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Meet West Hollywood Photographer and Visual Artist: Nastya Valentine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nastya Valentine.

Nastya, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in Moscow, Russia. My mother was an LED and my father was 1/3 drum machine but for some reason no one really expected me to do anything in ~the arts~ because it’s ~, , not a real job~. Honestly, I don’t think my family expected me to do anything but get married and have ki because that was a Russian value even in the 90s. I was kind of a weirdo and a rebel and a shaman as a kid so I just conjured up all these worlds and prophecies for myself which involved art and music and education.

I went to Bard College in the pursuit of an education in journalism (because that’s a real job), psychology, or experimental science, being really into Tim Leary and Hunter Thompson and Alfred Hoffmann and William Burroughs and Tom Wolfe and those midcentury radical geniuses. I was passionate about art and music but I was too afraid to follow through, and I never took it seriously. I was really involved with trying to be a pseudo~academic. By sophomore year in college, I had written a 400+ page document on my computer on experiments in the psychology of psychedelics, that was completely destroyed when my boyfriend at the time water damaged my computer beyond repair. NOW, I back up EVERYTHING!

This was a blessing in disguise, though, possibly, because then I started taking more classes in the Film and Music Departments. When I realized I wanted to do that professionally, I did everything in my power to try to make a living as an artist. I directed, edited, filmed, acted in, scored, and produced a feature film as my senior thesis. But there’s a big difference between plain making art and making a living out of making art. There is a lot of business, logistics, and admin work involved, especially for DIY/solo riders.

There are many niches for a visual artist to belong to. Honestly, I always felt too weird for “the industry”, and too basic for a majority of DIY scenes, so I started my own company/art brand to offer my services to friends and clients, and carve out space for my singularity.

Currently, I’m doing what I should have done at the start of my postgrad life: get a stable part-time day job that allows steady income and also enough time for personal work. I’m taking coding and game development classes: next year, Valentine Enterprises is going VR. The latest parts of my portfolio include photographs and videos from Russia, and of course curating Party Castle. There are going to be many amazing artists and performers there, you should come! partycastle.eventbrite.com

 

Has it been a smooth road?
It was extremely difficult, and in my first year out of college, I had an extensive crisis upon breaching the art world vs. film industry threshold. I’m just barely getting out of it, 2015 was extremely dark. A lot of disheartening experiences, a lot of people who tried to cut me off from my more conceptual and experimental artwork, and gear me towards heartless commercial work which didn’t even pay that well! I wanted to start my own company, an all-encompassing art brand called Valentine Enterprises, but time after time the idea was shot down by my mostly older white male employers. I couldn’t even believe that ~Hollywood pressure~ like that still existed. Come on, 2015!

I eventually saged the bad influences out of my life and started Valentine Enterprises, dedicated to female soul power and quality boundary-pushing DIY production, not living within a dramatic disaster-scape.

What a dramatic year for me, though: I also relapsed on and off back into my eating disorder from between like January ~ August, until mid-August 2015 when a car didn’t stop at a red light and hit my car. I went to so many doctors and engaged in the whole tragic narrative so much that if I didn’t get healthy I would have had a complete nervous breakdown.

After that car accident, I took some time off work. My insurance covered some medical healing and therapy and whatnot, and I saw a spiritual advisor, who read me like a book immediately: “do you have an eating disorder? are you in the film industry? why aren’t you letting your bright and beautiful self-shine through the darkness?”. She said that year was the darkest I’ve ever had (with a lot of detail that was eerily accurate) and that my work had begun to drain me and I was spiritually dying, but if I’m true to myself and my passions, view myself as sexy and fabulous instead of fat and disgusting, and learn to meditate, the path will reveal itself before me. She predicted that I will meet my angelic soul sisters, that my work will take me to Mexico, New York, and Russia, and that I will take on the role of leader in a field I haven’t grazed before.

I found that hard to believe but took it as a more allegorical meaning: It sounds so cliche but follow your heart and you will have success and happiness.

However, some of her detailed predictions came true this year: I went on tour with blonde angelic pop crew Belly Belt, and those girls to me are like sisters. They’re beautiful, brilliant, and I love working with them. With Belly Belt I went on tour to SXSW this year, and we passed by Mexico. I learned the Transcendental Meditation technique from a guru after I was accepted to the David Lynch film program at MUM in Iowa (I deferred my decision to attend, due to financial matters). Later in the year, my clients in Russian band B-2 asked me to film their shows in Moscow. I also cruised on my family’s boat and filmed a short visual album from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. And in November, I’ll be staying in New York City for my birthday, perhaps take a trip up to Bard. The leadership project predicted by the spiritual healer must be Party Castle, a mall-themed art show I am curating for Valentine Enterprises in mid city LA October 15-17. You can see it here: partycastle.eventbrite.com

My mind is still blown by the accuracy of her vision. I know that at heart, the 180 transformations from horrible time to a good time was waiting for me, it just needed some divine intervention to unlock it.

What are some of the influences that have played the biggest role in your journey so far?
RuPaul! I wish RuPaul was my mom.

I wish there was a really fabulous mentorship I could cite, but since I had a negative experience with a mentor, I don’t really look for outside sources for help with my career. I’m not very experienced in asking for help. For the most part I follow my intuition, hopefully, it leads me somewhere fabulous and significant. Hopefully, it leads me to Elon Musk.

In terms of clients and employers, everyone’s been equally important. Some of my favorite projects were just shooting at my house with a DIY green screen or shooting bands on the road with a handheld camera. DIY art will always be my favorite, but I’ve enjoyed working with larger institutions. After all, as a CEO I love participating in the expansion of the creative business. The people at Outfest LA are amazing and brilliant. Best film festival in my opinion. I also love everyone involved with the David Lynch MA in Film at Maharishi Institute of Management: upon my acceptance to the program, I was taught the Transcendental Meditation technique, and I use it every day. Meditation is vital to my chillness not just as an artist but as a human in my daily life. The technique teaches to calm your mind and listen to the consciousness inside you. So I do that.

What kind of work do you look forward to most?
Some of my favorite projects were just shooting at my house with a DIY green screen or shooting bands on the road with a handheld camera. DIY art will always be my favorite, but I’ve enjoyed working with larger institutions. After all, as a CEO I love participating in the expansion of creative business and the art of synergy.

I really listen to my friends’ advice; I got lucky in the friends department and everyone around me is very supportive, brilliant, and ambitious. My best friend MJ Katz, who is an amazing photographer and artist in her own right (look her up~~), has been there with realness and empathy and support through so many challenging experiences and shitty phases! Since high school, which seems like forever.

I’m super into everyone who’s contributing to Party Castle!! It’s a very multidisciplinary group and we all share a similar ethos even though the work is very different. Carmen, James, Izzy, Iris, Sofia, Kate, Erika, Hobbes, Nathan, Nora, Caia… they’re all extremely talented and have made a huge impression on me. It’s going to be the best mall-themed arty ever. James, who runs BlueRoar, and I went to the mall to go to the Tesla store and film a VR video for the show, and the real-life mall cops were not having any of it. Even though I told them I was a Tesla ambassador, they were not having any of it at all. I think one of them might actually come to the party.

I can’t wait. October 15th at Almost Studios in mid-city.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were just starting out?
I wouldn’t do anything differently because my mistakes have been significant learning trips. Last year kicked my ass in a way that was bound to happen some time, so better sooner than later. Whatever trajectory I’m on is already in motion. More importantly is that I do the right things right now, and that continues into the future.

Pricing:

  • $50/hr for photoshoots
  • $100 day rate for video shoots and editing
  • $ travel shoots negotiable
  • $ event planning and hosting negotiable

Contact Info:

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Image Credit:
All photos by Nastya Valentine (Valentine Enterprises)

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