Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Darja Bilyk is a self-taught photographer whose talents range across all subjects including landscapes, destinations, objects, and portraiture. What makes Bilyk’s photography style particularly unique, however, is her passion for surrealism and romanticism, with magical elements incorporated in her compositions. The landscapes seen in Bilyk’s Fairytales series are often taken in remote destinations and seem to capture timeless moments in enchanted and distant lands.
Prior to becoming a photographer, Bilyk studied at Moscow City Pedagogical University and also worked as a teacher in secondary school. Her foray into photography began when someone close to her encouraged her pursuits and believed in her talents. “My friend said that I was good at it and it inspired me to do photography seriously,” she explains. “I didn't give up on my teaching and did both. Many of my students can be seen as my models in the pictures.”
For Bilyk, being a good photographer means being well-rounded. “I’m interested in traveling and taking some scenery pictures. But I’m also interested in people and I love creating sensitive portraits.” Her intuition for combining certain environments with the right subjects to create dreamlike, fantastical photos is evident throughout her portfolio.
Bilyk recently moved from Russia to Edinburgh, Scotland. We had the wonderful opportunity to ask her about her photography style, as well as how her new landscapes influence and inspire her. Scroll down to read our exclusive interview.
Your photos are extremely unique and quite surreal, with motifs of magic and fairy tales. What appeals to you most about these themes?
I like to share my acceptance of magic in the rational world. Portraying magical or unreal elements as a part of realistic environment is one of my favorite things to do because that's how I can make my fantasies and dreams come to life; that's how I can create something that can't really exist; embody inner infinity.
How has moving from Russia to Scotland changed your photography style?
Scotland is a beautiful country with landscapes coming straight from fairytale stories and fables. I also like the people here. I couldn't be more inspired. I feel like I have more resources here to create the fables I love and I hope that will influence my photography in a good way. I guess, more fairytale-like pictures are coming. They say we grow through pain, and as much as I love Scotland I do miss Russia and all my people there. I think this helps me to work more on my photography every day to make it all worth it. The fear of disappointing oneself can make you move mountains.
Your landscape photos often seem to feature places that share a certain solitude and peace. How do you select which locations to shoot, and what do you hope to reveal through your landscape and travel photos?
I've always loved travelling. I've been to the majority of European countries, loved so many places but there was always something missing; that feeling of longing for something else was always there. Until one day I went to the Lofoten Islands, Norway. We drove a car with a bunch of people from the north of Russia all the way to Nordland. It was an amazing trip and it divided my life in two halves: what was before the Lofoten and what was after. I've realized the type of traveling I wanted to do and places I really wanted to see. Being there felt being closer to space, to the Universe. Through my pictures I want to inspire people to travel to those distant places where the problems melt, worries seem so distant and life starts again.
What is the process of working with the selected subjects, particularly behind your fairytale and magic-themed photography?
I would like to say that I am carefully planning the background before the shooting but that is just not true, I improvise a lot. I guess I just feel the way things should be, call that intuition or artist's vision. It all starts with a single idea. I take my ideas from my dreams, from music, from people I meet. Then I start to think how I can make it come true. Sometimes it's possible to deal without Photoshop, at other times I have to make collages. But I always use my own pictures for all the items in the picture. I pay a lot of attention to colors and tones in my pictures, I love to work with them! I do that in Lightroom which is my favorite software for editing.
What messages do you hope to convey to the wider audience through your photography?
As a photographer who shoots in different genres, I want to show that versatility is amazing and that one should not fear try many different things. There's that common opinion that you can only focus on one thing; I think you can focus on anything you find worthy your attention and don't let anyone tell you you can't do that. I also want to stir people's imagination and make them feel something about what they see in my pictures.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I have several shoots planned with some amazing people I've met here. These are my projects for now. But some time in future (may be when I'm old) I hope to finish my book and illustrate it with my own photos.
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Darja Bilyk.