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Blue Dream / Illumination
Bewitched / Mystified
Elena Lyakir was born in northern Ukraine’s historic city of Chernigov, which stands surrounded by some of the
world’s most dense and mysterious forests. As a child Elena was awed by the beauty of nature surrounding
her, while at the same time she dwelt in the knowledge that her city was part of a rapidly evolving social and
cultural universe. She was struck by how the city’s renowned architecture, including centuries-old monasteries
and cathedrals, stood in stunning juxtaposition to the many visible emblems of the oppressive Soviet regime.
When she was 10 years old, Elena developed a passion for photography while browsing family photographs,
some dating back to the 19th century. Her interest was nurtured by an uncle who took photographs of family
and friends with his Soviet era Fed 3 camera. Cameras were rare in Soviet Ukraine at that time, and
photography was far from a popular hobby.
Elena Lyakir
Evening Story Detail / She Hangs Brightly
Land and Sea
Immigration to the U.S. - From Model to Photographer: Elena came to the U.S. in 1990 at the age of 16 with her
family, seeking political asylum after a difficult immigration process through Europe. Following the advice of her
friends, she moved to New York City in 1993 to pursue a career in modeling. Just as her modeling career began
to take off, Elena was jarred by an artist’s nightmare; all the photographs she had taken during childhood were
destroyed in an accidental fire. Devastating as it was, this experience only served to instill in Elena an even
greater passion for photography - coupled with a deeper understanding of the fragility and impermanence of all
Still Chasing the Unforgettable
Throughout her 10-year modeling career in New York, Elena also took classes in art history and philosophy and
briefly attended film school at Boston’s MFA. While she enjoyed school in the U.S., her childhood experiences of
discrimination and oppressive authority in communist Ukraine motivated her to continue her education on her
own, through active research, mentors, and experimentation with cameras and innovative dark room developing
processes. Working through several photographic palettes, she credits finally finding her “voice” and artistic
theme when she met her boyfriend, himself an artist and an ornithologist, who reignited her passion for the
beauty of nature, and birds in particular.
I Knew No Tears Nor Laughter
Artist’s Process and Intention: In her artwork Elena attempts to bridge together a kind of personal history that
combines her sense of poetic longing with the melancholy she felt growing up in the rich yet contradictory
Ukrainian and Russian culture - where she was forced to remain an outsider due to her mixed nationality. For
Elena, each photograph is literally a page in a diary: metaphors for feelings, sensations, dreams and other
complexities of the human condition. Her still images evoke how memory facilitates the creation of situations
involving her viewers both emotionally and physically. While looking at one of Elena’s photographs, the viewer is
confronted by the awareness of his or her own behaviors and states of being, in essence turning each photo into
an opportunity for self-reflection.
Letter From Malibu 1 / Letter From Malibu 4
Paparatnik 2
Using elements of nature as her primary subject, Elena pushes the limits of the photographic medium to suggest
a painterly abstraction and repetition that in turn produces an alternate reality. The images are usually devoid of
human life often creating an illusion of a silent explosion of deciduous vegetation and birds. Many viewers have
noted a theme of symbolism in Elena’s photographs - perhaps itself a reflection of Elena’s having grown up in an
ancient and often superstitious culture. Her work is also very much influenced by travel, literature and poetry, as
well as the forms and philosophies of minimalism. Elena’s photography is recognized throughout the world. Her
work is on display in NYC at the Clic Gallery, Cristina Dos Santos, and Ochre. She has worked with an
independent dealer in London and other European cities. Large scale images from her “Aves” and “Poetry Of
Nature” series’ decorate the walls of renowned chef Jean-George Vongerichten’s new Manhattan eatery, ABC
Kitchen. Her generous donations in NYC include an auction for International Center of Photography, The Bailey
House, First Bloom, and In-Sight Photography auction in Brattleboro,VT.
Among the publications that have featured Elena's work are: Elle Décor, Metropolis, Gotham, and Time Out
New York. Elena currently lives and works in New York City
Visual Poetry