PODCAST: A Photographic Life, Episode 175: Plus Photographer Kristina Varaksina

In episode 175 UNP founder and curator Grant Scott is in his shed reflecting on the negative aspect of work looking the same and coming from the same intellectual space, accepting new opportunities, the importance or not of the digital print and the risks and etiquette of social media.

Plus this week photographer Kristina Varaksina on the challenge of supplying Grant with an audio file no longer than 5 minutes in length in which she answer’s the question ‘What Does Photography Mean to You?’

Russian born Kristina Varaksina divides her time between New York, San Francisco and London. Before gaining her MFA in Photography at Academy of Art University, San Francisco, she worked as an Art Director at various advertising agencies in Moscow. Her work has been recognised with awards such as the Lens Culture Portrait Awards 2021, Portrait of Britain Winner 2020, Lens Culture Critics Choice 2020 Winner, BJP Portrait of Humanity 2020, AOP Open Awards 2020 Silver, IPA 2020, the PX3 Prix de la Photographie, Communications Arts, Int’l Photography Awards, and APA National Award. Whilst her clients include Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel , The Telegraph, BBC, Fabric, Bonobos, and Ugg. She has taught photography at NYFA, New York and California Art Institute, San Francisco. https://kristinavaraksina.com

Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019).

Grant’s book What Does Photography Mean to You? including 89 photographers who have contributed to the A Photographic Life podcast is on sale now £9.99 https://bluecoatpress.co.uk/product/what-does-photography-mean-to-you/

© Grant Scott 2021


  1. Dear Grant,

    Thank you for your consistently excellent podcast this week and for having invited Kristina Varaksina to drop this pearl of a statement – “Photography is my artistic response to what I see in the world, in life around me.” Rarely has such a perfect reply been put so succinctly and so beautifully delivered in such a beautiful humble & unpresuming voice.

    You asked a few questions and I thought I’d offer you a reply because it’s the least I can do after you’ve given us so many hours of thought provoking discourses from the shed.

    When was the last time I made a photographic print and why? – I made a print about 3 months ago to frame and hang on the wall at home. I do that at various random intervals.

    Did I make that print because I wanted it for an exhibition? Did I make that print because I wanted to sell it? What other reason could there be for making a photographic print? – I simply made the print to frame a photograph I had taken and, having it on the wall in my house. It allows me to constantly look at it and enjoy the emotion I have experienced when I took the photo (plus to remind myself how brilliant I am, hahaha)

    And therefore how important is it to know how to make that photographic print? – An an analogy, let me say that it’s important for me to assess a camera by understanding whether it is able to give me the flexibility I need to capture the photo I have in my mind. e.g., I need its metering to allow me to expose appropriately for stars in the sky at night. This serves to explain why it’s important for me to know both how to make that print and how the printer will print my photo, rather than be at the mercy of a printing set of tools and algorithms. If the topic was important enough for Ansel Adams to write a 200+ page book, there’s obviously more to a print than meets the eye.

    Did I make that print myself? No. There’s no point in me buying a very expensive printer required to make the prints to the level of quality I want, for the same reason I won’t buy a hoist to service my car. Therefore I take appropriately sized jpeg files to the printing lab and discuss with them the results I want. While this exercise sometimes results in more than one iteration of the print, I only work with printers who appreciate the dialogue.

    Is it important at all to make a print? If it was important for me to take the photograph, then it’s a candidate for a print. The alternative is to constantly pull out my mobile phone to scroll through all the photos deemed important for me to store digitally there and that’s not going to happen cause there are too many pics there. Sometimes, it’s important for me to have a print to touch and behold as it reinforces in me who I am and what I do. In a meditative way, it encapsulates my artistic response to what I see in the world, in life around me.

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