Kristina was Georgina Graham's assistant before branching out on her own. Since then, she has established herself as a make up artist who is primarily based in London. Kristina's work has been featured in 10 Men, AnOther, Dazed Digital, Harpers Bazaar, i-D, Interview, Off Black, Purple, SHOWstudio, and many more.
This interview took place via email between Tate in New York and Kristina in London
TVPS: How did you get to where you are today?
KRA: I worked in the fashion industry in general at first after art school trying out styling and then PR before going into makeup as I’ve always loved beauty but didn’t really see it as a job option when I was younger. I think it’s different now with celebrity makeup artists and social media; there’s a lot more openness around it. I spent 3 years as the first assistant to Georgina Graham who really trained me before branching out on my own.
What was your role when assisting Georgina?
I assisted her with anything she needed, so working on shoots and shows both on set and also the prep work before it. Moodboards, research, kit prep, product research as well as being generally on hand when needed and a lot of traveling at the last minute.
How did you know you were ready to branch out on your own?
I don’t think you ever stop learning so I could have kept going but I started to feel more confident in my own work, and that I had a solid base to start from. Georgina has always been incredibly supportive which gave me that extra push to take off the training wheels so to speak.
How do you work with the team of stylists, photographers, hair stylists, etc. to bring a story to life?
It’s a very collaborative process; sometimes the concept comes from the photographer or the stylist or a theme from a magazine or if it’s beauty then the concept usually comes from myself or the hair stylist. Everyone adds an element to bring it together using various references.
How long does the process normally take?
It’s so different on every shoot, occasionally you get a lot of prep time and everyone might be able to meet before, but sometimes it’s just a lot of email back and forth. Then sometimes you just turn up and go for it!
On the other hand if it’s a beauty concept coming from me it can take a couple of weeks to get into place, maybe even a couple of months if you are waiting on a specific girl or location to shoot.
What is your process from concept to shoot to final image?
I do a lot of moodboards when I’m putting together a concept, and it often changes through little tweaks once you’ve decided on a model as it, of course, has to work with their face.
So it may be based on an initial reference image or concept, and then I spend time finding more references in books, Google searches or even Instagram.
There is so much information available now it can be difficult to sift through but most of the time I know what I’m after and so I search based on keywords, photographers or models. On set you have a rough idea of how many shots you want based on looks (clothes or beauty), and so you work to that. Sometimes things change though and you have to be flexible as something you have in your head won’t always work on camera so you may need to change it up or have the confidence to take it off entirely. After the shoot, it’s a case of editing and selecting final images with the photographer.
Do you have a specific moment that you look back on and think, "Wow, I've made it." or "I can't believe I did that, I've come so far"?
There isn’t so much a specific moment as such, this job in general just throws you around, so you don’t always have that time to reflect! From all night video shoots in London to road trips through Lithuania & Andalucia every experience is always exciting.
What is one of your favorite experiences? How did it come about?
I don’t have a particularly favorite experience, but I always feel so privileged to be able to shoot in some amazing locations such as Lithuania & Ibiza beaches as well as incredible architectural buildings. Whether it's brutalist London design or beautiful old churches in Andalucia, my husband is an architectural designer so I am a bit hard wired to appreciate these things.
How is your vision unique?
I like women to look real even if there is a fantasy element to a makeup look that I’m creating; I think the woman needs to be believable.
It’s important for the viewer to be able to relate on some level to the woman. So much of what is portrayed now within beauty is so utterly unattainable that women look like dolls. That’s not a beauty I buy into.
Is what you do art?
I’d say it’s artistic. Art has many different levels and aspects so I’m sure some would consider it to be art but I’m not sure if I do.
Is it important to present yourself as a brand? If so, how do you obtain that?
Unfortunately, in the social media heavy world, we now live in you do need to consider how you present yourself as a brand. That said I think if you try and fake it, people notice. So for me, it’s more about keeping it professional with a small element of personal, a mixture of work, inspirations, and the occasional dog photo!
What was your biggest learning experience?
Getting pitched into Milan Fashion Week as a 1st assistant with Georgina with 6 weeks experience!
I was responsible for running the team and making sure everyone was supported in creating the makeup for the show that Georgina had designed.
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on?
I have multiple favorite projects and every time I shoot new ones they become my favorites. I love the beauty story I shot for BON with Agnes Lloyd Platt and also my recent Forget Them story with Mate Moro but honestly the list could go on and on…
Favorite makeup artists?
Georgina Graham, Tom Pecheux, Inge Grognard, and Diane Kendal.
Who do you look up to?
Georgina Graham has been a real mentor to me and is also a good friend; I look up to her in every way. She’s given me a thorough grounding within the makeup industry and taught me how to keep a cool head in a stressful situation.
A lot of people are moving towards a more natural look for editorials, does this make your job more creative or less?
People often dismiss the no makeup look as something that is just easy and requires no effort, but I think it’s just a different way to be creative. When you have a look that is understated, you need to think outside the box and look at texture and tone and how you can still convey a message without anything obvious.
How does your role change when you are working on a moving image versus a still editorial?
With moving image, there is no retouching, or if there is it is seriously expensive, so you have to be very aware of what you see on camera and the lighting. Sometimes what you see in the makeup room is not what appears on the camera so it can be tricky. It’s also moving so again you need to be conscious of every single angle.
Why do you want to be an MUA?
I am a beauty product junkie, and I love creating beauty. I am obsessed by texture and color but I work better in 3d than I do on a flat surface.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Intriguing Real Beauty.
What do you like most about being a makeup artist in 2016?
I love the freedom of makeup now and the platforms available. Brands and magazines are more open to conceptual makeup as well as classic and clean.
What is your take on this generation and where are we headed?
I think this generation has such a strong belief that anything is possible and I love that, with technology developing as fast as it is I’m excited so see what will be developed next.
How would you like to see this industry evolve?
I’d love to see more diversity within the industry; I think it’s getting better but I’d love for it to be more of a normality and not just something trend led.
What advice would you give to a kid who looks up to you?
You have to be very fluid to work in this industry as the schedule changes on a daily basis. Also, you need to be prepared to work seriously hard. And never stop working seriously hard. No one will push you more than yourself.