Twin-sister photography duo Tanya and Zhenya Posternak started working together “in the womb”, as Tanya teases, or “jokes aside… it happened organically after we moved to New York City and fully focused on photography”. Born in Kiev, the sisters moved to New York after graduating from the National Academy of Arts, Ukraine, and have since shot campaigns for Mansur Gavriel and Sunnei, as well as editorial with Vogue Ukraine, Girls on Film and the recent Allure cover featuring Serena Williams.
Of the dual influence of growing up in Ukraine and living in New York, Tanya says: “the memories of our childhood impacts our work massively, but often in a subconscious way”. Zhenya agrees, saying: “We’re both really grateful to have grown up among both the beauty and the ugliness of the Soviet Union in general, and Ukraine in particular. It’s made us more aware of things Americans might take for granted. We were taught to ‘read (and see) between the lines’.” And, with their homespun influences wrapped in with those of New York, “it results in us being in a constant creative state”, says Tanya. “It’s often stressful, but it keeps us alert and curious”.
Zhenya and Tanya’s process is very much collaborative, and both are often amused by people’s interest in how it all works: “We get this question every time. It’s funny to see how people are trying to understand the way it works. We are equally involved in every project. For instance, Zhenya might come up with an idea, and then I make a sketch that would develop it further. Or vice versa. We don’t necessarily always agree, and it can get a bit chaotic, but it does work", says Tanya. And although it’s a balanced process, the sisters don’t necessarily see everything the same way: “the differences are very subtle and might only be obvious to us. I find Zhenya’s vision more dramatic, bold and determined, while I am more of an observer. I tend to scan with my eyes and then focus on what I find interesting”, Tanya says.
Something that appears a lot in their work is close-ups that can shift the meaning, figuration or abstraction of a composition. “I think that we tend to get physically closer to the subject, hence the cropping effect. However, we rarely crop the existing image in post-production, as we mostly frame everything right there on set” says Zhenya. “For us, creating an image is equal to telling a story, we entertain many different dimensions of the same image – the near and far, the obvious and the subtle”, she continues.
Collaborations they’re particularly excited about include shooting Milan-based menswear brand Sunnei’s first womenswear collection, and an editorial shoot for clothing brand Ruby, with actor Buddy Duress. Of working with Sunnei, Zhenya says: “We’d been following the work of our friends Loris and Simone from the year they launched – it’s a rare thing to see a brand being so fresh, ironic yet wearable. It was so inspiring to work with their team; everything from the street casting to the playful complexity of the garments”. And of the experience of working with an actor rather than model, Tanya recalls: “We’d been dreaming of working with him, but it didn’t seem realistic. However, we pulled it off. Working with an actor is drastically different than with a models, where you have to orchestrate the process. With Buddy, we had to step back and let ourselves be played, led, and directed, while we watched and documented.”
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