This Zine Celebrates the Female Body in Its “Raw and Authentic” Form

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To Be Or To Become
To Be Or To BecomePhotography by Kristina Shakht

New York-based photographer Kristina Shakht talks us through her first ever zine, which aims to show women the way we see ourselves

Kristina Shakht has a distinctly gentle approach to photographing women’s bodies. Through her soft – yet quietly powerful – approach to portraiture and the often over-sexualised female nude, Shakht aims to celebrate the beauty of the female form, just as it is. Or as she puts it – “Raw and authentic. Unique and strong.”

As a survivor of sexual assault, Shakht has used her creative practice to deal with her trauma connected to sex and sexuality, giving her subjects space to feel “pure and free” – which helps her feel the same. “I do think that all work for me is therapeutic,” she tells AnOther. “It’s like my lifetime art therapy.” 

Shakht’s latest body of work – her first zine, To Be Or To Become – is a culmination of this therapeutic process. Bringing together portraits of women, as well as beautiful floral photography, taken between 2020 and 2021, the publication is the result of a collaboration with friend and co-editor Liliya Shapran and artist Bren Cukier – who created the free-flowing typography on the zine’s cover – along with hair stylist Timur Katz and florist Michelle Pelletier.

Creating the zine for women, Shakht says its pages explore “the way we feel ourselves, the way we move, think, and live beyond sexuality and being sexual.” Here, in her own words, the photographer tells us more about the process of making To Be Or To Become:

“My work has become deeper and better during the pandemic. First of all, because of all the time I spent alone without having to socialise. It was sort of a long-term retreat. I feel like I changed over this past year, my work changed, and I wanted to capture that. I’ve always wanted to create a book or a zine, and this is a first step in exploring physical ways of sharing my work with an audience.

“To Be Or To Become is a collection of photos that I made from 2020 and 2021 shot on Polaroid600, 35mm film, and iPhone, which are a representation of femininity and sexuality from a female perspective. It’s a self-published zine, and the images in it create a story that is my way of reframing negative experiences connected with sex and sexuality as a young woman. Taking the power back by showing women the way we see ourselves – pure, free, raw and natural.

“[The zine explores the] modern-day female experience: the way we feel ourselves, the way we move, think, and live that’s beyond sexuality and being sexual. I wanted to show that naked body doesn’t mean sexual, that it can be just body.

“Most of the people who are featured in I met during the pandemic. They all trusted my vision while I was figuring out my visual language and where I saw my photography going. All the models are just incredible humans that I adore and was happy to capture, most of them are my friends. 

“We had so much fun creating every single image and story and a lot of fun while creating the zine, we didn’t have any big expectations. I want it to live beyond me, my friends and family, to be a collection of beautiful images celebrating women that others will enjoy and feel inspired by. I hope it will make women see themselves in a new, raw way.”

To Be Or To Become is available from June 6 via