“I got my first panic attack ever from seeing a photograph of someone who was just really beautiful,” said visual artist Emmie Avvakumova ’14. “I just couldn’t believe that someone that beautiful could exist. It was overwhelming. When I see beautiful people I never feel attracted to them. I feel like I want to photograph them.”
For as long as she can remember, Avvakumova’s natural artistic talent has propelled her to succeed in almost every category of artistic expression. Through portraiture, fashion photography, painting and choreography, Avvakumova ’14 uses the visual arts as a release mechanism and as a way to explore and define herself and the “beautiful people” that inspire her.
During her time at Andover, Avvakumova has left her mark on the arts program. Taking full advantage of the advanced art classes the school offers, Avvakumova has participated in at least one every term, including Film Photography, Curating and Art 500. In addition, she also founded the Fashion Photography Club, worked as the Arts Editor of “The Courant,” was the Photo Editor of _The Phillipian_ and was heavily involved in the West Quad North Fashion Show over the past three years.
“The classes and various art programs at Andover have given me the knowledge I need to pursue art from many different mediums,” said Avvakumova. “I love art from any perspective. I love photography, fine art and anything in between. At Andover, I’ve been able to pursue so many types of expression.”
Avvakumova feels that, perhaps even more importantly than challenging herself and growing in her artistic skills at Andover, she has had the opportunities to assign meaning to her artistic pieces, explore themes of self and self-destruction and understand why she makes the artistic choices she does.
“At a certain point, art isn’t just about visual representation,” she said. “It’s about conceptual meaning. That is something I think I never really did before here. I never really thought, ‘Why do I do art?’ before coming to Andover. Now, I really try to put a lot of meaning into what I do, and Andover definitely helped me develop that skill. I’ve grown skill-wise through my classes, and largely conceptually wise.”
Regardless of the medium, the overarching theme in Avvakumova’s work, in addition to portraiture and aesthetically distinctive subjects, is related to self and personal inner issues.
“A lot of the art I do has very personal themes and ideas behind it,” said Avvakumova. “A lot of it is focused on people and portraiture, and a lot of it is focused on my own mental issues that I’ve had throughout my life. Ideas of self-destruction, feeling lost and alone, being undecided or screaming in a crowded room and not being heard are some of the things I’ve tried to convey. Some of my best pieces of art are ones that convey inner issues.”
From a seven-foot tall self-portrait in oil paints to a 40-pound human skeleton wire sculpture to capturing thousands of fashion photos from New York City’s Fashion Week, Avvakumova has explored almost every medium during her time at Andover and shared personal themes in every piece. Her favorite form of expression, however, is portrait photography.
“Photography is something that started for me as a hobby,” she said. “I got a camera, and I started to photograph my friends. Before long, it sort of became a big part of my life. At one point, I realized it was a really good way to combine my love for fashion, my love for art and my love for academics, because photography is really mathematical, all at the same time. It is the perfect form of art for me.”
Three years ago, Avvakumova started her own blog to share her photos with the world beyond the Andover community. Receiving recognition from people all over the world has been a powerful experience for Avvakumova and has encouraged her to keep shooting.
“It’s the little moments that are the big achievements for an artist,” said Avvakumova. “Having my photo as the lede in The Phillipian or having an anonymous person message me on my blog that I am inspiring are just some of the little things that have kept me going with my art. Sometimes, I go to my blog and I scroll down to the bottom. Even just seeing how much I have grown as a photographer encourages me to keep going.”
Avvakumova plans to continue her passion for art and photography well into college and beyond as either a photography major or an integrated design major. Planning on doing a dual degree at Parson’s The New School For Design and Eugene Lang The New School for the Liberal Arts, Avvakumova is astounded by the world of possibilities Andover has given her in her art.
“I’m so happy that I can do what I love in college and be in a place that I love [New York City],” she said. “I really want to focus on photography, and Andover has given me the basis to be successful in my artistic life. It’s really an exciting time, and I already have some job offers right now. I can’t wait to see where my passions take me.”