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Beneath
the Surface

An artist applies unique processes and perspectives to challenge the rules of visual perception.

Beneath
the Surface

An artist applies unique processes and perspectives to challenge the rules of visual perception.

By Wendy Vinglinsky
Photography by Anastasia Samoylova MFA ’11
  5 min.

On a sunny day in 1991, 7-year-old Anastasia Samoylova MFA ’11 placed her favorite stuffed toy in a bright beam of light that flowed through her parents’ bedroom window. She stepped back and snapped her first photograph, capturing the beloved playmate in a warm glow. The sweet tribute was a glimpse into her artistic future.

The only child of blue-collar parents, Samoylova relied on creativity, curiosity and imagination to stay entertained in their modest Moscow home. Her favorite pastime was creating little houses from cardboard.

“I went from building cardboard homes because we couldn’t afford Barbie houses, to building environments and then eventually using that for my shows,” she said.

Samoylova studied environmental design at a Russian university where she photographed her own hand-constructed paper and cardboard models. Her shots grew so creative Samoylova’s mother secured a loan so she could buy her first professional camera, a Sony Cybershot 707.

“I was just the baddest ... There were reporters shooting with 3-megapixel (cameras), and mine was five, so I was getting some gigs immediately. That was definitely a major push for me.”

Positive feedback motivated Samoylova to create a portfolio, which landed her an assistantship at Bradley. “There are really fond memories,” she said of her time on campus. “I was the only graduate student in photography ... but the entire art department, they were so welcoming.” 

Samoylova lives in Miami with her husband, Evgeny Samoylov ’08 MSA ’09, and son, Mark. Her work focuses on the environment and its representation in images. “FloodZone,” a book based on her ongoing photo project of coastal areas facing catastrophic changes due to rising sea levels, was published by Steidl in 2019.