Anna Cossack is a Russian living in Paris, and appears to live a charmed life, full of flowers, coffee and croissants. But boy, does she work hard for it. A full time lawyer, she manages to squeeze her passion for photography around her demanding job, often waking up at 5am to catch the sunrise and flying off to exotic destinations just for the weekend. And it’s paid off - with almost 19k followers, she regularly creates content for brands such as Coca Cola, Belvedere Vodka and Daniel Wellington. Read on for a little 2018 inspiration.
How did you get started?
First of all, I started my lifestyle and travel blog, and my Instagram account at the same time - and it wasn't professional at all! I didn't have a proper camera. I started just to shoot for my blog and my Instagram. And then it started to develop. A friend who worked at Fashion Week asked me to join them. It was interesting for me to see a little bit closer this world of fashion and all the shows and the style ... It's so interesting to shoot people in this colourful ambiance. I started to take street style photos, and that's when I bought a proper camera. I started to travel to Milan for Fashion Week to shoot street style, and publish it on my blog and Instagram account. I started to be contacted by other bloggers who wanted to shoot with me, who liked my work. So step by step, I got to where I am now.
Did you have any previous photography training?
No. I started as a model, and then I gained experience from there. I took a couple courses to get some technology knowledge. I think it’s good to start by getting used to the camera and get some experience. Only after that, you start to feel that you need to improve and learn, and you have the basis on which you can apply everything you learn.
You said you first found inspiration from street style. Where do you find inspiration now?
I think my taste has progressed with time. I do less fashion, but I still work on a few fashion projects. My work is much more lifestyle now. I’m inspired very much by the work of some contemporary designers. And for my photography, of course I’m inspired by travelling. It’s pretty evident because I travel a lot…
Do you travel for work or pleasure?
I travel by myself. In my day job, I’m a lawyer. So I don’t usually need to travel for that. But I travel a lot on the weekends. I think it’s totally possible to combine travelling and a full time job. You can still find the time.
What’s your favourite place to travel to?
Well, I think there are several places, but I always return to Italy.
When you're deciding what to share on Instagram, how do you decide what is private and what is public?
In my opinion, first of all, you should have a beautiful picture because, in a way, Instagram was created to share beautiful pictures. After that, it's always interesting to see a bit of the personality of the author. I never share negativity. I'm not somebody who shares their problems on Instagram.
Do you think you've made friends through Instagram as well?
I find that it's really nice community. To be honest, I prefer the community on Instagram to all other communities like on Facebook and other social media. For me, it's easier to see how the person is. When you see their account, you see some history, what the person shared, and you can first of all understand if the person has the same taste for the beauty or the same vision of the world, if you can say.
That’s especially handy when you’re new to a city like Paris.
Yeah. You need to find your way to integrate, to find the people with the same interests. And today since it's already three years I'm on Instagram, I know many people who are also bloggers and influencers in Paris. We meet. We travel together.
What do you think is the best kept secret in Paris?
There is Rue Montorgueil in Paris, a very old street, which was traditionally famous for its food shops and restaurants. I’d also mention the street Saint-Dominique which is a great sunrise and sunset spot, with an unusual view on the Eiffel Tower.
Do you get up early to see the sunrise?
Oh, the sunrise, yes. In summer, you get up at five and start to shooting at like half five, six o'clock.
So do you have any tips and tricks for anyone that might be starting out to try and be a creator like you?
I think, as I started, the main advice is to start by experience. To shoot as much as they can because they will make many mistakes. But first they need to go through some quantity to arrive to some quality. You cannot expect taking wonderful pictures immediately. But you just need to train your eye. And then, you can add some technical advice or maybe it's nice to learn from somebody who inspires you. And of course, my second advice is to read or go through the accounts of famous photographers. Go to exhibitions because it's a source of inspiration to see what other talented people do. Paris is great for exhibitions.
Moving on to your technical advice, what camera and editing software do you use?
When I edit on my phone, I usually use Snapseed and Mobile Photoshop. They are complimentary. I mean, I use one after another. And when I use my computer, I pass through Lightroom and then Photoshop. So Lightroom to edit all of the colours and lighting and all this ... And Photoshop if I need to modify something.
I'm on the Nikon D750 now. I have a couple of analog cameras too. I have an old Polaroid camera and I also have a small Leica X2. It's very compact, so it's practical to go when you are in the city and you're just taking some shots in the streets. But Nikon is the best for portraits.
How would you describe your aesthetic to someone that's never seen your pictures?
I don't say it's minimalist, but I don't like to have too many objects in the photos. I like to have the centre of the photo and the attention attracted to the main object. And I don't like too bright colours. But I should say my aesthetic changes with time.
Tell us something that no one knows about you.
Usually the thing that nobody knows about me and even cannot imagine is the fact that I have a full time job.
What is your favourite piece of work that you've done so far? Something that you're most proud of?
I'm always happy with the photo that I just took. And after, I want to progress. So it's hard to choose.
What is the best thing about being a photographer and what is the worst thing about being a photographer?
There are several good things. First of all, it's the attention to the details. As a photographer, you start noticing the details that you would never see before. And also, you enjoy the beauty of the moment, and you really appreciate it, and you have a possibility to capture it. If you are a photographer, sometimes you manage to capture like a small moment of a beautiful light, the sunset, something which otherwise we cannot keep. And of course, the worst thing is that you are never satisfied. After you capture this moment, you are never satisfied with the result. You imagine how you could do it better. It's a terrible feeling after you buy a new camera. And after, you want to revisit all the places you visited before and retake all the shots you did before with the new camera because equipment is important. It matters.
What would your advice be for your younger self?
I wouldn't give any advice which would change my future because I find that in my life I made some good choices. And for others, I give them the advice to never be afraid to make decisions by yourself. Don’t think about what people will say, and what is the tendency today, what is fashionable today... Just to listen to yourself and be honest with yourself and respond honestly to the question what do you really want today?
There are many people who take it so seriously, Instagram. And they forget that first of all, it's the pleasure of the picture. And I think if they could exclude the competition factor, and all these stories of trying to get more followers, and thinking about numbers and thinking less about content... I think if we could try to make Instagram a little bit more peaceful place just to enjoy the beauty, I think it would be the best way to develop. It's the only thing that upsets me about Instagram.
And finally, who do you like to follow on Instagram?
Photographers’ accounts like @chrisburkard, @alexstrohl, @benjaminhardman and travel and lifestyle accounts like @local_ milk, @gypsealust, @travel_inhershoes are an inspiration.
Follow Anna here and read her blog here.