If you pay any attention at all to the outer orbit of the Kardashian universe, you’ll come to find a handful of consistent collaborators on whom the family relies. There’s Hrush Achemyan, the stylist; Mario Dedivanovic, the makeup artist; Andrew Fitzsimons, the hair guru. And for photography, there’s trusty Sasha Samsonova.
Even if you haven’t heard of 26-year-old Samsonova, you’ve likely seen her work. She’s directed music videos for P!nk, Tinashe, and Gallant; shot advertisements for the Kendall & Kylie clothing line and TopShop; and photographed covers for L’Officiel, Complex, and Paper magazines. Her shoots with Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and Khloé and Kourtney Kardashian, consistently make headlines.
The millennial photographer can thank Instagram for bringing her to collaborate with the Calabasas royal family. The story goes that Kylie saw Samsonova’s work on the platform, and through Joyce Bonelli, a Kardashian friend and makeup artist, made contact with her. “[Kylie and I] have this amazing chemistry when we work together,” Samsonova told Hypebae last year.
Born in Ukraine, Samsonova was first a dancer, and her breakout shoot came when she was only 17 — not long after she’d been toying with photography after Harper’s Bazaar commissioned her. It would only take a few years for the Kardashian-Jenners to notice her, and for her to move to the United States and blow up.
And at a time when some of the most revered names in fashion photography are under scrutiny for allegations of sexual harassment — Mario Testino, Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier — there’s momentum for a changing of the guard, making way for younger talent, many of whom are women. Samsonova falls into that sphere, along with women like Petra Collins, the 25-year-old Canadian photographer and Gucci muse. Collins’ work is more ethereal (think: lots of pastel lightness that transports you to a hazy dreamworld where women rule.)
Meanwhile, Samsonova’s portfolio has come to embody a harder-edged, moodier sensuality. In the #MeToo era, Samsonova hasn’t shied away from sexualized concepts that are daring and confrontational — for example, the Veronicas naked save for glitter body paint, or Sophia Richie wrapping a python between her oiled-up legs.
“I’ve always thought that we don’t have enough female photographers. A woman sees another woman in a whole different perspective. We feel, see, and create sexuality in a way that is really different from a male point of view,” Samsonova told Teen Vogue in 2016. “I love being on an all-girl set, as it feels like a little family. When girls come together on set with an urge to create something great, there’s nothing that can stop them.”
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