Anastasiya Dobrovolskaya is a portrait photographer who shows people and animals in a very sensitive way. As she says, “I strive to show both the external and internal beauty of people and animals, as well as highlight their uniqueness, depth, and individuality. I dream that every person who has an unusual appearance will believe in their beauty.”
Bright Side would like to present Anastasiya’s art by sharing her magnificent work, plus an enlightening exclusive interview.
She learned about photography from a young age.
Anastasiya’s passion for photography goes back to her childhood. Her great-grandfather was a photographer and he passed on his love to later generations, reaching her and her sister. Anastasiya has been taking photos since she was a child, just “to keep up with her family.” At that time, she didn’t plan to make photography her profession.
On her 20th birthday, Anastasiya’s parents bought her a camera, which she used to photograph everything around her. A few years later, she went for a more professional camera so she could take macro photos. As she says, “I wanted to sit for hours over a flower bed in the park, waiting for a beautiful butterfly to land on a flower.”
But photography was only a hobby until she decided to quit her job due to depression. It wasn’t easy at first, and she ended up going back to her old job only to quit it again, but that time for good. Her third attempt to be a professional photographer proved to be successful in 2018.
She fell in love with portrait photography when she was battling with depression.
Anastasiya, being the daughter of 2 doctors, always believed that human activity should bring some benefit. However, she couldn’t follow in the same profession. She decided to try portrait photography when she was battling with her depression and anxiety disorder.
That time “I realized that a photo is not just a beautiful picture with a pretty girl in a dress. You can actually put some meaning into your work.” After discovering Diana, a girl with vitiligo, she started imagining what animal would be best to photograph her with. Prior to that, she learned about a girl who saved a spotted fox from a fur factory. And these 2 events initiated the very beginning of her project “Different Beauty.”
A highlight of that project is the photoshoot that included many girls with alopecia. After the photoshoot, one of the girls’ mothers called Anastasiya thanking her for her work. She said “Nastya, after your shooting, Masha said that she felt beautiful for the first time in her life. Thank you. The whole family is crying.”
Her viral fox picture pushed her to the idea of quitting her old job.
Anastasiya says that “my initial idea was to take a photo of a blonde girl holding a light fox and a dark-skinned girl holding a dark fox.” That seemed pretty boring to her and that’s why she decided to mix the colors of the foxes and also add dresses. While many people think that this photo is trying to promote the ban of using fur, it actually manifests equality in its deepest sense.
As she says, the picture “shows harmony within one person and equality between different people, regardless of their appearance, environment, and beliefs.” The color of the models’ hair symbolizes their external characteristics. The color of their dress shows their beliefs and values, while their foxes symbolize their social environment.
She likes matching a person’s and an animal’s appearance.
For example, if she is shooting a model with albinism, she will choose an animal with white fur or skin. Or if she is dealing with a blue-eyed model, she will opt for a blue-eyed animal. This way she believes that “if an animal can be so much like a human, then its desires and interests should be valued no less than human ones.” On the other hand, she continues, “if a person is so much like an animal, they cannot be considered ugly because of any specific features of their appearance.”
Anastasiya wants to let everyone know that all animals that participate in her photoshoots belong to their legal owners. Most of the wild animals “were rescued from poor conditions, from fur factories, while others were abandoned by their owners.” No animal is being drugged or having its teeth pulled out. All large animals “live in the countryside, in spacious areas, and in specially equipped enclosures with regular exercise.”
She won an award for her “Aliens” series.
Anastasiya mentions, “Ι never aspired to prizes and titles in the field of photography.” She only participates in the 35 AWARDS every year out of habit. In 2020, her photo won the competition and was also included in the competition’s 100 best works of the year. The selection was made from a total of 419,000 submissions.
In her mind, “winning a photo contest is a pleasure, perhaps an honor, but no more.” The real achievement is when her work inspires people to stop buying fur or when she sees how it increases her models’ self-esteem.
All of the outfits are made by her designer friend.
Helena is Anastasiya’s personal designer and is also her inspiration. She can often be seen in many photoshoots posing as a model. As Anastasiya points out, “the clothes are always selected in such a way as to emphasize, but not to overshadow, the beauty of man and animal.”
She aims to create an exhibition with her work.
Anastasiya would like to be world-famous for her work. She says, “I want to arrange to print a book with my photos, because many people are asking.” Her aspiration is to be on the cover of Vogue with one of the girls from the “Different Beauty” project.
Did you ever have to quit your day job and invest in your true passion? And if so, how did that choice of yours work out? What animal would you like to pose with?