Yelena: Photographer of Joy: Awakening the Goddess in Every Woman
May 01, 2012 08:38AM
By Beth Davis
photo by Yelena Yahontova
Yelena Yahontova discovered her love of photography as a teenager in her native country of Belarus. Though it was a favorite hobby, it wasn’t until she was nearing the completion of her Ph.D. that she realized photography was more than a hobby, it was a passion—one that she wanted to pursue as a career.
After relocating to the U.S., Yahontova became a professional photographer and opened her studio, Yelena: Photographer of Joy, in 2005. The name signifies her mission to create joyful, creative portraits that capture the soul of the people she photographs.
“My photo philosophy is based on my life philosophy,” she says. “I love, enjoy and welcome life. I believe that people are created for joy, love and happiness; therefore, photography for me is a way to express my perceptions of life.”
Her photo sessions are quite unique. Yahontova creates magnificent portraits of individuals (both men and women), families, kids and adults of every age. Specializing in fairies, angels, goddesses and nymphs, she offers a collection of clothing, costumes and accessories. “I like dressing my clients in vintage clothing as princesses, fairies, or angels (wings included) and photographing them in natural settings—by a lake, a field or woods,” she explains. “I don’t ask clients to sit still or smile in a fake way; we have fun. Formal, posed, studio-portrait photography has been done for almost 200 years. For me it was not inspiring.”
Lately, it’s her “Goddess Experience” photo sessions that have been really garnering admiration and attention. The Goddess Experience, she says, is about celebration of women—their uniqueness, beauty, femininity, divinity and soul. “I believe that every woman is beautiful no matter their age or their size, that every woman deserves to be celebrated, and every woman is a goddess.”
She says the idea of the goddess sessions came to her after realizing how many women suffered from low self-esteem. She would see beautiful women who simply didn’t believe they were beautiful. It bothered her that women weren’t more accepting of themselves. So much, in fact, that she was determined to make a change and get them to see what she saw in them.
“I’m absolutely convinced that there are no unattractive women, only those who don’t let themselves feel attractive due to narrow and misguided preconceptions about the nature of beauty,” notes Yahontova. “It became my mission to raise women’s self-esteem; to empower them and help them transform by portraying them as beautiful goddesses.”
It was also important to her to get women out of their comfort zone. “So many women—mothers especially—are so busy taking care of others that they neglect themselves,” she explains. “Some never even wear a dress, so when they come to me and see dresses in every room it awakens their playfulness. That is my job—to get them out of mom mode and see the goddess inside of them.”
It seems to be working. Cries of joy and surprise are a typical response when women first see their portrait. “The photos help women see themselves in a different way—they fall in love with the women they see in the photograph and realize they see themselves,” she comments. “We are talking about instant healing here. Their lost power and confidence is back.
For Yahontova, it is constant confirmation that she is on the right path, living her purpose and fulfilling her mission.