Ira Chernova Interview: Elegant Monochrome Portrait Photography of the Fashion World

You won’t meet many people like Ira Chernova — unless you already know a heavily tattooed Russian who’s both a well-known model and a highly talented monochrome portrait photography expert and fashion photographer. Named by Complex as one of 25 young photographers to keep your eye on, Chernova’s been gaining attention for her moody, highly intuitive, and largely black-and-white portraits.

Based in New York, Chernova has already worked with some of the biggest names in the fashion industry — both behind and in front of the camera. And being a music lover, she’s even toured with one of the most popular experimental metal bands in the entire world: The Dillinger Escape Plan (that video above is hers). She’s excellent proof that you can find success doing what you love.

In this brief interview, Chernova talks about how she got her start in monochrome portrait photography, explains how she made a couple of her photographs, and reveals why she shoots in black-and-white.

monochrome portrait photography - Ira Chernova

You were born and raised in Russia, now you shoot portrait photography. When did you discover photography? How would you describe your work?

My parents used to shoot film back in their student days. So I had their Zenith and Fed cameras left to me. That was a start of it. I’m too lazy to spend a lot of time in front of the computer screen, so I’m always trying to reach my desired settings while shooting. My work is raw, clean, natural, and emotional.

monochrome portrait photography - Elegant Monochrome Portraits

Does photography come easily to you? Were you ever unsure of your talents?

Everybody has their up and down times, sometimes it’s better to take a short break instead of doubting your talents. When its all right, it comes out smooth.

monochrome portrait photography - Elegant Monochrome

If writers treat writing as a sacred practice, how do you treat photography? Is there any routines you find yourself repeating?

Yes, there’s a lot of organization and post-production. With post production, I mean developing and scanning — it always takes me at least half of a day, so that’s quite a ritual.

monochrome portrait photography - Photo by Jeff Vallee
Photo by Jeff Vallee

You’re also a model. What does this perspective give you as a photographer? Do you gain any advantages when directing for your work?

It adds with knowing angles and light, but its not universal since everybody is different. Even in direction, it’s a lot about personality of that particular model.

monochrome portrait photography - personality

You shoot mostly in black and white. What’s the attraction of black and white to you? What does removing color from your images mean to you?

Most of the time I see colour as a distraction. With shooting colour, everything has to be planned carefully so it all looks in harmony, otherwise some small “wrong coloured” detail of clothes, background, or anything can take away from the feel of the shot.

monochrome portrait photography - wrong coloured

This image is one of my favorites. Where did you find that dress? Could you explain how this image was made from start to finish?

I had an idea to take 6 different models and create 2 images per each story — one natural, how they appear on the set, and the other transforming them into different characters. First one was princess Mononoke — my main directions were showing drawings of the character to model. Second one is inspired by Star Wars. Entire look is Thom Browne. It’s shot in a well lit room, just natural light.

monochrome portrait photography - princess Mononoke

Could you give us a breakdown of the day you first began answering these questions? How many photographs did you take? What’s the weather like? How’s the light? How do you feel at this exact moment?

I’m answering all questions in one day 🙂 have modeling duties today — early start of a day, the soft 8 am light of a hot summer day. I doubt I’ll be taking any pictures. I’m at work all day, but on the good side, a lot of down time while sitting in hair/make up chair means there is time for emails. monochrome portrait photography - favorite photographers

Who are your favorite photographers? Favorite artists? Do you think being in love is important to creating great art?

I like seeing everything. I think its important to never place any boundaries on your vision. That’s why I don’t set favorites. I like being more open to variety. Can’t really answer last question. I guess I’ll know when I experience love 🙂

monochrome portrait photography - photographers

Be sure to check out all of Ira’s monochrome portrait photography work on her website!

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