Yana Nosenko: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos

Authority Magazine Editorial Staff
Authority Magazine
Published in
11 min readMay 14, 2024

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Consistently Take Photos — Consistency is the key to improving your photography. Get in the habit of taking photos regularly, even if it’s just with your smartphone. By consistently practicing and experimenting with different techniques, you’ll develop your eye for composition, lighting, and storytelling. Whether you’re capturing everyday moments or going on special photo trips, the more you shoot, the more you’ll learn and grow as a photographer.

As a part of our series about “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos” I had the pleasure of interviewing Yana Nosenko.

Meet Yana Nosenko, a photographer, curatorial associate and exhibition designer at the Griffin Museum of Photography. Her work has recently been exhibited at the International Center of Photography Museum in New York City, MassArt x SoWa, and Abigail Ogilvy Gallery.

Through her art, Yana explores themes of travel, nomadism, immigration, and family separation. She gives migrant voices a means to be heard in an otherwise unsympathetic world. Her work brings together people facing the difficult decision of leaving everything behind, and acts as a mirror to universalize the migrant experience.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s been a bit of a wild ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve always been passionate about the arts. Theater has played an important role in my life. Productions like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ left a deep impression on me. Since then, I have become a regular theatergoer, often revisiting certain plays. These memories hold a special place in my heart.

My professional journey began as a graphic designer in Moscow, Russia. While studying design at the Moscow Academy of Design and Applied Arts, I discovered my love for photography and began to incorporate it into my projects. Photography has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always enjoyed capturing special moments with my friends and family.

My family is nomadic, we wander seeking contentment that eludes us. I’ve been told that no one leaves home because of an excess of happiness and comfort. One leaves, because it’s not possible to remain. I found that art can therefore assist us in exploring the depth and complexity of this phenomenon. So I set out to use my camera to provoke conversation and reflection about the common human experience of searching for home, connection, and belonging.

I came to the United States almost five years ago. In some ways it feels like yesterday, and in other ways it feels like forever. For many artists, their own and their ancestors’ migrations shape their identities and the art they make. My work now focuses on nomadism and family history, which I see as a powerful form of performance. We are all nomads on the journey of life. It is through this medium that I am able to diplomatically express my artistic vision.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The first story that comes to mind since the beginning of my career is the residency I participated in last summer at the Studios at MASS MoCA. In March of 2023, I received the acceptance email, which was unexpected because I was very sick with a cold at the time and wasn’t expecting any good news. At first I thought I was dreaming, a feeling that would probably persist even if I were in perfect health. In mid-July, I left for my first residency and spent four weeks in North Adams, right next door to MASS MoCA.

At the MASS MOCA residency, I researched the history of the buildings I was in, particularly the period when the Sprague Electric Company owned the property. I discovered that Sprague employees made parts for high-tech weapons, including components for the atomic bomb. In my own work, I navigate my Russian identity in the context of the United States, where I have lived for the past four years. I photographed the museum and its surroundings and began juxtaposing these images with old Sprague Log newsletter clippings and my own family archives. This residency has also given me the space and time to explore new mediums, and I created a painting from an old family photograph, something I hope to continue exploring.

In addition to working on my personal projects, I also had the opportunity to meet many incredibly talented artists from all over the US, listen to moving music, make my first s’mores over a campfire, and explore the Berkshires. I am so grateful to everyone who worked tirelessly to make these weeks so special. With nearly 900 applications vying for only 42 spots, I still find it hard to believe how lucky I was to be accepted.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t make mistakes! Just kidding, everyone does.

When I moved to Boston, MA to attend graduate school in the fall of 2021, I was faced with a rather amusing mishap. Coming from Virginia, where parking was plentiful almost everywhere I went, I wasn’t familiar with Boston’s street parking rules, especially during snowstorms.

During my first six months in Boston, I made a fatal mistake by parking my car on the street where I lived on the eve of a snowstorm. I woke up to find my car gone. After a stressful taxi ride and paying a hefty fine, I finally dug my car out of the snow and headed home. As I drove through East Boston, an area I had barely explored before, I was absolutely blown away by the beauty around me, especially on this sunny day. I would like to note that I always take my camera with me wherever I go. On this day, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a magnificent church with several levels descending into the ground. The snow glistened in the sunlight, and I even caught a glimpse of planes landing at Boston’s Logan Airport.

As I continued to explore, I encountered several strange sights and captured numerous images with my camera. One particularly striking photo I took was of a small bouquet of roses left at the foot of a snow-covered statue of the Madonna. Though withered, the scene had a certain charm. It was January 30, and I titled the photo ‘My Car Got Towed’.

I learned two incredibly valuable lessons from this experience. First, it’s important to park your car properly and according to city regulations. Second, always carry your camera with you, because you never know what unexpected adventure might be around the corner!

What do you think makes you stand out? Can you share a story?

My dedication to my work, exemplified by my ongoing “Beds” series, is what I believe sets me apart. For the past four years, I have taken a self-portrait every morning. It has now become a ritual, similar to brushing one’s teeth.

This series captures the essence of impermanence by documenting my transitions between rooms, changes in sleepers, and variations in hairstyles. Through this daily routine, I strive to define my place in the world, using the beds I sleep in as my stages. This project demonstrates my confidence in my ability to express myself through art, while acknowledging the importance of the people in my life. Although I usually perform alone, I am occasionally joined by family, friends, or lovers.

Over the years, I have tried different approaches to presenting this work. For my thesis show, I boldly printed over 1000 self-portraits in a massive grid 40 feet high. My intention was to convey the enormity of the project; the sheer number is what matters. This project is a lifelong endeavor, as I have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

That’s a very insightful question. I think it’s all about finding the right balance, though admittedly it can be challenging at times. Especially when you find yourself at 3 a.m. deep in Photoshop editing that one photo, only to realize that you’ve spent twice as much time on a single task as you intended. It’s important to manage your time effectively to get the best results with confidence.

For me as a photographer, maintaining creativity and avoiding burnout are critical, and that means setting clear boundaries between work and personal life. I prioritize self-care by starting each day with a morning walk, drawing inspiration from my surroundings, and spending quality time with friends and family. I also take regular breaks to explore new places or simply recharge my creative batteries. By setting achievable goals for each project and politely declining overcommitments, I maintain a healthy balance between my professional and personal life. This allows me to produce quality work.

To maintain a fresh perspective and avoid burnout in the long run, I regularly reflect on my portfolio, seek feedback from peers, and adjust my style. I’ve also found that asking for help when you need it is surprisingly effective. People are often willing to help if you approach them with sincerity.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Jean Marie Casbarian, an interdisciplinary artist. Our paths crossed at the International Center of Photography in NYC. I had the pleasure of participating in her workshop titled “Daily Rituals” in 2018. It was truly inspiring, emphasizing the importance of repetition and being consistent with your work. During the workshop, she shared a project called ‘Overcast Blue’, which involved taking a Polaroid photo every day for a year. This commitment fascinated me at the time and inspired me to create my own ritual: the ‘Beds’ series. I now have thousands of shots of me waking up in different places and bedrooms, with or without company. As I said, it has become a lifelong performance for me as I continue to do it to this day! I am thrilled to be able to share this piece with audiences and deeply grateful for the opportunity to do so.

On her recent birthday, I texted her to express just how much she means to me. I am truly fortunate to have her in my life. And I firmly believe that my ongoing ‘Beds’ series exists because of her. She is a great professor, mentor, and thoughtful person. And I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from such an inspiring and insightful person.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Absolutely! One of the most important projects I recently completed was my debut curatorial project, ‘Border(less)’ at MassArt x SoWa Gallery in Boston, MA. The exhibition passionately explores the complex and diverse nature of migration, highlighting the experiences of individuals who have been forced to leave their homes and navigate the challenges of assimilation and adaptation with resilience and courage. The ten featured artists successfully provoke conversation and reflection on the universal human experience of searching for home, connection, and belonging. The exhibition was very well received, a testament to the skill of the artists and the importance of the subject matter. Overall, it was an incredibly rewarding experience that left a lasting impression.

I am also currently working on my project entitled ‘If you keep moving North, you will eventually start heading South; If you keep moving West, you will never travel East’. In this project I am exploring urban environments. I am looking for Moscow among American cities. In order to accomplish this, I have set specific parameters for myself. I walk either west or east using a compass while carrying my grandfather’s Soviet Zenit camera. I take photographs facing these two cardinal directions. And I am confident that I will find what I am looking for. I capture the beauty in decay, self-destructing landscapes, blocked and broken portals. This spring, I look forward to visiting Moscow, Maine to further expand the scope of the project.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to use my success to make a positive contribution to the world through my art, especially through my movie ‘How to Brainwash Yourself in Five Steps’. We all know what happened between Russia and Ukraine at the end of February 2022. As a Russian living thousands of miles away, I couldn’t understand what was happening (and still is). I realized that some of my peers and relatives back home have diametrically opposed views on politics. I was amazed at the blatant influence of propaganda. In response, I turned to Russian idioms that specifically allude to the physical process of brainwashing.

My goal with this film is to start a conversation about disinformation, critical thinking, and truth. These are issues that are relevant globally and at all times. By raising awareness and encouraging discussion, we can promote understanding and truthfulness.

Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”?

1. Consistently Take Photos

Consistency is the key to improving your photography. Get in the habit of taking photos regularly, even if it’s just with your smartphone. By consistently practicing and experimenting with different techniques, you’ll develop your eye for composition, lighting, and storytelling. Whether you’re capturing everyday moments or going on special photo trips, the more you shoot, the more you’ll learn and grow as a photographer.

2. Play with Light and Shadows

Light is one of the most important elements in photography, and understanding how to manipulate it can dramatically enhance your photos. Experiment with different lighting conditions, such as soft natural light or harsh sunlight, to create mood and atmosphere in your images. Also, don’t be afraid to use shadows — they can add depth and drama to your photos, creating compelling contrasts and textures that draw the viewer’s eye.

3. Focus on Composition

Composition is the arrangement of elements within a photograph, and it plays a crucial role in creating visually pleasing images. Use techniques such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing to effectively compose your shots. Pay attention to the placement of key elements within the frame and strive to create a balanced and harmonious composition that guides the viewer’s eye and tells a compelling story.

4. Tell a Story

Photography has the power to evoke emotions and tell stories in a single frame. Look for moments that tell a story or evoke a strong emotional response from the viewer. This can be anything from capturing the joy of a child playing in the park to documenting the resilience of a community in the face of adversity. By seeking out meaningful moments and focusing on storytelling in your photos, you can create images that resonate with viewers and leave a lasting impression.

5. Experimental Approach

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and experiment with different techniques, styles, and subjects in your photography. Try new angles, perspectives, and editing techniques to push the boundaries of your creativity. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity and be open to taking risks in your photography. Whether it’s trying long exposures, experimenting with unconventional compositions, or exploring abstract photography, an experimental approach can lead to breakthroughs and discoveries that take your work to new heights.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

It is crucial to stay true to who I am and to what I do. Telling the truth can be uncomfortable and have consequences, but it is the foundation of a society’s social, political, cultural, and economic landscape. Societies based on truth can endure forever, while others may perish.

If I started a movement, it would encourage everyone to embrace truthfulness and honesty in their lives and processes. Let’s all work together to create a world where honesty is valued and celebrated! I am so excited about the idea of creating a culture of honesty. It can lead to such significant positive change, benefiting so many people. I really believe that.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram — @yana_olen
Website — https://yananosenko.com/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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