By Isabella Cook
Academy of Art University School of Photography (PH) alumna Yana Mostitsky is, by all measures of the word, accomplished. Not only has she successfully joined the ranks of entrepreneurial Bay Area photographers with her own company, Yanamy Photography, but she also hosted her first solo exhibition, “My Witty Remarks,” on Friday, April 14, in the first-floor gallery at 625 Sutter St.
Mostitsky did not originally set out to become a photographer. Instead, she attended university in Israel, pursuing first her B.A. in biology at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and immediately following it with her M.Sc. in biochemistry and plant biology from Tel Aviv University.
“My initial career was in the life science industry, chemistry and such,” explained Mostitsky. “For about 10 years, I did research and published the results, then I came to California with my family, and from there, I switched to photography.”
Though Mostitsky did not show a passion for the arts as a child or young adult, she grew to enjoy photography while taking product photos for her and her friend’s accessory store on Etsy.
“Somebody had to take pictures, so I just grabbed a camera and started doing just that,” said Mostitsky.
Product photography sparked Mostitsky’s interest, and she soon turned her lens to the pursuit of portraiture.
“I realized that I wanted to shift to photography,” said Mostitsky. “I think if you need to get somewhere, you find a way to get there, and that’s why I decided to pursue a master’s degree at the Academy of Art University.”
Mostitsky self-describes her style as a mix of surrealism, humor, and simplicity, based largely on the realm of stylized conceptual works. She incorporates elements of her commercial skill set into her creative projects, a talent she honed at the Academy while working on her professional photography portfolio and her business.
“The images [at ‘My Witty Remarks’] are not of a particular body of work because it’s images I’ve been creating over some years from across my styles,” explained Mostitsky. “With some, I look at the person and find the best angle that will work for them; I try to find tenderness and beauty in my subject, which is what will be seen in the portraits.”
The opening night of “My Witty Remarks” was quite the affair. The spacious gallery was full-to-bursting with supportive friends, family, former instructors, and fans alike. The catered appetizers disappeared quickly, though the guests notably lingered as they passed by the various photos on display.
Mostitsky’s mentor, PH Associate Director Timothy Archibald, was among those in attendance. “Yana, she really is someone who knows how to get what she wants or, if not that, knows how to get herself into the position to find someone who can help her get what she wants,” said Archibald. “[My] helping with her portfolio is a great example of that, as we didn’t have a formal class together “
“What’s exciting for me as a teacher is the work [Yana] did after graduation,” continued Archibald. “Her work, her voice, its evolution—it’s all on display in this gallery right now.”
Mostitsky’s family also attended the exhibition, including her husband Gregory and her two children, Olivia and Alice.
“My mom’s cool—I want to be like her one day,” said Alice Mostitsky. “That or be a teacher…like my teacher!”
Following the opening event of her exhibition, Mostitsky moved the celebration to Upcider, an all-cider tap house down the street. There, she celebrated her work with friends, family, and supporters.
“I think the exhibition went amazing,” reflected Mostitsky. “It was a full house—my teachers were impressed by the turnout. ‘We have never seen this room so full,’ they told me.”
“The vibe was great,” she concluded. “My team (stylists, make-up artists, assistants) did their part and explained a bit about the shoots. Models were there, strolling among their images, which was fun. All my teachers were there, which was very important to me. I was definitely overwhelmed with the number of people and tried to do my best and give a couple of minutes to each one.”