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Emotional Storytelling with Twyla Jones

Oct 5, 2020

If you went viral on Instagram and gained 50,000 followers overnight, would you delete your whole account and start fresh?


That’s exactly what Kristina Kashtanova did.


This deep soul is not only a talented photographer, creating epic conceptual art, but she’s also a deep thinker and has a powerful way with words. She’s going to inspire you with her outlook and mindset on life and the world. While her work is stunning and can speak for itself, you’re going to really want to hear the heart behind all that she does.


From deleting her Instagram to building a greenhouse in her backyard and sewing face masks in them, Kristina follows the beat of her own drum and gives you permission to do the same.


Kristina’s Photography Journey. 

Kristina is a Russian Photographer based in New York City. She got her start in photography taking photos of insects in London while studying journalism. After finishing her degree in journalism, she went fully into photography. Her passion became for capturing movement – yoga and dance specifically – and has now moved into conceptual artwork.

She’s starting building sets and you can see the behind the scenes process here on youtube!

Finding your own voice and style. (10:00)

“I wanted to have my own style and I didn’t know how to find it and how to even start to find anything different because there is so much there. Then I was just exploring… looking within myself and meditating a lot and doing reflective things like journaling.” She realized what brought her joy – when she created her conceptual shoots like the flying candles shoot, she realized it was what made her come alive.

How she took this amazing Golden Gate Bridge self portrait. (17:00)

Kristina loves capturing other people, but will photograph herself when she doesn’t have another subject. She uses an intervalometer remote that can control the delay.

She took all her self portraits for 3 years in THIS dress. (19:00)

She got this beautiful vintage dress from another shoot and has started carrying it with her everywhere and capturing the dress in a variety of situation. 

We talk about getting up and catching the sunrise. (22:00)

Kristina has spent lots of time capturing sunrises – including in big cities where it’s the only time it’s quiet so she’s had clients get up early to shoot the sunrise. It’s always worth it to get up and capture the light. 

Kristina’s advice for dealing with comparison and having a healthy mindset. (28:00)

A few years ago, she started on a journey of mindfulness, meditation, and diving deep into her thoughts. She ended up hospitalized for mental health, despite having never noticing many issues before. Therapy was super helpful and that’s how she got into yoga and meditation. Feelings of unworthiness and not feeling good enough motivated her to become really good at something – she used to be a software engineer. Then she found writing and then photography. 

When she was a beginner, she found it so much easier to believe in herself and be proud of her work. As she continued to grow and push herself and be surrounded by amazing artists, comparison crept in. But you need to focus on your own photographers and compare with yourself. Attention never could satisfy her – “it’s never enough because the human mind always wants more.” Instead of focusing on getting better, she focused on digging deep into herself. Unconditional love is a huge powerful force. She separated her art and herself – they are two different things.

Kristina deleted a 50,000 follower account and started from scratch. (39:00)

“I think it changed myself because now I have 1,600 followers, which is much less than 50,000 but the community is so beautiful.” She was able to give back to her community and do volunteer work together. We need to remember context – 1,000 people is still a huge number! But it becomes such a comparison game. The quality of your work should be more important than how many people are following. 

The story + process behind these images Kristina created for her friend Spencer. (49:15)

When she moved to New York, she was really struggling to make friends and hated living there. She met a friend through social media who felt the same way and they bonded over it. They went to a photography exhibition together. Kristina wasn’t sure if her friend was a male or female and at the time wasn’t comfortable just asking about pronoun. From facebook images, Kristina decided they were a “she.” The friend had long, beautiful black hair and Kristina took a portrait that felt like was the first portrait of a female she had ever liked and the friend shared that the friend was a man and identified as “he.” They were friends through the transition and eventually decided to create this set of images telling his story. 


Kristina’s greenhouse in New York City and what she’s doing with her sewing machine. (57:30)

As she started building her sets in January, her reason was based out of the dream to build a sculpture for Burning Man festival. Building sets helped her to explore herself and experimenting, Anything that would have normally been thrown away, she turned into a set. And it doesn’t have to be perfect, because you can always photograph it.

Then, I thought of building something really cool and decided to build a greenhouse in her backyard. It’s not in a convenient location because it’s surrounded by streetlights and other lights so it became difficult to control. She wasn’t sure exactly what she should be doing with the greenhouse, but when the pandemic hit and she realized there was a need for face masks, she started making them. At first, it was just for close friends and then it ended up being a huge project and she’s made hundreds of face masks.

Her final advice for us all is to dig deeper into yourself. Find inspiration and apply it in your own way – which happens when you create from deep within.

“Patience. It takes time. Believe in yourself and eventually it’ll happen.”