Meet Dasha Pears
I am a surreal fine art photographer and educator living in Helsinki, Finland with my two little daughters. Photography is my medium for expressing myself and communicating with the world.
I believe that photography is much more than gear and technical perfection. It’s a means of making an impact on the world around you however big or small.
For me, there are 3 main components to photography as art: meaning, feeling, and aesthetics. This is why I emphasize all of them in my work and this is what I teach to my students: how to create meaningful authentic work, that’s both emotional and aesthetically appealing.
Today my main goal and mission are to create more meaningful art and be a living example that doing what you love in life is possible. I strive to inspire others to create more. Because I believe that creation in any area makes people destroy less, meaning they will be less likely to destroy their lives, as well as the lives of others around them.
I was born in a relatively small town in middle Russia and never thought of photography as a real profession. But I did always like art. My mom used to buy many artbooks and I spent hours turning the pages and staring at the great masterpieces of Renaissance, the Dutch art of Golden Age and so on. I was also interested in drawing, so I went to an art school, where I studied classical pencil drawing, oil painting, sculpture, history of arts, composition and things like that.
Yet, art was never treated as a career in our family, or should I say town, so I got my degree in linguistics and then another one in marketing because I wanted to get a good stable office job.
In 2006, I moved to St. Petersburg and this is where I realized my interest in photography. I didn’t have a camera back then, so I borrowed one from a friend. The first images that I took were basically capturing the details of life going on around me. I was fascinated by this huge beautiful city and wanted to take pics of everything that seemed wonderful to me, but all the people were just passing by. So basically, I started as a travel photographer.
In 2009 I got my first DSLR camera but didn’t really know how to use it properly cause I was too lazy to read the manual. Then I went to a short photography course. This course allowed me to make a breakthrough with my images, I began to understand exposure, aperture, depth of field, etc.
My first photography attempts were photos of flowers, kittens, travel photos, street, etc. When I got a 50mm (as a gift from my husband, cause I would never buy anything expensive for just a hobby) I realized that I liked taking photos of people and I’m kind of good at that. This realization came to me when all of my friends started having my photos as their social media avatars.
2010 At this time I wasn’t serious about photography, it was just a hobby and I never had time for it. I had a very busy and stressful marketing job, which I also liked a lot. However, at some point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had sort of burnout and decided to take some time to discover things that I was interested in. That included French, embroidering and photography besides other things.
At one point I discovered Flickr and saw what photographers were creating there. I found several people who I really admired and started following their work. And of course, I wanted to create something similar to that. Among others, I discovered Anka Zhuravleva, and I was simply blown away by her works. But then I also noticed that all the images were shot in the same city where I lived, St.Petersburg and for some reason that showed me, that things like that could be possible for me too.
Luckily I had a friend who was very supportive and also was ready to experiment and find props, weird clothes, unusual locations, etc. So the first ideas of having a staged photoshoot came from her, I would never think of anything like that.
In 2011 I had a baby, and of course, was trying to capture all the moments of her life. This led me to my interest in family and child photography (I found my first kid models in a clinic where my daughter had regular check-ups).
My first goal in photography was to recreate the photos I saw online. I never thought I could actually be creative and shoot something unusual. Until 2 things happened:
I attended a workshop by Anka Zhuravleva (she’s a well-known photographer living in Porto)
I met a decorator, Tina Habarova, and it was a true breakthrough because we started to collaborate on projects. That was my first collaboration.
Starting from 2011 up until 2015, I wasn’t sure where I was going with my photography. I was creating what I was really interested in, which was conceptual and fine art. But at the same time, I really wanted to make photography my real profession and get paying clients. The only way to get them for me, I thought, was to shoot weddings and families. And anything I could get actually: interior, studio portraits, objects, etc.
2016 Moving to Finland was one of the turning points in my career. I realized that what was really popular in Russia (this fine art and fairytale style) was not that developed and popular here. Whenever I started uploading my work online, I got requests from people who wanted to meet me and learn how I worked. This pushed me to organize my first creative photography workshop. Teaching has now become an important part of my life as I realized how much I love sharing my knowledge and experience. And I also love to get ready for my workshops, constantly learning new things myself. Since then I organized about 15 photography workshops in 3 years.
2016 was also the year when I sold my work for a book cover for the first time.
At this point, I had sort of a double identity as a photographer. I wanted to shoot surreal fine art and only that. And support me from that. But at the same time, my common sense and everyone around me including my closest friends and parents were telling me that shooting weddings and doing all the other kinds of purely commercial photography was the only right path since I’d already given up a successful marketing career. There was a constant battle in my mind, which one I should do. And it also wasn’t ONLY about the money. I believed everyone around me and thought so myself that surreal fine art images are useless and pointless. They don’t capture people's emotions, they don’t show true stories, they don’t preserve people’s memories and they are basically fake. That was my negative talk.
What I was completely discounting back then was that my art was making me happy. Through it I found self-expression and freedom. I could explore the depths of my own consciousness or maybe even unconsciousness. Through it, I could also connect to other creatives, who shared my interests. In fact, when I started making art I met many more interesting people, than during my whole marketing and PR career, though I was mostly and still am working from home.
I was also disregarding all the positive feedback I got from my online community. People were saying that they enjoy looking at my art, but I didn’t see any value in that. It took me a long time to understand that bringing visual beauty into this world is precious and is a privilege. What’s even a bigger privilege is to inspire other people, who see my art to create their own. But, it took me a looong way to get there.
At the same time, something inside me really wanted to keep creating my weird realities. And I also felt that though I was quite good in family and wedding photography I wasn’t really growing there, and wasn’t interested in that growth.
In 2017 I finally decided to stop positioning myself as a jack of all trades and decided to focus on fine art photography and educating others in this field.
In 2019 I launched my first online course on Storytelling with Photography and it felt like a blessing. It did feel like I can give much more information online and teach much better within several weeks, than during the maximum two days of a workshop.