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Art Articles

Seeing Light Through Both Sides of the Lens with Lera Pen

Feb 3, 2020

Seeing Light Through Both Sides of the Lens with Lera Pen


The radiance Lera Pen displays in front, as well as behind the lens of a camera, is an energy that carries warmth, light, and beauty in a minimalistic pattern. There’s more than meets the eye with Lera. She’s proven her theory true by not only being a head-turning model, but is also a creative powerhouse and visual artist.  Born in Ukraine and relocated in LA, Lera’s work reflects the simplicity of capturing moments through embracing natural light and working within urban landscapes.  We sat down with Lera to gain insight on how she finds her comfort within working in the boundaries of photography. 



Tell us a little bit about yourself! How did you find yourself behind the camera as well as in front of it?
I’m originally from Ukraine, have been living in LA for the larger part of my life. I’m a model and artist, with my medium of choice being photography at the moment.


Have you always grown up with seeing the world from an artistic perspective? What were some of the first moments that drew you into it?
I’ve been drawing, making music, designing clothes, dancing, writing poetry for as long as I can remember and still do all of those things. I’ve always seen the world from an artistic perspective, leaning into the quiet moments. I remember riding the bus back from school during golden hour, I would marvel at how the sun hits the world, bouncing off windows and lighting pockets of the sidewalk. Natural light is what ultimately drew me to photography. It’s a gushing source of inspiration for me.
What are some differences you seem to notice when you’re on both sides of the camera? Are there any that you prefer more?
Being in front and behind the camera are very different experiences, the main divide being the level of autonomy. As a subject in front of the lens, generally speaking, I’m not allowed a ton of creative input, and my role becomes managing the crossfire of direction while attempting to not completely dissociate. Modeling can be an incredibly fun job at times; other times, you really work for your money. With photography, I chose to shoot only in circumstances that are conducive to my vision. I like to keep it pure that way. 
What do you look for when it comes to the beauty of photography?
I look for light. Garbage in interesting light can be beautiful, while a diamond in dull light won’t look like much. In portraiture, I feel passionate about capturing people’s beauty while preserving their essence. Even the most physically beautiful people are not necessarily photogenic or comfortable in front of the camera, and aside from that, some photographers focus on other elements of picture taking. A great composition, for instance, is worth nothing to me when paired with an awkward facial expression. 
What came first, the modeling or the photography?
I’ve been modeling for much longer. I only picked up the camera about three years ago. 


What inspired you to pick up the camera?
I was sharing an apartment with two photographers at the time, and one of them handed me a cheap vintage camera, the Cannon T-70, which I still put to use. I’ve always been interested in capturing images, but the technical side of photography intimidated me. I learned mostly through trial and error and still learning.