Photographer Kristina Varaksina chose this photograph as the one that changed her career. It comes from a series when the Association of Photographers asked its members to point out a single photograph which had changed their career.
The work was born when I met Yana, a very special young woman, who has embraced her uniqueness and is proud of who she is. I thought of a cat that would amplify Yana’s special beauty, sourced it and photographed them together. Today’s visual culture can be quite superficial and people sometimes are overly demanding towards themselves and others. So I wanted to show that any physical appearance should be accepted and a person should be appreciated for who they are. As a visual artist, I see my responsibility in showing what is really important, truthful and valuable. And I feel like this work has achieved that.
Comment: From a technical standpoint the photograph is very soft in terms of contrast. It is muted and the colours subdued. This was done deliberately no doubt to enhance the image’s quality. There is a nice juxtaposition between the hairless Sphynx cat and Yana’s shaved head. I am sure that was the aim; to emphasis the independence and uniqueness of Yana and her free spirited attitude towards life. Well, that is the impression I get.
Sphynx cats are highly photogenic because their appearance is very unusual. They form shapes more precisely than normal cats because their torso, head and limbs are well defined being unobscured by fur. You might know that their skin can be patterned and the pattern in the skin follows the pattern in the fur that they would have had but for the mutated gene which took it away from them. These are the melanocytes, the pigment (melanin) producing cells which colour the hair strands.