer based in Cyprus. Her story is an interesting one that starts with being confined to her home due to an illness. When she recovered, she was eager to capture anything and everything on camera. But she didn’t feel like landscapes were really expressive enough for her, so she got into portraiture.

Elena’s work has been featured in international magazines such as Digital Camera, N-Photo Magazine, Photography Masterclass, Dark Beauty, Good Light Magazine etc. She has done exhibitions in London as well as her native country, has given tutorials for some of the internet’s biggest photography communities and has been distinguished in many international photography competitions.

I found her work via Photocrowd, and became in awe of her portraits, ideas and the overall way that she renders scenes.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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Elena: I bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D5200 a little bit less than two years ago. I had come out of a dark period, health-wise, which kept me confined to my home for the good part of two years, and I had this need to be outdoors taking photos of everything I had missed during that period. So my first venture into photography was actually as a landscape/nature photographer.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into portraiture?

Elena: I soon realized that although I was good at landscape photography, it was harder to put your mark as an artist and express yourself in a unique way than with portraiture. You get a beautiful scene, and yes you make it look spectacular with good composition and careful editing, but it was there for you and thousands of others to capture and the differences can at times be very subtle..With portraiture you can immortalize a specific person and their feelings in an absolutely unique way. A fleeting moment on someone’s face can result in something so dramatic and memorable, and for those non-candid portraits that involve a level of metamorphosis, well then you get to create a piece of art that’s completely unique to you.

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Phoblographer: Where does your inspiration come from for your conceptual work? Lots of surreal and conceptual photographers say that they get it from insomnia while others draw inspiration from fairy tales.

Elena: It is funny that you mention insomnia. I actually have insomnia because i can’t stop thinking of ideas. I was a painter in my past life and my favorite master was Salvador Dali for his intense surrealism. I don’t have specific sources of inspiration. I just see something and i automatically start thinking of how i can use it in an unexpected way.

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One of my favorite images, Exposed, which is now featured in the current issue of Photography Masterclass Magazine was born out my faulty umbrella not opening up and me getting soaked as a result. One of my latest images called the “Longing Maiden” was inspired by the fish i went to buy as dinner at a local fish market. I was staring at them and thinking how i could use them in a creative and dramatic way.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about your process. Is there storyboarding, is there a collaborative process of some sort between you and the model or you and a creative director?

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Elena: I conceptualize the shoot from the beginning to the end. I’m a control freak and i find it difficult to relinquish control. I will create a storyboard with images that communicate the feeling and direction of the shoot in terms of posing, hair, make up and clothing to help my model, hair stylist and designer i’m working with, but more often than not, i’m there when they are creating their part to make sure it is in accordance with my vision.

Phoblographer: What do you think is the biggest creative skill or advancement that you’ve made in the past year?

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Elena: Well, as i mentioned i’ve only been doing this seriously for a year and a half and portraiture specifically for about a year. My attitude when i begun was, if i don’t get it right in camera i’ll fix it later. Not anymore. I pay a lot more attention to the light, composition, posing etc than just getting the concept through to the viewer. I am a lot less heavy handed with photoshop and my retouching skills have gone from practically doing nothing to spending 3 hours retouching my model’s face if i’m doing an editorial shoot. I’ve also become more specific in the kind of portraiture i’d like to create and i’m moving more to the dark and dramatic side of the editorial spectrum.

Phoblographer: What personal project are you working on right now, and how’s it coming along?

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Elena: Right now i’m doing a shoot for the cover and pages of a magazine that involves water and i’m in the process of designing the avant garde garments together with my designer (i’ll actually be doing a lot of the hand work). I want it to be grande with a touch of surrealism. On a non-editorial aspect, i’m in talks with the Autism association in my country to start a project called “24 hours in the life of an autistic child” that will be exhibited in museums and galleries as part of an effort to raise money and awareness for the cause.

Phoblographer: Where do you see yourself one year from now as a photographer?

Elena: Doing editorial shoots for magazines. And creating real-life portrait series that tell a compelling story.

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