After joining 500px, scrolling through the most beautiful photographs my eyes immediately spotted something yummy… a photograph by Fine Art Photographer Dina Belenko. Going through her profile I was amazed at the extreme lengths at which she obviously goes through to create those mouth-watering works of art and just had to find out more about her.
Warming up to Russia
Growing up in the Far Eastern side of Russia, Dina Belenko is used to extreme temperatures ranging from -35º Celsius in the winter to a warm 35º in the summer. To fight the icy winters she suggests a home-made chili stew with a healthy dose of capsaicin.
In Love with Literature
Practically no one in her hometown had access to the Internet in the 90’s so books were her only introduction and stimulus when it came to the arts. Her books were regarded as treasures and it turns out that the books that she’s read throughout the years guide most of her creative decisions. “I remember how I discovered The Lord of the Rings. I was truly mesmerised by it thinking to myself, ‘That’s what literature should be like’, it was also the first time I was introduced to artists such as John Waterhouse and Arthur Rackham.”
Photography was the hobby that Stuck
Clearly a very visual and creative person, Dina says that she wasn’t very creatively inclined as a child. She rather kept her nose in the books that have always been her passion. After trying her hand at a variety of creative activities such as drawing and polymer clay modeling, while it had been fun, was completely useless. The only hobby that seemed to have stuck was photography and now it’s her fulltime career!
She studied Editing and Publishing at the Far Eastern State University of Humanities and did one years’ editorship at a local publishing house. Not being able to express herself creatively ended up being very tiring and depressing so she decided to quit her job and go into photography fulltime starting out photographing food for small cafes. Although she didn’t make a lot of money, she was finally doing something really enjoyable.
“Why would I use fake cookies or coffee?”
Since she lives in such a tiny provincial town there are no training facilities for photography so she is completely self-taught, with the help of Internet tutorials. “Photographing splashes in particular turned out to be so much easier than I imagined; you don’t need any expensive equipment, two speed lights are enough.”
To freeze the liquid in motion, Dina uses two SB-910 speed lights set on a low power outage (about 1/16 or lower) adding that it would be really nice to have a machine that can pour liquid at the exact angles needed with precise speed. To make the clouds of flying flour she uses a ‘cloud gun’ that in actual fact is just a balloon pump with a paper cone attached to the front. It scatters the flour in the air forming very good-looking clouds.
We just had to know if the food she uses are all ‘real’ and she replies “Why would I use fake cookies or coffee?” and since the food she uses in her photographs are always very simple and looks good just as it is, she just doesn’t feel the need for any extra manipulation.
The Process of Creating
We asked her about the whole process of creating those amazing photographic works of art and she described it for us in a few steps:
She always starts off with a sketch of what she has in mind for the photograph. “It’s usually not very detailed but it helps to define the topic, location and mood as well as grasping the overall composition and objects required for the shoot.”
After the sketching is complete she will start gathering the props needed for the shoot and since the city she lives in is quite small, she ends up having to make a lot of the props herself. “Often, I don’t have enough skill to do the exact thing I want but I always do my best.”
Composition… She tries to keep only the most important objects in the frame, getting rid of anything unnecessary. Always asking herself, “Is this item important?” and if the item does not form part of the story then maybe the shot will be better without it.
When the props are ready and the composition collected, she’ll turn her attention to setting up the lights. It all depends on the scene but in the majority of cases she’ll set the key light slightly behind the scene and fill light on the side. Then she will play with reflectors and black flags until she gets the desired result. Finally pressing that shutter. “Voila!”
Write Every Thought Down
In a previous article she mentions that she gets board very easily so I was wondering what keeps her busy mind inspired to be creative, constantly coming up with new ideas. She believes that the first step to keep creative is to write every thought down. “I have a notepad with lists of things I still want to try one day. Seriously, it’s very helpful to have a collection of interesting objects, metaphors, compositions, lighting schemes, tricks and effects you want to try.”
Forget Style, Find your Passion
Dina doesn’t believe that a photographer should find a style but rather a passion that will seep throughout your work. As such, her books inspire her a lot to create mythical, still life photographs that tells stories. She’s a huge fan of Gravity Falls and animation of any kind, from Western to Japanese, they all bring her great joy. Her idea of an adventure would be a literal dream; staying in her bed imagining dragons, treasures and storms only to wake up and have a cup of coffee. If she could choose to time-travel she’d prefer to travel to the future to buy some kind of gadget that provides telekinetic powers, go back home and start to take photographs of levitating objects the world has never seen before!
Her photographs are a testament to the fact that she is a TOTAL sweet tooth, lover of all sorts of pastries like muffins and cherry pies to marshmallows, watermelon lollipops and pretty much everything chocolate. With all the delicious treats she photographs, another aspect that keeps you intrigued is the beautiful and diverse colour pallets she uses.
Famous Last Words
When asked whether she has some kind of a life philosophy she lives by she said she felt the need to say something profound and that her life philosophy would most probably sound something like famous last words. “Being productive in pursuit of something is better than being happy.”
Follow Dina Belenko’s Instagram page to keep updated on her latest projects.
A Labyrinth Mind
Dina Belenko, the fine art photographer with the labyrinth mind filled to the brim with mystery, magic and deliciously yummy treats. We wish her all of the best with her future endeavors and can’t wait to see the delectable art she creates next!