Yana Van Nuffel RAYDAR Interview

Framing the World: A Talk with Yana Van Nuffel

Yana Van Nuffel is a multi-disciplinary creative who’s made a name for herself in the world of fashion photography and beyond. Her unique blend of graphic design, 3D, and motion in conceptual reasoning has resulted in a refined and colorful aesthetic that sets her apart from her peers.

Yana’s journey began with freckles, but it didn’t end there. She watched her father remove them from a family photo at age ten, and it was then that she discovered her love for photography and Photoshop. She experimented with test shoots and imaginary catwalk fashion shows in her living room as she grew older, but it wasn’t until she reached her twenties that she finally came to accept photography as her passion.

And so Yana made the move to London—a vibrant creative industry that called to her—and there she found her place in the world. To this day, she attributes her success to her ability to see what she wants and work after it, and she continues to test the limits of photography. Whether it be photoshoots like “Sweet 16,” where the photographer plastered hundreds of stickers across the city, or working on editorial campaigns for your fave brands, she’s got it all.

Yana’s fearlessness in experimenting and crossing the fine line between reality and fiction has resulted in a unique and captivating body of work that has garnered the attention of brands around the world. Undoubtedly, she’s emerging as a major player in the industry owing to her exceptional talent and intuitive grasp of the medium. She’s not afraid to jump into any situation or pose any question—she just goes for it. This confidence in the face of curiosity and an ever-changing field is what really sets her different.

For our latest interview, we had the chance to chop it up with Yana Van Nuffel about her inspiration, working with various creatives, and some of her most controversial work to date. Check out our conversation below.

This past year, you’ve really been able to delve into a handful of aesthetics that ultimately stand out amongst others—how do you create mood and atmosphere in your photographs? 

Inspired by photographers like Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Alex Prager, Guy Bourdin, and the 90s, I’ve always been striving for surrealism in my work. I create this by using certain lighting where I combine artificial lighting with continuous lighting, building a minimal set, or using 3D and AI to alienate a realistic environment.

The power of color is also an important component. It has a strong influence on our emotions and how we experience an image. My goal is to make my audience break their brain about how my work came alive. That’s what makes a good photographer to me, when they make sure I—the viewer—can’t crack the code. 

Naturally, you work with various creatives across beauty and fashion. How frequently do you work with stylists to achieve the desired look and feel, whether it be personal works or editorial projects? 

For personal projects, I used to do it myself at the beginning of my career. My best friend and former roommate had a big influence on this as I always used to go through her closet for styling. The beloved imposter syndrome held me back from collaborating with other people but I came to realize how important stylists and hair and makeup artists actually are to creating the desired image. It’s important to have a mutual understanding as they can downgrade as well as upgrade your work. At this point, I can’t work without them anymore. And let’s be honest, it’s amazing to constantly meet new people! 

This shoot that you did with Lauréline instantly caught my attention when I scrolled past it. Can you talk a bit about the inspiration behind it and the message you wanted to convey? 

This project was exhibited in Brussels back in June. In our densely populated society, we often get sucked into conversations of passersby. Certain phrases can grab our attention in such a way that we automatically get caught up in our imagination and create our own story without knowing the context. I had been keeping track of these particular quotes for two years already. Starting from research and my own imagination, I created a new storyline with fictional characters. 

I’d printed more than 1000 stickers of the “Sweet 16” image showing the menstruation blood and I  hung them all around London. Depending on the place they sometimes got taken down immediately… Technology is developing faster than light but we’re still too stubborn to accept women in their natural state: disappointing.

My work deals with a social problem immersed in feminine beauty. It’s meant to provoke but it’s also brought in an elegant and fashionable, yet powerful way combined with soft and kind colors. I love my body and all the “complications” that come along with it and I want to encourage people to normalize this aspect of human nature and stop seeing menstruation blood as a distressing topic/subject. 

Fun fact: people didn’t want to work with me because the subject of incest put them off. 

Going back to your photoshoots, how do you incorporate storytelling elements into your photographs?

We now distribute and receive more content in less time than all of humanity has ever done so far.  Dealing with topics that speak to people is one component of my work, creating storylines and certain characters are used to give people a reason to relate to my work. As the photographer, I want to be a voyeur controlling the scene. 

 I know that you play around with and AI and 3D. How do you see artificial intelligence affecting photography as a whole? 

As technology has already taken over so many professions it will affect photography as well. But  I’ve come to accept it as another form of art. It’s a curse as well as a blessing as it gives so many new opportunities and accessibility from which we should take advantage. 

It’s important to keep up with the times and understand the visual world you’re living in. I became a big fan of 3D when I discovered a new form of self-expression by building a virtual environment offering greater creative freedom by not being limited by space and time. This medium was introduced into my wildest dreams when I lived in NYC for a 1/2 year. 

I’m beginning to utilize AI in the same way. Combining my own work with AI is much more rewarding to me than generating a completely new image. But of course, this idea can change. We have to be open-minded and need to leave our traditional ways of thinking behind. Your imagination is the limit and it becomes a new form of copywriting as it forces you to recreate that imagination with written words. 

What do you consider to be the most important qualities for a successful photographer to possess, especially in today’s age where anyone from across the globe can see your work? 

-Quality over quantity. 

-Having your own unique voice to stand out. 

-Building your online community and network. 

-Understanding the times we live in and keeping up with technology. 

What are your goals for this year? 

Very simple. Get a visa, move to the UK for good, grow and become a photographer/business I’d dream to work with as a client.

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