Russian-born photographer Anastasia Kuba moved to California in 2003 and has gone through a couple metamorphoses: from topless dancer to boudoir photographer to now breaking the internet with her project Nothing But Light, her nude photography project that has blown up this past year. For it, she photographed over 80 participants mostly from the Bay Area: cis women, trans women, cis men, trans men, genderqueer individuals; all of various ages, sizes and backgrounds, all under the premise that respect is a human right. Kuba's Nothing But Light project exemplifies the kind of radical environment San Francisco can foster for artists pushing their work into new territories. Here we talk to her about the city and what keeps her here.
What keeps you in San Francisco?
San Francisco is a city where you can walk for hours, and walking is very important part of my life. I need time to walk every single day for hours. It's my alone time, how I process things. And in San Francisco, I can walk, and it's gorgeous, any direction, just beautiful. It's also the weather—I like fall, and I feel like in San Francisco, it's fall all the time, always fall. And I live right by the water, and that's amazing, and I'm near a park, and my routine walk is from my house to Sutro Baths and back. It's long, I don't do it everyday. If I need to think about something, that's my walk. I don't take my phone and watch, no idea how long it takes me. I've done it so many times, but I've never timed it. This is a city, and it's very rich, but if you need a minute, you're right next to wild nature, a short walk away. You walk this way from Duboce Park for twenty minutes, and you're downtown. You bike this way for twenty minutes, and you're at the ocean! Rough and gloomy and windy and serious and foggy and dramatic. I don't feel trapped here. It's very easy to start feeling trapped in the city, concrete everywhere. You need a minute sometimes to not be on concrete. Not be trapped. And for that, I would need water, a big body of water. And the fact that I live right next to the largest body of the water calms me down. You used to live in the Mission—where do you go back to hang out in the Mission for a drink?
I would take someone to get a glass of wine or beer at Radio Habana Social Club. In fact, I would take someone to have coffee or chai or anything really at Radio Habana, just sit there and enjoy all the creepy art around, because it's great. Definitely Radio Habana while it's still around. What's another place in walking distance you'd go for a drink?
Hotel Biron is a wine bar on Row Street, a tiny street and beautiful bar. It's a wine bar, a lot of tables, where you go to take a table with someone, a date place. It's quite quiet there—you can actually sit and hear someone there. It's not a big bar, and people aren't on top of one another. Where do you go for breakfast?
If it's Saturday or Sunday, I go to Cafe Soleil because it's near where I live in the Haight, and on Saturday or Sunday, it has these amazing Spanish tortillas. I'm the kind of person who gets obsessed, orders the same thing over and over again until I never go there again. I ignore the rest of the menu. Comes with eggs and potatoes and amazing sauce, kind of like a potato frittata with a huge salad, amazing sauce. I don't eat meat really. You can order it with meat, but I order avocado.
What if you just want to chill out someplace, what's a good spot for that?
Thorough Bread and Pastry on Church Street, right near by, it has this stunning patio, amazing backyard. You would never expect it. Giant trees, you're sitting in the middle of a forest pretty much. It's amazing. There are flowers everywhere. It's so great, and there are these amazing croissants, pastry, amazing coffee. If I have a free morning and I want to sit and read, that's where I would go alone—go by myself to read something alone during the weekday. If I don't want to be alone, I go to Mission Pie, that's for anything. That's where you go to talk to someone. I would go to sit there for an hour and have a conversation and eat pie. Great pies.
You work a lot on your laptop for photography, right? Where do you go when you need to work?
I go to Haus Coffee, 24th and Folsom. That's the place to go to work for several reasons: It has really good and sturdy tables, plugs, and fast internet. A lot of places don't have that because they specifically don't want people to sit there on laptops. At Haus Coffee, it has wooden sturdy tables you can sit, and they don't shake, and it's amazing.