Ilona Veresk: Original Conceptual and Fashion Portraits

All images by Ilona D. Veresk. Used with permission.

Photographer Ilona D. Veresk is also an Art director. Born in Izhevsk, Russia, she now lives in Moscow. “I shoot promo for different brands, editorials for fashion magazines and create promo-shoot for popular musicians.” she tells the Phoblographer. Clearly, we can see why they’d want to hire her.

Ilona has a whimsical imagination and creates refreshly original concepts that feels fantastical in every way. She shoots portraits, and judging from her work on Behance, it’s clearly evident that the now 21 year old has been doing this since she was 13 years old.
I specialize in such genres as portrait and fashion.

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


Ilona: It’s a long story.

When I was 13 years old, I went to art school, I didn’t know which profession I’d like to choose. I wanted to be a graphic designer or something like this. Then I started to work with Photoshop. It was photo collages just for fun but later I started to work with more serious commercial projects, it was a nice job and some revenue for my 16 years. I began to position my works more like art and began to devote a lot of time for self-education. But I always needed “stock photos”, and the best way to get unique images – to shoot them by yourself. So my first camera was an old film apparatus “Zenit” that was given me by my friend. Later I bought a digital camera Pentax K-5 and moved to Saint Petersburg and Moscow. There I’m working now.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into portraiture?

Ilona: Portraits are the best way to express my ideas. I love my models, every one of my fairies are not simple mannequins, they are really unique persons with interesting characters. They must be on the one wave with me; that’s why my casting is very specific. I like that natural beauty of human beings can be multifaceted. I always need to be admiring my models and be totally inspired by them to shoot something nice. Also the one of my hobbies is making handmade accessories and props for my shoot. They are fantasy headpieces, sometimes clothing and decorations. I’d like to continue my work in sphere of fashion design, and people here are the fundamental element either.


Phoblographer: Much of your work seems surreal and rooted in stories, myths, fairy tales, etc. So how do you take these ideas and try to reinterpret them in your own ways? What usually influences the creative decisions that you make?

Ilona: Yes, myths and fairytales are a great pantry of inspiration, but don’t forget about factors of a modern life and modern vision. I’m not interested in the exact illustrations of old stories, it’s boring.

The introduction of modern elements and mixing different styles gives more freedom. Every artist has his own formula of inspiration. Not every one of my picture refers to a third-party source. No, I’m creating my own stories and characters from casual elements.It can be an usual cup of coffee standing in the light rays on my window, laces, artistic crafts, dusty old cabinets and cupboards, banal tangles of yarn but mostly it’s the nature. The Nature is my teacher and my inspiration. My second name is “Veresk” – it is a Russian word that means heather. Tangled tales – that’s a phrase I can describe my style.


Phoblographer: All of your work looks like some sort of high scale production using the careful placements of lighting, etc. How do you storyboard all of them and make it come together? How do you communicate your ideas to your models?

Ilona: Not every model and not every man in my team can understand me. But every one of those I’m working with constantly with personal projects tells me that I have some charisma and I infect my team with ideas *Laugh*. I like crazy artists! My creative team can make unbelievable things! Sometimes they give me really cool ideas and help me with their PRO skills.

Regarding the photographic part, I’m a very meticulous person because every little thing can screw up the whole picture, as much as can make it ideal. The Post production and retouching gives unlimited opportunities, but I prefer to see the final picture on the display of my camera. So, every speck of dust has its own place.


Phoblographer: Portraiture is one thing, but underwater portraiture is so much different because it opens you up to new possibilities. So where do you feel a lot of your creative vision comes from when doing this type of work?


Ilona: The Underwater portraiture isn’t so hard but it has a lot of specifics. My first underwater shoot was very exciting. I couldn’t sleep normally, I had a lot of thoughts and I was afraid of that I cannot shoot in such conditions. I was going to rental and take all possible lens and two different cameras. But in reality it was not so hard. A big problem is the communication between a model and other team, the water really differs from conditions that I shoot before but it was a great creative kick. I think that I can do everything now!

Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you use.


Ilona: These photos I shoot with Canon 6D. By searching of several variants, I decided what wide angle lenses are best for underwater shoot, if you can get more contrast image you need to be closer to model as much as possible. If you will use lenses like 70-200 between you and the model will be a lot of water, it’s a problem because image becomes very turbid and dirty. So my choice fell on Canon 17-40 and Tamron 15-30. You can work with fix lenses but it’s harder to control when your movements are constrained. The Light was set above the water. 5 profoto monоlights. Backlight with 3 reflectors and one fill light with big octabank on 45 degree angle to model that gives us a soft and dreamy image. The Final one reflector was set behind the model to light on water surface it paints beautiful shine from waves on the pool walls and dress. Also I used lamp of constant light in such a way that I got rid of problems with autofocus on my camera.


Phoblographer: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about portraiture since you’ve started to shoot?

Ilona: I can tell this it is more psychology than pro skills or something else. As well I can take pictures of the flowers and enjoy my life. But the work with a big team teaches you to be calm and balanced because you are the head of the whole process and if you start to get nervous or panic – all your efforts go down the drain.

The calm and warm atmosphere on your shoot is the best way to tell everyone that you are PRO and everything is going according to the plan. It’s very important for clients, for models, for your team. Most of people I worked with write me again and again. You can never invite the same people anymore but to leave a good impression is extremely necessary, it’s your face and your rating in professional photo industry.







Beauty4 (1)

Tchaikovsky's tales-Romeo_and_Juliett

Tchaikovsky's tales-Sleeping_beauty



Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.