Interview by Barney McDonald
Images by Tatiana Gerusova
“It makes me happy to show the viewers the
beauty, innocence, playfulness and sexuality of a woman
—Tatiana Gerusovaand I hope it will excite them as it excites me.” — Tatiana Gerusova
A Los Angeles-based fashion and portrait photographer, Tatiana Gerusova is known for her evocative, boudoir-style photography. Originally from Russia, where she studied music and art for four years, Gerusova has published work in magazines including Vogue Italia and Pin Up America. Her work has shown in galleries across the US and her latest show was held at Gallerie Noire in Dallas, Texas.
Barney McDonald is a New Zealand-based film and pop culture writer, and formerly founder and editor of Pavement magazine, a youth culture magazine that ran from 1993–2006. Focusing on contemporary culture from New Zealand and abroad, Pavement featured rising stars in music, art, film, fashion and design, and consistently pushed cultural & creative boundaries.
An iconic 1950s pinup model known for her black hair, blunt bangs and blue eyes, Bettie Page was one of the first Playboy centerfolds, setting the tastes of a generation. Page was most notably photographed by Bunny Yeager, who captured her outdoors in Miami, and Irving Klaw, who made her the first famous bondage model. She retired in 1959 after a conversion to Evangelical Christianity.
Photographer and filmmaker who operated a mail-order photo business, selling erotic pictures and film of women, sometimes in bondage, becoming one of the first fetish photographers.
Mosh (often referred to as Miss Mosh), is a Russian-American alternative model and burlesque dancer. Specializing in posing for pinup styled shoots, she began modeling when she was 17 and has been featured on the cover of Bizzare Magazine several times. Mosh often works with Tatiana Gerusova, and one of their collaborations appeared on the front cover of Photo magazine.
Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967) was an actress, nightclub entertainer, singer and one of the early Playboy Playmates.
Mamie Van Doren
Born Joan Lucille Olander, Mamie Van Doren (b. 1931) is an actress, model, singer, and sex symbol who is known for being one of the first actresses to recreate the look of Marilyn Monroe.
Her models recall the naughty creatures snapped in the studios and locations of Irving Klaw, the man who launched the fetish career of Bettie Page. Her images bring to mind the sexual precociousness evinced in the worlds created by fellow female photographers Ellen von Unwerth and Bettina Rheims. And her ability to craft a distinctly brazen sensuality—whether shooting colour or black and white—harks back to the man who made erotic photography his own, the late Helmut Newton.
But Russian-born, LA-based photographer Tatiana Gerusova requires no comparisons, even if she does need an introduction. For pinup photography fans, Gerusova’s shots of Miss Mosh are already firmly imprinted in the nether regions of the brain. The pair clearly loves working together, and with Mosh’s edgy blonde elegance and Gerusova’s sophisticated handling of scenes and scenarios, the duo have already produced a substantial ‘body’ of work together. Her work with Gia Genevieve is a particular standout, with the model’s extreme curves and ’50s starlet femininity oozing sex appeal in an age when Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren and even the ’80s Guess Jeans models seem a lifetime or two ago.
The rest of us, however, are playing catch up with Gerusova’s work, perhaps noticing her unfettered way with delectable women in shoots in Photo or Vogue Italia—even if we didn’t know who was busy behind the lens—articulating our inner desires. Since hitting the LA photography scene just a handful of years ago, Gerusova has steadfastly and single-mindedly amassed a bevy of loyal models that contribute their own particular charms and energy to their shoots with her. Projected as playfully intimate moments or intensely sexual vignettes, the images are also concerned with high fashion as the erotically charged accoutrements of beautiful women—daringly matched with the tightest corsets, highest heels and sheerest stockings.
If all this sounds like your cup of tea—and I certainly hope it does—then a wholly satisfying introduction to the paradise found by Gerusova is her first book, Krasotka, just published by Innisfree. Its 200 pages are devoted to her many damsels in various states of undress, including a healthy dose of shots of her favourite models such as Mosh, Genevieve, Amanda Jones and Lauren WK. The book’s title is Russian for beautiful; an apt description of Gerusova’s work and the unforgettable women who make her world come alive. It’s also the ideal introduction to a photographer whose work we expect will fuel our fantasies for years to come.
Barney McDonald: Can you tell us about your earlier life in Russia, such as where you were born, what it was like growing up there, what you liked doing, perhaps taking us up to the point you started studying art and music?
Tatiana Gerusova: I was a little military brat with manners. Born and raised on a Russian military base, I actually had a lot of fun. My friends and I would always get in trouble for jumping from a two-story building, catching snakes, playing on construction sites, etc. I always loved discovering new things. I’d take apart some old TV and put it back together or build a fort in the forest. I suppose my parents saw my attempts to be creative back then and were always supportive.
BM: What prompted you to study art and music, and did they combine in interesting ways or were they kept separate?
TG: When I was around two, my mom caught me in my crib drawing a flower on the wall with you-know-what. She then said, “This girl will be an artist.” On a serious note, my parents did everything to help me expand my horizons. Thanks to them I went to music and art schools before graduating from my high school. Music and art have definitely been inseparable since then.
BM: Which photographers or artists inspired or challenged you during that period?
TG: Back then, I used to paint a lot and my biggest inspiration was Salvador Dali.
BM: What was the photography scene like in Russia and at your school at that time?
“When I was around two, my mom
caught me in my crib drawing a flower
on the wall with you-know-what.
She then said, ‘This girl will be an artist.’”
— Tatiana Gerusova
TG: There wasn’t that much of anything. My dad used to have a darkroom and shot portraits as a hobby. I used to help him develop film. It was one of my favorite things to do. Mixing chemicals and watching an image come to life mesmerized me more than anything. My mother also had several fashion magazines that I looked through maybe 200 times. The most memorable photos were of Cindy, Kate or Claudia by Peter Lindbergh. I think that was the time when I fell in love with black and white fashion photography.
BM: When and why did you move to the United States, and did you head directly to LA?
TG: I moved to the East Coast a few days after I finished university. I stayed there for about two months and moved to LA. The Hollywood dream, which I only saw in movies, was about to manifest.
BM: How difficult was it to break into the photography scene there?
TG: I didn’t really try to break into it. I was just so happy to shoot and I shot what felt right. I worked with models and designers as much as I could. I had no idea I’d be internationally published or be on the covers. It just kind of happened one day when I thought, “Oh, people like my work,” and all of a sudden everything was taken to a whole new level.
BM: Was there a pivotal moment?
TG: I believe it was when I won Photo magazine’s annual contest and they placed me on the cover of their special issue.
BM: What were you doing in your spare time while working on your photography career?
TG: I always loved to travel, see new places, meet new people. I always take this opportunity when it presents itself.
BM: How does life there compare to life back in Russia?
TG: It’s very different. Sadly, due to past oppression in Russia, lots of people had—and still have—a closed mentality. However, America has always seemed to be the land of opportunity and freedom.
BM: What do you look to create when you prepare for and start a shoot?
TG: Usually it’s a general direction, an idea. I don’t really plan how the actual shooting should go. It usually comes naturally on the day of the shoot.
BM: Does it start with the model, the clothes, the location, a piña colada?
TG: It often does. I personally love when our shoot is also a little party or get-together. We all feel more relaxed and comfortable and just have fun creating.
BM: Have models like Gia and Mosh sought you out, or the other way round?
TG: Usually it comes down to mutual interest. Mosh and I go way back. I remember when I just started shooting, I contacted her with hopes of a shoot. After I gained a little more experience and confidence, we finally shot. When I have a personal project, I do contact a model that seems to fit my vision.
BM: Do you girls hang out together as friends, or do you keep it strictly professional, whatever that is?
TG: I have become good friends with lots of people that I work with. Sometimes the connection is so great, it’s just easy to become more personal.
BM: Is shooting work or fun for you, and what makes it more like work or more like fun?
TG: Shooting is mostly fun. Nothing can be better than enjoying your work.
BM: Does the busier you get shooting commissions increasingly limit the shoots you undertake for yourself? Or do they now overlap, merge or commingle?
“The Hollywood dream that I only saw
in movies was about to manifest.”
— Tatiana Gerusova
TG: This year has been very busy with new jobs, but I always find time to squeeze in a personal project. It’s very satisfying when a job and a personal idea successfully merge.
BM: Do you dream about what you’d like to shoot?
TG: It’s funny, I actually did dream about it several times. I learned to keep a pen and piece of paper available at any time.
BM: Is a party at your place anything like your shoots? In other words, are you a glamorous party girl or a bit on the shy and retiring side?
TG: I definitely like to balance it out. Besides, lots of my shoots are already party-like so I do like to take a little time to recoup once in awhile.
BM: What motivated you to collate and publish your first book?
TG: A while ago I started thinking of putting together a collection of my favorite photographs. Soon after that, to my excitement, a Spain-based publishing company that expressed interest in releasing a book contacted me. This was an amazing opportunity and I’m happy how things turned out.
BM: Did you have a vision for how the book should be, or did that happen once you went through your back catalogue of work and the edit happened from there?
TG: I had a rough idea, but my publishing company did such an amazing job. I couldn’t be happier.
BM: Can you describe its contents for us?
TG: There are my favorite shots of all the talented women I was lucky to work with. It makes me happy to show the viewers the beauty, innocence, playfulness and sexuality of a woman, and I hope it will excite them as it excites me.
Krasotka is published by Innisfree