Kris Kashtanova (they/she) is a non-binary photographer and creative living in New York City. Kris creates work based on equality, hope, community, overcoming challenges, personal growth and learning. Their work explores themes of mental health, LGBTQIA+ issues, volunteering, gender, climate change and kindness. Kris's work is conceptual and surreal, while at the same time both moody and hopeful. Her 365 Project began as a way to learn something new every day for one year and share a daily conceptual self portrait throughout the process. Kris challenged themself to commit to creating without fear. This daily practice of ignoring any self-doubt has been a way for Kris to grow and to explore the world and themself while coping with personal loss.
Kris uses the 365 Project to explore their gender identity. In some images that represent exploration of the feminine part of their identity, Kris wears a dress to explore a character she calls 'The Princess', someone Kris grew up wishing to be. This traditionally female character appears throughout Kris's work and is certainly in some ways a part of her creator. In reality, Kris dresses in more androgynous and masculine clothing. Exploring these different facets of gender, identity, narratives, and even fashion are an experience that Kris hopes will help to combine their masculine and feminine sides outside of photography and art. Many of the images in the 365 Project feature settings that juxtapose the urban sprawl of NYC with vast mountains, oceans, animals, and other aspects of the natural world. Using surreal and conceptual ideas to explore her identity and surroundings allows Kris to form their own narrative about self and gender.
The 365 Project began as a response to loss. "In a short period of 10 months, I lost four close people who supported my work as an artist and me as a human. My grandmother raised me, two best friends, and my step-grandfather. All gone suddenly leaving me with the need to collect pieces of my new identity without them." While dealing with this loss of four of the people closest to them, New York City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kris's community was experiencing mutual loss, yet during this time Kris was able to meet new people and form their own sense of community. This gave Kris the strength to create and push boundaries to experiment with new creative techniques. Previously Kris created all of their props by hand. At the start of the 365 Project they focused on learning to do this digitally in Cinema4D, Photoshop and other creative software systems. Kris uses a mixture of her own photographs from around the city and stock images for backdrops to the scenes they create. The one constant part of Kris's practice is that each day they create one self portrait image to share. Kris also will include other creatives or friends that have come to visit, utilizing the experience as a form of creative and emotional connection.