Portfolio: Maya Iva

In today’s Portfolio — Maya Iva from Kyiv, Ukraine, who undresses in front of her models to relax them.
Maya Iva (Ivanenko) Age 21

Kyiv-based photographer. Studied Cultural Studies in Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (for half a year) and Philosophy at Taras Shevchenko National University (for seven days). Studied photography at the Viktor Marushchenko School. Specializes in portraits, self-portraits, and erotic photography. Curated about 20 exhibitions for FABRIKA art group. Writes poems, is an animal rights activist.

My photographs are about love, about the harmony between the body and nature. It is my way to get to know myself and the world around me — I don’t take drugs, I take photos instead.

For as long as I remember, I have been interested in how people are influenced by their animal instincts. When I take photographs of naked people, I am diving into the stream of sexual energy — only when you are inside it, you can discover what sex itself and sex ( or erotics) in visual art really means for you.

Why is it so easy for people to undress in front of me, why are they honest and trusting? Because I return it to them. I often model myself (with or without clothes), and when a person orders a photo shoot from me, they see that I have experience being on the other side of the camera as well, and they find it easier to open up in front of me rather than in front of a photographer who operates with phrases such as: “Well, now that we’re done with shooting your face, it is time for the panties to come off.” Sometimes, I photograph naked — it makes it easier for the model. After the shoot, we might forget to get dressed and smoke while having nothing on.

I have never photographed boys or girls who were professional models. Of course, I would want to do it at some point, but so far I am working with live bodies, not spoilt by taking posing classes. I teach a posing class myself during each of the shoots. The girls who come to me for the second, fourth, seventh time get better and better at feeling their bodies, the aesthetics of their faces and emotions. And still, unlike the models, they don’t get into the ‘strike a pose’ mode in front of the camera. And it’s wonderful!

My series are usually about meaning, not about aesthetics. Lately, I have been more and more interested with the interaction between a photographer and a model. My arms are often visible in the frame, I sometimes put my legs on the shoulders of a model.


I don’t feel any particular influence of post-Soviet aesthetics on me. Although, there is something poignant about post-Soviet eroticism. Erotics in the USSR was the most honest: instead of a naked inflated Playboy chick — somebody’s wife, sister, daughter, who awkwardly spreads her legs on a narrow bed. Isn’t it great? And now we have a stream of look-alike women, boobs, open mouths. At the same time, it is not easy to talk a regular person into posing naked. That is what the post-Soviet space is like — you see rubber women naked more often than people with regular bodies. I am glad that there is no queue to me made of perverted freaks, like to Nobuyoshi Araki or Ren Hang. This would have been too easy — just shooting them.

A flower in the ass? Glitter on pussy? I am up for it.

I do prefer having long conversations with the girl whose vagina I’ll glitter one day. The raciest photographs are usually made with the closest people. Or with the freaks I just met, I do meet them sometimes after all.


I can only listen to pop music when I edit my photographs: Britney Spears, Timberlake, Linda. There is nothing I can do about it, I just can’t work to the sound of Morphine or Moby.

I have many ethical limitations — both in my life and in my photography. This impacts both my themes (I don’t take photographs of funnily dressed homeless people — it’s not f*cking funny) and the shoots (if the shoot is in nature, we can’t break branches, even if they hinder the composition, pick flowers etc.). I try not to offend the feelings of black people, people with disabilities, or believers. And the feminists have long been angry with me: they claim I objectify female bodies.

A self-portrait series carries the meaning that I am not ready to word, but I am ready to visualize. That’s why such a series does not have a spelt out concept, but I always leave hints in the titles. I started taking pictures of myself a long time ago — those were not mindless ‘selfies’, although I do that shit a lot, too. My self-portraits are rather a form of self-analysis, self-flagellation, self-improvement, and self-destruction.


I am cautious to shoot in the street, I draw attention to myself even without it — and I am afraid that people will not trust me this way. What to do, girls with multicolored hair do usually take photographs in trash style. And yes, every time I uncover my camera in a public place, I say goodbye to it in advance (although I know where to hit the attacker).

This year was the best in my photographic career. I can finally say that I do photography for a living. I am working on the first project that is selling Ukrainian original photography, 5.6store.com.ua, I am also studying at the photo schools of Viktor Marushchenko and Bird In Flight. This year I am, as usual, a sad girl, but at the same time I am a confident photographer.

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