Name: Elena Kulikova
Age: Just turned 30.
City: Currently in Oakland CA / San Francisco CA
So, Elena, what’s your story?
I was born in Alma-ata, the land where all apples originate. My family moved around a lot in what was then the USSR. I experienced a variety of cultures and saw so many beautiful landscapes! I moved to California at age 10 and that was life changing! From 10 to 18 I grew up in a beautiful lush valley in Marin, always taking my time to walk home the longest way possible with my friends after school through creeks and hills on what we called “adventures.” I feel that Nature has always been my greatest inspiration.
At what age did you an interest for photography?
I took a Darkroom class in high school in California (when I was 17), and loved it. I never imagined becoming a photographer though. I think I was always an artist at heart, but with my parents’ goals for me I set out to study biology. In British Columbia while in college a boyfriend gave me a Holga. It was my first camera at 18. I discovered double exposures by accident when I forgot to wind the film forward and fell in love with the dreamy quality of two realities mixed into one.
I moved to LA and took up some acting for fun. One day on a set, I had the courage to ask a beautiful actress sitting next to me if I could photograph her. This was my first planned portrait session, and I was excited to try some double exposure techniques. Once I got the film back, I was in love and knew I wanted to create more. The photos I took that day still make me very happy when I see them, they don’t speak to my current style anymore but I love them because I grew from those photographs.
How would you describe your style?
I photograph a wide variety of images, from fashion to commercial advertisements and clean portraits for musicians. I love when others come to me and ask me to do “the Elena thing.” I think it’s funny that others use my name to describe my style, and I think I even come to a lack of words when others who haven’t seen my work ask me to describe it. I think it’s dreamy, surreal, colorful, psychedelic, and sometimes hypnotic. I love the quote ’There is another world, but it is in this one.’ by W B Yeats. With my photography I strive to show the beauty in front of me and hint at other depths our eyes cannot see.
What inspires you?
So much!!! Nature is my biggest inspiration! And all that is in nature, amazing creatures, strange and beautiful plants, landscapes, the majestic sea and mountains, metamorphic rocks and crystals of all kinds, the clouds and weather patterns. I’m also incredibly inspired by people. I love the positive aspects of humanity, the art we create, the love we share. I often search the world wide web and books for quotes or poetry that inspire me to visualize something new. I’m inspired by the human form, the face, and eyes.
I was never planning on it, I just happened to fall in love with photography through modeling. Now I love creating photographs, and lately I’ve been loving getting physical with my photographs, printing them out and cutting them up, animating them. I’ve also really fallen in love with motion films, started shooting and editing music videos in the last year and love it! My goal is to create beautiful visuals, through photography and films, translating moods and concepts into a unified vision. For a recent gallery exhibit I grew crystals on portraits and create crystal flower gardens. I think I’d really love to experiment further with this form of multi-media, growing more sculptural crystal photographs.
What do you like about your work?
I love all the people I meet and places I go because of my work, that I’m always learning, that it allows me to be creative and that others love it.
What is your dream project?
When I was younger and I first heard Bjork and Ratatat my dream project was to photograph them, and also photograph for my favorite magazine Dazed & Confused. Now, my dream project would be to work with other talented artists or ad agencies on something challenging and conceptual. At the moment I’m also working on an exciting and unique photo art book where you can smell the images! I hope the body of work will be done this year and I can’t wait to share it with the world! I love to invest my time on projects where I can grow and contribute or collaborate with others.
What is your favorite or most inspirational place?
It’s hard to pick one, but I think it would be Waimanalo beach, really beautiful and tranquil in Oahu. I also love Waimea Beach & Gardens on the North Shore of Oahu. I used to live there and it was one of my favorite places! I also love hiking the Kalalau trail on Kauai.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was 15 I wanted to be a Virologist, I was fascinated by viruses! When I was in my 20s, an Art Director. It’s a beautiful journey, I’m happy what I’ve grown up to be and that I’m still growing!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
I currently live in Oakland, and I love living in California. The coastline is so beautiful, and there are other treasures like Yosemite, Pfeiffer Beach with purple sand, Napa Valley and all the delicious wine, Lake Tahoe, Joshua Tree, Monterey Bay, Baths at Esalen, and I think California has some really forward-thinking exceptional people (as do other parts of the world of course, I just have to say I love the people I’m surrounded by in the Bay Area especially!). I previously lived in Amsterdam and Hawaii, and I would love to live there again anytime. I’ve traveled a lot through Europe but I’d still like to discover other parts of the world such as the Scottish Highlands, Salar de Uyuni Bolivia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bali, Pamukkale Turkey, Iceland, Antelope Canyon USA, to name a few.
What makes you happy?
Enjoying life with friends, swimming in the ocean, creating art, eating watermelon or fresh mangosteen, drinking Orin Swift wine, picking up developed film from the photo lab, looking at new-found things under a microscope, gardening, Burning Man, and sitting by the window seat when flying.