If looks could kill, Ira Chernova would be the savage death of us—and we wouldn’t even mind. But this bombshell bad girl is more than just a (srsly) ragin’ babe; the engineer student-turned-model-turned-artist is a powerhouse of contradictions. When she isn’t blowing minds with her dark, spectral photography, she’s painting cartoons to remind you how missed your boner is (heart eyeballs are involved, so you know it’s for real). We sat down with the inked-up heartbreaker (more like shredder) to talk about keepin’ it old school, feelin’ all the feels, and how doodles changed her life.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Moscow, but I’ve been living in Brooklyn for the past four years.
You have a degree as an engineer! What led you to start modeling and go the more creative route?
I was never really interested in that. In Russia, you start university right after school, when you’re 15. You have no idea what you want to do. It’s one of those things where your parents are like, “Oh, go to the same university we finished.” I still got a degree, but I needed to find some hobby that would help me move out of Moscow. I picked up the camera and then I started modeling. On some Russian social networks, I had photographer friends and they asked to take pictures of me, so I kind of ended up on the Internet.
So photography was your first love?
In the USSR, there was a big production of film cameras. It was very common for my generation to have film cameras in the house. So when I was thinking that I needed to find something to do as a hobby that might lead to a job or something, I picked up the camera to try it first.
“…everything goes wrong when you do too much planning.”
Your photographs are so rad! There’s this raw, emotional quality to them. What’s your shooting process like?
It depends. For fashion editorials, I work from a mood board or the theme of the magazine. I work with natural light and I prefer using film cameras. Often, I’m not planning specific shots because everything goes wrong when you do too much planning. Either there’s a theme that my team or whoever I’m shooting with have to follow, or if not… I just go with the flow!
So you’re old school (hell yeah). Why film over digital?
Maybe because I’m lazy. With film, you’re not going to overshoot. When you overshoot, you’re looking at a thousand digital images and they’re all kind of the same. With film, you’re just shooting one roll of film and you have to trust yourself because you don’t have those images copied anywhere else. Then you have very few pictures, so everything is easier.
Tell us about the zine you made!
I started doing little doodles. I always wanted to draw something but felt it was wrong because I don’t have the education. Then I did a few and my friends were like, “You have your own style, it’s fine, just go with it!” I made a fundraiser on Indiegogo, because after switching countries and everything, I have debt that I need to pay off. So I was like, I’ll put my art up if anyone wants to donate money. Check it out here.
People often come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you must be so metal’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not…I like delicate flowers!’
On top of modeling, photography, and art, you’re also making floral arrangements. How did you get into that?
I think my background in taking pictures helped. I think it all helps, looking at composition and colors, so it wasn’t that hard of a transition. I still have many things to learn but I have some tools and books. I’m thinking of either finding a job at a florist shop or maybe taking some courses. Growing older, I find that I need nature and I need quiet places.
What inspires your drawings?
Tell us something weird about yourself.
People often come up to me and say, “Oh, you must be so metal!” and I’m like, “I’m not.” People assume things if you have tattoos. It’s not even in terms of music. I’m like, “No, I like delicate flowers!” I go crazy over little things, I overthink everything.
What music have you been playing on repeat?
What makes you laugh?
A dark sense of humor. Sarcasm. Louis C.K., Larry David. I like their perspectives on life.
Vice of choice?
Chocolate croissants, white wine, cigarettes, and coffee.
What’s up next for you?
I’m getting my driver’s license, finally! I want to continue doing little illustrations, flowers, and photography.