Backgroound Image

Signe Pierce: a vibrant, hyperreal, holographic spectacle with vaporwave vibes

New York-based contemporary multimedia artist Signe Pierce self-identifies as a reality artist, exploring the blurred lines between art and technology, between art and life, and the concept of heightened reality through her neon urban signature photographic style characterised by a glamorous, saccharine aesthetic. The vibrant colour palette she uses is dominated by bright pink and purple hues, adding a different dimension to mundane urban landscapes. The chromatic excess emphasises artificiality, as the artist provides a visual commentary on the nature of reality in the digital world.

Signe Pierce embraces the idea of ‘unreality’ and takes it to extremes in her lurid, holographic paradise. The viewer entering her world is mesmerised, distracted, trapped in hyperreality. Beautifully influenced by her environment and the chaos of New York, her work provides a glimpse into an augmented version of the famous city for the outsider to be virtually immersed into. Since her art is of a meta-referential nature, it shouldn’t be surprising that it self-consciously depicts the ubiquity of commercial ads and photography, phone screens, screens in general, which, instead of piercing into her world, are rather being harmoniously incorporated in it.

The almost aggressive, consistent use of pink and light purple tones reveals a feminist preoccupation with what is considered stereotypically girly- being subverted by the themes depicted, such as consumerism, surveillance, hyper-reality, and assertive hyper-femininity. The artist not only plays with visual perceptions by depicting fluid forms and using distorted liquefied shapes in some of her pictures, she also challenges perceptions of femininity, by blurring the line between the objectifier and the objectified and portraying the female figure as provocative and strong.

The slick fashion commercial aesthetic of the photographs is reminiscent of surreal fashion horror films such as Nicolas Winding Refn’s Neon Demon and the urban vividness of cyberpunk cinematography. At the same time, her frequently updated Instagram feed includes cinematic photographs depicting a constantly wired, overstimulated world. Some elements often featured in her universe are mirrors, eyes, technological devices, shiny, holographic pieces of clothing, reflecting lights, rainy cityscapes, strip malls, and a lush, stunningly illuminated mise-en-scene. In addition to emphasising the inherent ‘simulacrum’ nature of the urban experience in New York, Signe Pierce’s hyperreal sensory spectacle merges perceptions of reality and simulation to make the viewer question the nature of truth and reality in contemporary society.

Alex Prager’s uncanny film stills: vivid, glamorous depictions of alienation

Fascinated by the mysterious quality of the colour photographs of William Eggleston, a 20 year-old Alex Prager decided to buy a professional camera and dark room equipment in order to express herself creatively through images, in her quest for existential meaning. 18 years later, on show at the Photographers’ Gallery in London, the Silver Lake Drive exhibition represented a mid-career examination of her distinctive photographic and filmic work.

The internationally-acclaimed images of crowds, staged by the artist, portray a sense of emptiness and disconnection underneath the polished façade of active, compact crowds. It can be seen as a subtle commentary on the continuous, superficial interconnectedness that disguises individual alienation: everyone is self-preoccupied and follows their own narrative. There is an intertwining line between the public and the private- groups of people finding themselves in the same space, unaware of or uninterested in the silent stories hidden in the others’ eyes and in their conflicting facial expressions.

Often shot from above, from voyeuristic angles, Alex Prager’s still photographs always have a cinematic quality: they seem to be frozen film stills, presenting a fragment of a greater narrative; which is the main reason the self-taught artist decided to create short films conveying the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ moments surrounding the photographs. Through the cinematic perfection of her still images, the ordinary situations depicted become compelling: the staged details in deep focus, the strange lighting, the highly stylised and saturated aesthetic, all render the reality of her world in a glamourous and glossy way. However, despite the hyper-real and sometimes eerily perfect nature of the pictures, the essence of this world lies in the portrayal of a disturbing emotion, hence there is always a sense of authenticity beyond the artificial fictive layer.

The focus on emotion has been acknowledged by the artist and made particularly obvious in her short film, “Despair”. This early piece adopts characteristics of her general cinematic sources of inspiration, including Hollywood melodrama, silent movies, film noir, art house cinema, as well as Hitchcock and Lynch. The atmosphere dictating her work is ominous, as if tragedy always lurks around the corner – an idea reinforced by the recurrent theme of the vanishing woman, which can also be found in her more recent film shot in Paris, La Grande Sortie.

Gregory Crewdson’s uncanny cinematic photography

Gregory Crewdson’s dark, atmospheric, cinematic photographs capture perfectly framed frozen moments incorporating disconnected figures which seem to reflect the domestic and natural landscapes they inhabit; the mundane landscapes are often characterised by an eerie solitude and transformed into something otherworldly, haunting, and compelling. His photographs seem to both reveal and conceal something, creating ambiguous narratives – they are both stills of life and embodiments of the uncanny. The boundaries between life and art, between intimacy and isolation, between strange and familiar environments are blurred.

The cinematic nature of his work is also reflected in the complex process of creating and staging his images: there is a large crew involved in various aspects of production; props, casting, storyboards, and the natural world is heightened by the use of artificial Hollywood-style lighting and effects such as artificial rain and ice.

In his interviews, Gregory Crewdson emphasises the importance of the visual balance between the figure, the interior space, and the exterior space; the feeling of transience and the sense of in-between-ness evoked by his images, the enigmatic moments between other unknown moments, the visual commentary on the human condition, the portrayal of flesh, nudity, aging, vulnerability, and mortality.

Crewdson’s aesthetic incorporates American suburban surrealism, and the mise-en-scène usually features windows, mirrors, bleak settings shown in a mysterious, ghostly light. His photographs are windows into the intimacy of a world filled with hidden unsettling desires.

The characters created often seem alienated, immersed in deep thought, in cosmic loneliness, internal conflict, or a longing for something ineffable. Their expressions are pensive, focused on something beyond the world depicted, at times introspective. The feelings evoked are anticipation – frozen in time, subconscious disquiet, and estrangement.

Crewdson’s photography reminds us of the suspense, sadness, and solitude of Edward Hopper’s paintings, of Diane Arbus’ bizarre and psychologically intense photographic portraits of people on the margins of society, of William Eggleston’s saturated depictions of seemingly normal, mundane settings behind which something disturbing seems to lurk; as well as the surreal quality of the films of David Lynch.

Crewdson’s series include Cathedral of Pines, Twilight, and Beneath the Roses.

Interview with Fine Art Photographer Kalliope Amorphous

Kalliope Amorphous’ haunting, evocative work encompasses conceptual, ethereal self-portraits exploring the unconscious mind, the plurality and elusiveness of the self, the realm of dreams, memory, archetypes, our ephemeral nature, trauma, the deconstruction of identity, and states of isolation and transcendence.

DM: A significant part of your artistic work consists of conceptual self-portraits – particularly diaphanous self-representations. Marina Warner mentions that mirror reflections can be associated with both integration and estrangement; this is also true of self-portraits, through which the dichotomy between self and other can be explored. What impact have your self-portraits and the process of doubling had on your self-image?

KA: That analysis resonates so strongly with my process and it is funny you mentioned it, because I am currently reading “Phantasmagoria” by Marina Warner. It’s always been a very therapeutic but also difficult process for me, specifically because I have always struggled with both my own self image and the themes that I explore (isolation, death, and time). Self portraits allow me to step outside of the miasma of my own mind and look at the emotions that I struggle with as something fixed and tangible. In the past, I used to say that I didn’t view these as self portraits and that I was essentially playing out characters. I think the greatest impact is that, after over a decade of doing this work, I can finally see and admit that all of the expression is a reflection of myself and my inner world.

DM: Do you go through a process of mental self-examination when you give birth to the concepts behind your photographs, or do ideas (sometimes) come to you spontaneously?

KA: It’s almost always spontaneous, because I just love to work that way. Usually I will start with a very basic theme or idea and let it unfold. I try to work from my subconscious and put my analytical mind on pause as much as possible.

DM: There is a certain fluidity in your depictions of the Self as something elusive, that flows and changes shape. This is reminiscent of definitions of identity as a collection of different perceptions, impressions, and thoughts. Virginia Woolf said “I am rooted, but I flow”, which can be interpreted to refer to the fluidity of identity, as if parts of us are fluid, ever shifting, but there is also a more unshakable core, something immutable that makes us who we are. As Hume says, when you enter most intimately into what you call yourself, what do you find? Can you convey that in photographs? To quote Whitman, “There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises, independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal. This is the thought of identity — yours for you, whoever you are, as mine for me.” Do you feel that photographs can capture the essence of your Self, if you believe there is such a thing?

KA: These are wonderful quotes and the quote by Virginia Woolf is one of my favorites. I think that the pursuit of capturing that essence is why many artists are driven to create. For me, I believe that there is an ego and personality based version of self as well as a higher Self that can encompass universal human experience. I try to vacillate between the two of them and hope that somewhere between them there is something that feels like a glimpse of truth, whether my own truth or something more universal. In the same breath, I don’t think it can ever be captured, but the desire to try is what drives the need to create art.

DM: What elements and themes would you say are intrinsic to your shots?

KA: Isolation, separation, the passing of time, loss, birth, decay, female power, and the potential for a light at the end of the tunnel. There always tends to be a darkness, but I think there is also a sense of hope.

DM: Your inner world seems to be your main inspiration; do you have any particular external muses as well?

KA: I am very inspired by music, nature, and animals. These things all elevate my mind and spirit and inspire me in different ways. I am also inspired by the human spirit in general, specifically the struggle to triumph over adversity, to come into its own power, and to love.

DM: Does your artistic identity seep through in everyday life?

KA: There isn’t really a separation at all. My everyday life has been devoted to art for a very long time and I am fortunate that I don’t have to wear any other hats or suppress any aspects of myself.

DM: You have previously emphasised your hyperawareness of the passing of time and the fragile nature of our lives- preoccupations which are also reflected in your work. Do thoughts of the ephemeral nature of human beings depress you, or do you feel reconciled with this aspect of life? Does art have an influence in this sense?

KA: I don’t think I feel reconciled with it. My default nature is a bit melancholy and making art is my attempt to reconcile with all of that. Going into a session to create new work, no matter what the form of art is, always feels like going into a room with death. Roland Barthes’ “Camera Lucida” really resonates with me in the way that he discusses how photography and death co-mingle. It happens when I practice painting or music as well. Whatever the art form is, there are always a lot of intense emotions swirling around. This prevailing sort of existential dread coupled with awe at the beautifully fleeting parts of our existence are what drives me to create.

DM: Some of your self-portraits revolve around inner duality and contradictions. The inner conflict arising from the multitudes within the self has been considered by some artists to be the essence of creativity. What do you think about this?

KA: I think this is very true. I have always felt frustrated by the limits of only being able to express one thing at a time, as if my body is too small to express what I want to express. I think the doubling and twinning that I am constantly drawn to feels like a way to make more room somehow.

DM: What is your view regarding the notion of soul and what do you believe is the role of art in the definition of soul? Do you believe art can lead to spiritual enhancement?

KA: I think that art can bring us very close to the notion of the soul and I feel this is why being in a museum can feel akin to a sort of religious experience to many people. Based on what I have personally experienced,  I believe that the soul is that which contains all possibilities and is enduring. Art can give us a glimpse of that which contains all possibilities and is enduring, so I think they are very intertwined.

DM: Memory is a theme you explore in your photographs as well. How far back do you go in your creative process? Do childhood memories play any role in your work? If not in an obvious way, perhaps only symbolically, as a form of inspiration?

KA: Specific memories from my childhood don’t play a part, but it’s more of a vague interpretation of the emotions connected to those memories or to certain times. I was a quiet, sensitive, creative, bookworm as a child and I never related to other children because I felt like more of an adult. I didn’t fit in at all and was ostracized and bullied, so I think some of the themes of isolation and otherness probably began with those very early memories. I do cull a lot of symbolism from early memories, traumas, and experiences.

DM: Do you ever feel pulled towards a different aesthetic, narrative, or conceptual concern than what has become your signature style?

KA: I think that my signature style for my self portraits will always have a certain aesthetic, because it’s a reflection of my inner landscape and I don’t think I will ever be finished exploring and working out certain themes. I do gravitate toward different aesthetics in my other bodies of visual art though.

I have an ongoing series of New York City street photography, which is a different sort of narrative and aesthetic. Still, it does retain a certain feel that can compare to the mood of my self portraiture work. My street photography seeks to do the same thing my self portraiture does, but through a different narrative. Again, it’s the passing of time, the fleeting beauty, a sense of wistfulness. I also work with glitch art, which is very different aesthetically, but explores themes of synchronicity and decay. Even in my olfactory art, those same themes are there. The aesthetic definitely spills across all of the different art forms that I work in.

DM: What are some other themes you would like to explore in your future work?

KA: It has been a little while since I have done a new series, but as I approach my fifth decade, I find myself thinking a lot about aging, specifically how women confront aging. This is a theme that I have been thinking about lately, because the physical aspect of my self portraiture will naturally change as I age and I have wondered what that might look like or mean for me. I don’t have any idea what that might look like, but I have a feeling it will be an integral theme for me in future work. My Glass Houses series is also something that I have wanted to expand on. The flexible mirrors are something I love to work with and I am definitely going to dive deeper into them in the future, because I feel like I have only scratched the surface.




Interview with Analogue Fine Art Photographer and Storyteller Brittany Markert

Brittany Markert’s daring introspective artwork resurrects the intimate, haptic process of analogue photography to create expressive, conceptual portraits encapsulating the spirit undergoing metamorphoses in photographic form, whilst at the same time freeing it and exorcising inner demons through cathartic expression. Rooted in Jungian psychoanalytic concepts, her visual narrative explores the repression of fears, repulsion and desires, the figure of the double, the polarities of the psyche, whilst everything is shown through a complex female gaze. Brittany’s art is of an unsettling yet alluring nature, as her visceral depictions of intense states of mind have the power of both enticing and terrifying the viewer. Her project, “In rooms” is a symbolic mnemonic device, a place carrying echoes of her psychological journey, a way of fulfilling the process of shadow work, and ultimately, a mirror in which each viewer sees whatever resonates with them the most.

DM: Your captivating visual diary is constructed from conceptual portraits and self-portraits, exploring sexuality, identity, mortality, and emotional states. Would you like to walk us through your emotional or psychological journey and the intimate meaning of the symbolism so evocatively and artistically portrayed in your photographs?

BM: In the back of my books are the words “For all the words I could never write, the camera became my pen”. Each year that passes by deeper layers of the unconscious are unraveled and frozen in a glass display for all to dissect, question and process. To walk through my emotional and psychological journey with my photographs is to view my books, Volume I, II and beyond. I have laid out my work over four years chronologically, in the spirit of a personal diary. It’s up to each viewer to find meaning, to find their own psychological journey between these pages.

DM: Can you reveal the steps you take on the path to artistic completion, from concept to the final versions of your creations?

BM: Ideas come when I least expect it and begin as notes or poor sketches in my journal. Sometimes it takes years or just a few days for me to attempt bringing it to life through my camera. Typically from there I wait at least a month to develop the film. I find this important so I am emotionally detached and can view the work with fresh eyes. It’s easy to like something because it’s new, but will it stand the test of time? Receiving the processed film and contact sheets is another step. Sometimes it’s quick and I see something profound, I print it and scan the final print into my archive for my books or website. Most often it’s slow, it can take 6 months to a year or longer to finally print an image. After printing in the darkroom, it takes a day to dry the paper, a day to hot press and more to press flat. My process is incredibly slow, a good year is getting 5-15 different great images.

DM: The doubling and the multiple exposure effects frequently appear in your visual narrative. In one of your photographs, this aspect embodies a nightmarish trait, and appears to evoke an emotional metamorphosis, an embodiment of anguish. The elusive double seems to be linked with visceral agony and suicide in several instances. We also see multiple versions of the same woman, watching herself, whilst another photographic setting is reminiscent of Victorian spirit photography. What were your thoughts behind the dissociative nature of your stories and would you link it to a state of psychological disintegration?

BM: To recognize the polarities within ourselves and not accept either as the truth is to be free. This Jungian concept, the tension of the opposites, appears in my double exposures, at first unintentionally, and now with more awareness. Psychologically, Jung considers this the divine drama, we are always at battle with two distinct oppositions. Becoming aware of these polarities is the first step in the path to healing and enlightenment. My piece ‘Ode to Depression’ , a double exposed print of a woman asleep while another version of herself stands upright with a noose, is a familiar polarity capturing a part of my own and society’s battle with depression and mental health. Recognizing the innocent bystander asleep in my mind while the other begs to leave this world has saved my life. I’ve never been interested in documenting the reality of the outside world, I’m taking a microscope to the inside of the mind, the collective unconscious. The ghost like world of double and triple exposures mirrors this experience.

DM: Death and sexuality appear to be the dominant themes in your visual diary. There is a beautiful mix between fine art photography and visual erotica elements in your work, and in some ways, sexuality seems to be symbolically linked to death. The sexual activities seem “unconventional” and depicted through power plays. Would you like to elaborate on the themes of sexuality and power, as well as the link with death?

BM: Both sex and death are an intense physical release from life, a build up and movement of energy and the body. I don’t like to say what my work is or isn’t because ultimately it’s up to the viewer to decide, but I don’t see my work as sexual or physical per se, it’s more about the internal dialogue and tension within the mind.

DM: Has your photographic diary enhanced the intimacy and connection you already shared with the other models represented?

BM: To be seen deeply, and loved for the spirit you possess on the inside is a beautiful rare connection. The subjects in my work are typically lovers, close friends or kindred spirits. Sometimes this is the result of working together, or in most of the cases the work is a result of our close relationship. There is something incredibly intense and cathartic about creating the work In Rooms. Speaking from my recent 16mm endeavors, the subjects I have worked with have a type of familial connection. The exchange of creating the work this intentionally and intensely somehow bonded us by spirit, or at least me to them, but as close as this connection can be there is an equal and opposing force that also happens when I create my work. Some people are terrified of being seen deeply, so raw and vulnerably. I have experienced both the euphoria of life long relationships that feel like chosen family and the extreme sadness of connections that end abruptly because of the process of my work.

DM: You mentioned Anaïs Nin, iconic writer of erotica, as a source of inspiration on your website. What do you like the most about her work?

BM: The mention of Anais Nin in my artist statement refers to her personal diaries. She published Volumes of her life in chronological work and in the same manner I am publishing surreal diaries, in numbered volumes, in chronological order. There was a period, from 2012-2014 in which her writing became a mirror to my emotions and fed into my deep desires. The palpable lust and madness I felt reading her work revealed itself into my photography work, as have many other artists and writers over the years.

DM: What words would you use to best capture the emotions at the core of In Rooms? Are these emotions significant,-or dominant, in your life and inner world and are they temporary and cathartically released / alleviated once you express them through art?

BM: At its core, In Rooms is a realm that exists in the dark matter of our unconscious. The emotions are heavy, dense, often linked to sadness, pain, internal anguish, torment, unrequited desire and love. There are equal and opposing forces of repulsion and desire, for as much as one is seduced into the image, there is something unsettling pushing you back out. Although I live in a colorful house full of beauty and I see beauty everywhere around me, I’ve never been interested in making art about shallow or ephemeral feelings. The spirit of In Rooms is much like the gasp of air one takes before they plunge into the dark depths of waters unknown. It’s not that these feelings dominate my life, surely at times they do, but they are the ones that need to be released cathartically In Rooms.

DM: Your photographic stories unfold as intimate moments depicting human beings who beautifully connect with their vulnerabilities. In what ways did you tap into your vulnerability and the vulnerabilities of your subjects in order to fulfil your creative vision?

BM: The mind and the psychological landscapes that determine behaviors, reactions and emotions drive much of my curiosity. When I am in front of the camera, I show up with complete awareness and intention to the moment and I can only create meaningful work with others that I understand as deeply or that understand the decisive moment of creating as deeply. This takes time and what I call ‘perfect alignment’. A lot of the work involving mental health is created with close friends in which a part of our connection is to speak candidly about our mental health and suicidal ideation. The work I create about eroticism is with friends that speak candidly about their own dreams, fantasies and aspirations. I can not create work that doesn’t exist. If I attempt to force ideas or concepts onto people that don’t connect than it doesn’t work, the results will feel fake. There is fake art and photography everywhere, it’s exhausting as a highly sensitive person. I wanted to create a space for people to run to when they need to feel things vulnerably, when they wanted to be seen for who they are, not for what people think they are on the outside.

DM: At the same time, although in your work, the subjects’ nude bodies are on display- an act which is often seen as a way of relinquishing all inhibitions and fully ‘revealing’ your raw self, they are still sort of wrapped in or protected by an aura of mystery, by the unknown and so many things that are left unrevealed. Photography generally both reveals and conceals. Your photographs, however, seem to reveal a lot more whilst also concealing. The nudity is shown in artistic context, and the context is quite dreamlike, rooted in the unconscious mind. In contemporary society, it seems that posing naked is far from being the most daring form of uninhibited behaviour; revealing your true self emotionally and psychologically, unapologetically, and stripping off the layers of social disguise and conditioning is much rarer these days. As someone who is open to both ways of self-expression, is it challenging to reveal your self, to face your unconscious, to explore the darker impulses and desires of humanity, and to live a life of authenticity? Have you faced any unwarranted criticism for this?

BM: To enter the unconscious blindly, without information, is dangerous. One needs the protection of the ego and information to start the process of shadow work, of shining a light on personal and societal demons. Many of my mentors died by suicide. I went in blindly and spent years dictated by my suicidal ideation, by week long spells of crying, not washing my hair. I killed myself over and over again in my work, but that meant that I was still here in real life. I don’t wish anyone else this torment or pain, but my photographs and the process of making them saved my life. After this time I spent a lot of time researching jungian principles, psychotherapy treatments, memoirs by others with mental health disorders. This gave me protection and the ability to understand my work and actions on a deeper level. In becoming self aware I am over the hill of being blind to my unconscious and fear. The pull of suicidal ideation no longer wanes on me. It’s a miracle.

I’m lucky to not receive unwarranted criticism of my work, the people that don’t see the light in my work stay away and it seems hold their tongues. I would say, however, that I’m misunderstood frequently and judged, but this is a part of projection and entering a realm of shadows. My work becomes a mirror to many others’ suffering, pain and vulnerability and it’s unfortunate to be seen as the face in the mirror instead of their own.

When you’re coming into life and adulthood in your early twenties there is a thrill of being naked. This act of rebellion is less interesting now, but I am still pulled by the power and beauty of the human form. The most daring progressive thing you can do is to become self aware, create vulnerably and follow a path of enlightenment. Being naked is easy, it’s pleasing, but screaming vulnerably into the void while your soul and flesh drip blood of society’s torments is the challenging poetry I choose to work at every day.

DM: Roland Barthes said “The photograph represents that subtle moment when, to tell the truth, I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I then experience a micro-version of death: I am truly becoming a spectre” (from Camera Lucida). When you are photographed, you get to see yourself as “other”, as something external, and you recognise yourself in and identify with this likeness, this photographic imitation- a specific, fragmented image in time, which is less than you. On the other hand, through self-portraits the lines between self and other, between subject and object, become blurred, as you become both. This artistic reconstruction of the self can induce a re-connection with and sense of control over your image, whereas in other contexts, seeing yourself as “other” or being externally objectified could potentially have the effect of destabilisation or alienation. Do you feel that your self-portraits have any effect on your self-image and identity, and do you ever internalise this way of seeing yourself – i.e. objectifying yourself – in your life?

BM: The camera has a way of revealing that which I cannot see clearly in real life, sometimes it slaps me in the face with its revelations. It is quite dull when I look in the mirror, but the world through my camera, In Rooms, has changed the way I know myself and others forever. At first, when I blindly dove into my unconscious and came out as distinct archetypes they had a way of seeping into my real life, of confusing my actions and relationships, at times even inducing a state of psychosis or depression. It can be immensely difficult to stay strong and centered when I confront my work, which is why I create so rarely. Of course the characters and the body are me, and reveal parts of my mind, but I am not the characters. This took a lot of work and healing to safely navigate how to create my work but not let the results and image of myself be my own detriment or fate. Sometimes I feel I am boxed in by In Rooms, that my image, my body or energy is supposed to align with the work but lately I’m learning to walk away from this, to exist outside and be at peace knowing the work is just a part of me, a truth but not the truth.

DM: You have modelled for other photographers before. From a model’s perspective, are self-portraits a more freeing and rewarding experience than portraits taken by others, since you are in charge of the ways in which you present and represent yourself and your individuality? Photographing yourself nude, in particular, does it come with a sense of liberation and does it make you get in touch with your sexuality more?

BM: The act of creating out of love is freeing, I find this to be true whether I am a model or the photographer. It is rare that everyone involved on a creative set is perfectly aligned, every one eager to breath life into a piece of art. I cherish these times even if I am just an assistant on set. Modeling for others is ultimately limiting, the roles I was cast as were repetitive and not challenging. Ultimately my journey with self portraiture has been more rewarding, a path of discovery, catharsis, and creativity. I have built a life for myself with my work and this would never happen with modeling.

To be comfortable in one’s skin is liberating, to see and feel nudity as being human, not being sexual, is also liberating. There is so much taboo growing up demonizing the body and sexuality. For years of my early adulthood my body was also at the liberty of other artists, mostly the male gaze and it was empowering to see myself in a way that was my own, to take back my own story. To be an artist and create is to feel everything deeply, this includes sexuality. To present oneself as both the creator and the object of desire is to also see how others desire you, it opens up a portal of sexual advances, flirtation, relationships, etc. For awhile I was free to discover, more so than ever before because of my art, but I have grown less interested in being nude for the sake of being nude or as an act of rebellion. When nudity does appear it is a sign of comfort, of curiosity, of beauty, of being human.

DM: Your photographic style is reminiscent of Francesca Woodman’s intimate self-portraits due to the nudity depicted in black and white analogue portraits, the visual exploration of the relationship between body and space, matters of identity, and the nude female body appearing like a ghostly, elusive presence in confined spaces. The more provocative aspect summons up Nobuyoshi Araki’s depictions, interpreted through the female gaze and given a surrealist turn, and the atmosphere and aesthetic also carry echoes of Repulsion (1965). Do any of these references resonate with you in some way, or what are some sources of inspiration for your project besides Anaïs Nin?

BM: It’s mentioned in my artist bio that my work is ‘from the school of Francesca Woodman & Duane Michals. Woodman’s work became a mirror to my own feelings and understanding of the world, her work opened a door for me to believe it was possible to write my own story. I began my work at an age she never reached, in many ways I consider my project a way to keep her journey alive. There are many artists and people I owe considerably thanks to: Diane Arbus, Vivian Maier, Claude Cahun, Joel Peter Witkin, Hans Bellmer, Maya Deren, Carl Jung, Francis Bacon, Lauren Simonutti, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Catherine Robbe Grillet, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Sarah Kane, to name a few. I can’t say Araki or Repulsion had any influence or effect on my work, but I am trying to represent the female experience on genres of work that are typically accredited to men. It is frustrating that the ‘female gaze’ in photography is often delicate, sad, vulnerably with muted colors and pink. I don’t recognize myself through this lens, In Rooms is bold, intense, heavy. The gender in many cases is androgynous. In Rooms presents a gaze I couldn’t find anywhere else when I was looking for comfort, for friendships, for a place to call home in the real world, so I created my own.

DM: Talk to us about your fondness for analogue photography, whether you ever tried shooting digital, and why the latter doesn’t appeal to you as much.

BM: Lately, especially with the younger generations pull towards Tik Tok, phone apps and lack of education of the darkroom, I feel the world of analogue slipping away like sand between my fingers. It’s disheartening that the film aesthetic is more easily achieved with a few clicks of a button on a phone, but I believe so passionately in the tradition, in keeping the craft alive and physically involving my entire being in the process of creation. To touch a silver gelatin print and feel the energy of the process is something I have yet to see achieved with any digital image or print. There is a lack of connection, a lack of tenderness, between a human and a digital device. Analogue serves as a medium of the human soul, of humanity. It does not hinder the connection, but enhances it with each step, from physically building the set, cranking the film and watching the image come to life while one’s finger tips hold it wet in the developer. The entire process is profound, challenging, infuriating, and absolutely euphoric. I’d say it’s love, it is a gift, and I have zero desire to put anything, such as a digital device, that may hinder my ability to connect to humanity or communicate the inner world I feel so palpably.

DM: A photograph can be a mnemonic device and an extension of identity, but it can also have the effect of erasing the past and replacing it with an image or making your memory revolve around a particular moment or representation. There is an element of absence in any photograph: what comes before the shot, what comes after, the thoughts of the subjects, identities, and perhaps the emotions that bind people together are potentially “erased” or disguised. Your photographic project, especially since it partly features people you love, can also constitute a recording of the past. The way you represent it is symbolic, stylised, at times surreal, with an oneiric quality. To what extent do you feel your visual diary has protected memories and to what extent has it disguised or distorted your memory or your autobiographic narrative?

BM: To the extent that my work is autobiographical, it is my hope that the work is equally documenting a collective psychological experience so that when people view my work, they feel and experience their own story. I never see my photographs for what they are, as you mentioned, I see the time in my life they were created, I feel my emotional journey leading up to that point, I see the people in my life that time. The work becomes a mirror to our current times and I forgot how I created it in the first place.
In Rooms is a delicately laced web of my memories, a graveyard of love, of torment, of deep healing. I visit it to feel at peace, to thank it for guiding me to a more honest place. It protects me from the boredom and pain of reality, and presents the essence of life that is constantly changing. In Rooms is a riddle that even I can never figure out and I can only hope it continues to inspire and heal myself and others.

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Interview with French Fine Art Photographer Isabelle Féebrile

Isabelle Féebrile is a French fine art photographer and writer who creates uncanny worlds made up of phantasmagoric scenes, surreal Expressionistic settings, and cinematic tableaux intertwining the eerie with the erotic. In this interview we delve into her mind and her past, revealing more about her life, photographic approach, the beginning of her artistic journey, and her evolution.

DM: Stylised self-portraits represent a great part of your work. When have you started photographing yourself and what effect has this practice and ritual had on you – on your self-image and your life?

IF: My friend in high school had lent me her compact camera. I naturally started to take pictures of me, seeing what I looked like, as well as building characters, wearing make up that I wouldn’t have dared to otherwise. As a withdrawn teenager, very uncommunicative and hurt by the wickedness of others, photography simply helped me get out of it, to accept myself and gain confidence. Photography also allowed me to meet the people who are dear to my heart today.

DM: Your work embodies eroticism and sensuality, depicted in an unconventional, eerie, surreal way. Would you like to elaborate on this mix between the erotic and elements of horror, on the symbolism behind it?

IF: For me, eroticism would not be interesting without a hint of strange, and vice versa : no frightening without a bit of eroticism. It’s all the incongruity of the body. Both beautiful and desirable, hideous and sick. Just like Nature, in general.

L’érotisme, pour moi, ne serait pas intéressant sans un soupçon d’étrange, et inversement : pas d’effrayant sans un peu d’érotisme. C’est toute l’incongruité du corps. A la fois beau et désirable, hideux et malade. Tout comme l’est la Nature, plus généralement.

DM: Your photographs seem to depict scenes from dreams, particularly nightmares, as well as having the surreal structure of a dream. Is your visual narrative rooted in dreams or was one of your aims to create an artistic mirror of the unconscious mind?

IF: It has happened, a few times, reproducing a dream in my photography. In all cases, I like this question to be asked. What would be the use of faithfully reproducing reality? It’s well where it is ! I prefer to have fun with it. The subconscious is so rich, so interesting to try to peel.

Ca m’est déjà arrivée, quelques fois, de reproduire un rêve en photo. Dans tous les cas, j’aime qu’on se pose cette question. A quoi servirait de reproduire fidèlement la réalité ? Elle est bien là où elle est ! Je préfère m’amuser de celle-ci. L’inconscient est si riche, si interessant à tenter de décortiquer.

DM: The phantasmagorical world portrayed in your work sometimes verges on the macabre and the grotesque, incorporating eerie creatures, ghostly presences, distortions, and disjointed bodies. Do you have a fascination with death/mortality, and with occultism?

IF: Indeed, as a teenager, I went through this romantic/gothic stage : I wanted to be a witch. I was interested in fantasy, ghosts, myths, even UFOs stories ! Today, these tastes have taken a more philosophical dimension, even commitment (for example the feminist movement connected to the figure of the Witch or a way of being close to others and to nature). In fact, I’m much more interested by the living now ! : )

Adolescente, j’ai en effet eu cette période, romantique/gothique, je voulais être une sorcière. Je m’interessais au fantastique, aux fantômes, aux mythes, même aux histoires d’ovni ! Aujourd’hui, ces goûts ont pris une dimension plus philosophique, voir engagée (que ce soit le mouvement féministe relié à la figure de la sorcière ou une façon de vivre proche des autres et de la nature). En fait, je m’interesse beaucoup plus aux vivants maintenant ! : )

DM: Besides photography, you also express your creativity through written stories, videos, and music. Describe your creative process as a multimedia artist. How do you piece everything together and how do you crystallise your concepts into your multifaceted oeuvre?

IF: Today, I mainly focus on photography or creating accessories for them (masks in particular). My writing has evolved, I have written a lot of short stories with elements of fantasy, but I think I have less need to write stories because I stage them in photos. For video or music, my old equipment doesn’t allow me to do it -for the moment ! I don’t feel frustrated, I have less need to spread myself too thin; I found in the creation of masks the way to include all the facets of my art. Although, of course, when I can, I would love to come back to video. I have some ideas pending.

Aujourd’hui, je me concentre surtout sur la photographie ou la création d’accessoires pour celles-ci (les masques notamment). Mon écriture a évolué, j’ai beaucoup écrit des nouvelles un peu fantastiques mais je crois que j’ai moins besoin d’écrire des histoires car je les mets en scène en photo. Pour la vidéo ou la musique, mon vieux matériel ne me permet pas d’en faire, pour le moment. Je ne m’en sens pas frustrée, j’ai moins besoin de m’éparpiller, j’ai trouvé dans la création de masques dont je parle le moyen d’inclure toutes les facettes de mon art. Même si bien sûr, quand je le pourrai, j’aurais plaisir à revenir à la vidéo. J’ai quelques idées en attente.

DM: The aesthetic of some of your photographs incorporates unnatural shapes, distortions, stylised Expressionistic set designs, and an old horror style reminiscent of German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s. Has old horror cinema been an influence on your work, or have there been any cinematic influences on your work?

IF: I’ve always thought that photography and character creation had everything to do with cinema. Except that you have to say everything in one still image. I cannot say that the old silent films influenced me but I feel close to this aesthetic. Just like any eerie film.

J’ai toujours pensé que la photo, la création de personnages avait tout à voir avec le cinéma. Juste qu’il faut tout dire en une image fixe. Je ne peux pas dire que les vieux films muets m’aient influencée mais je me sens proche de cette esthétique. Tout comme de n’importe quel film un peu étrange aux cadrages travaillés.

DM: What inspires you? Do you experience inspiration as spontaneous bouts of energy more often or do you also go to certain places, read, or do other things to seek it out and get into that mental state of inspiration and creation?

IF: Everything can inspire me, a book, a film, everyday life, an exciting conversation … Inspiration comes when it wants to ! : )

Tout peut m’inspirer, une lecture, un film, le quotidien, une conversation passionnante… L’inspiration vient quand elle veut bien ! : )

DM: What is a day in the life of Isabelle Feebrile like? Tell us a little bit more about yourself, your lifestyle, and your interests beyond your artistic identity.

IF: Sleeping and eating a lot ! I also spend a lot of time observing my apartment, which I have filled with many objects (masks, puppets, frames, etc.). I have the incredible luxury of working for myself, at home, and to be able to be bored -which is the first condition leading to creation. Creation reflects the wish to get out of boredom, to heal oneself from reality.

Dormir et manger beaucoup ! Je passe beaucoup de temps, également, à regarder mon appartement que j’ai rempli d’objets (masques, marionnettes, cadres..). J’ai le luxe incroyable de travailler chez moi et pour moi, de pouvoir m’ennuyer -ce qui est la condition number one pour amener à la création. Créer c’est vouloir sortir de l’ennui, se guérir de la réalité.

DM: Would you say there have been changes in your artistic practice, approach, and vision along the years?

IF: Of course ! Nothing worse than staying static, not questioning anything. The 20-year-old girl who took photos to discover herself, to repair herself, to escape the family weight is no longer the same 13 years later ! Today, it’s no longer (totally) a work on pain or loneliness, but a sweet game, a source of joy, a renewal ! I like to create characters sometimes very different from me, I speak less of the intimate although I think that my photos resemble me more today, even if that seems contradictory.

Of course ! Rien de pire que de rester statique, de ne rien remettre en question. La jeune fille de 20 ans qui faisait de la photo pour se découvrir, se réparer, s’échapper du poids familial n’est plus la même 13 ans après ! Aujourd’hui, ce n’est plus (totalement) un travail sur la douleur ou la solitude, mais bien un jeu, un bonheur, un renouvellement ! J’aime créer des personnages parfois très différents de moi, je parle moins de l’intime bien que je pense que mes photos me ressemblent plus aujourd’hui, même si ça semble contradictoire.

DM: Do you feel a sense of nostalgia for the past?

IF: Not so much but I like to tap into the past. I prefer something old, handmade, that lasts over time. It is true however, that I’m often nostalgic of my past (rather than the past in general) but I prefer, a thousand times, my life, today.

Pas vraiment mais j’aime puiser dans le passé. Je préfère une chose ancienne, faite à la main, qui dure. C’est vrai toutefois, que je suis souvent nostalgique de mon passé (plutôt que du passé en général) mais je préfère mille fois ma vie, aujourd’hui.

DM: Talk to us about the concept, story, and symbolism behind your series “Les Petites”. What were the thoughts that gave birth to this strange, grim, yet enchanting collection?

IF: In this series of my work, each miniature set is made from cardboard and / or modelling clay. When I was little, I loved to draw but I wasn’t very good. This series is a happy playground, which allows me to break the limits imposed by photography (by inventing a place, an object, a body), because here everything starts from scratch, everything is malleable, everything can be carved, painted, modelled, mixed… like a drawing. Besides, everything begins with a sketch. So, I create my own reality.

Dans cette série particulière de mon travail, chaque décors miniature est construit avec du carton et/ou de la pâte à modeler. Quand j’étais petite, j’adorais dessiner mais je n’étais pas très bonne. Cette série est un joyeux terrain de jeu, qui me permet de briser les limites qu’impose la photographie (on n’invente pas un lieu, un objet, un corps), car ici tout part de zéro, tout est malléable, tout peut être découpé, peint, modelé, mélangé, ce en quoi ma façon de travailler se rapproche du dessin. D’ailleurs, tout commence par un croquis. Ainsi, je crée ma propre réalité.

DM: What words would you use to best describe the stories you convey within your art?

IF: Dream – Persona – Feminine

DM: A lot of your photographs feature peculiar masks, made by yourself- what significance do masks have for you?

IF: I make my masks starting from the shape of my face. Resembling, yet different. By creating a double, we are protected by the very nature of it : a distance is created, a distance which is already there with the makeup or the costume, but which is exacerbated by the mask. On this double, we can transpose everything, we can talk about us but we will not be dispossessed of what we put in it. It’s just like acting. My masks are my different facets but also the companions of my daily life.

Je fabrique mes masques en partant de la forme de mon visage. Ressemblant mais autre. En créant un double, on est protégé par la nature même de celui-ci : une distance se crée, distance qui est déjà là avec le maquillage ou le costume mais qui  exacerbée par le masque. Sur ce double, on peut tout transposer, on peut parler de nous mais on ne sera pas dépossédé de ce qu’on y met. C’est exactement comme un travail d’acteur.  Mes masques sont mes différentes facettes mais aussi les compagnons de mon quotidien.

DM: What kind of reaction would you like or expect the viewer to have whilst experiencing your art?

IF: I really don’t know. Having a reaction is nice in itself ! : )

Je ne sais pas vraiment. Déjà une réaction c’est bien ! : )

DM: How do you select your models?

IF: It’s not all the same, working with a model or getting involved, it’s an exchange, it also brings a part of her (I put in feminine because I work mainly with women but it also includes men), even if I think that a successful photo will always, even in a distant way, be a form of self-portrait because we are always looking for a little of ourselves in the other. So, I imagine that I chose them because, one way or another, I find myself in them.

Ce n’est pas la même façon de travailler avec une modèle (je mets au féminin car je travaille surtout avec des femmes mais cela englobe aussi les hommes) ni de s’impliquer, c’est un échange, elle amène également une part d’elle, même si je pense qu’une photo réussie sera toujours, même d’une manière lointaine, une forme d’autoportrait car on recherche toujours un peu de nous dans l’autre. J’imagine donc que je les choisi parce que, d’une façon ou d’une autre, je me retrouve en elles.

DM: Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions? What are some concepts you would like to explore in the near future?

Exhibiting will be complicated in these times of pandemic … I’m in a great collective exhibition, in France, in the super gallery Arts Factory, made by Les Crocs Electriques (underground publishers) but I don’t know when it will be able to reopen. As for my next creation, it’s going to be a “girl-flower” mask!

Exposer va être compliqué en ces temps de pandémie… Je suis dans une super exposition collective, en France, dans la super galerie Arts Factory, made by Les Crocs Electriques (éditeurs underground) mais je ne sais pas quand elle pourra rouvrir. Qant à ma prochaine création, ça va être un masque de femme-fleur !


Interview with Neo-symbolist Photographer John Santerineross

DM: Your artistic journey revolves around Symbolism. What personal significance does (Neo-)Symbolism have to you?

JS: The symbolist movement was one that pushed the boundaries of what and how art should communicate. I am influenced by the early symbolists’ belief that “the creation of a mood is as important as the transmission of information; as it seeks to engage the entire mind and nature of the viewer, by appealing to the viewer’s emotions and subconscious, as well as to their intellect”.

DM: What is the thought process you go through when you put together the pieces making up your mystical & evocative photographs?

JS: That is a very difficult thing to answer as a lot of what I do when I work in on an instinctual level, which is not readily translated into words or thoughts I can verbalize easily.

DM: What are some photographers and other artistic figures you admire (adepts of Symbolism and not only)?

JS: I have a long list of artists that I have admired and who have been an influence on me, but I’ll list ones that are friends, with whom I communicate on a regular basis.

• Alessandro Bavari
• Daikichi Amano
• Daria Endresen
• Derek Caballero
• Jason Guffey
• Jeffery Scott
• Joachim Luetke
• Justin Kates
• Kenichi Murata
• Laurent Fièvre
• Louis Fleischauer
• Matt Lombard
• Saturno Buttò

DM: You mentioned you prefer not to give any explanations about your photographs, the personal meaning or inspiration behind them. What made you decide this?

JS: It would take away from your experience of the image. If I were to tell you that a particular image is about the time I had as a child eating a banana, that is all it would ever be in your mind, because you were given the answer. I like to make my viewer work for it. Digging deep inside them to derive an explanation or meaning.

DM: Some of your photographs incorporate religious symbolism. What are your thoughts on religion in general and what are your beliefs in this sense? Have you been religious at any point?

JS: I am a spiritual person by nature and can distinguish the good and bad in every form of organized religion. As in all things context is everything.

DM: What would you like your photography to evoke and what kind of response would you expect your viewers to experience through your art?

JS: I would hope that my images would stop someone in their tracks long enough to give them time to establish something in their mind. In this world of swiping images on a phone at an alarming rate, that is all I can hope for.

DM: Considering the uncanny as a phenomenon describing a specific category of “frightening”- associated with anxiety, fear, and shock, these three emotions also resonate with the mood that is vividly encapsulated in the sinister scenes and saturnine settings from your photography. Have you tapped into your own fears and nightmares or those belonging to the models or people around you in order to achieve your creative vision?

JS: The model is just another prop, and while each brings something special to the image, it is by no means any more important than any other object in the photograph. This is the reason I choose to shoot nudes and most of the time models without any form of in your face body decorations, (which I love by the way, just not in my image). Clothing or body decoration would add a message that is not mine and can in many cases overwhelm the entire image.

DM: Would life be better without fear and should people strive to relinquish it or do you believe fears enhance our lives and creativity and we should all face and embrace our demons?

JS: Fear should always be respected but worked to be controlled. We all need to make peace and live with our demons, as there is no way to make them not be. Once you have experienced trauma in any of the forms it takes, it never goes away.

DM: How do you select your models?

JS: The process is very lengthy actually. I will be asked by people to pose for me or perhaps I see a face that speaks to me. Becoming friends is vitally important in my process, as I need to know if that person can give me what I am looking for to tell the story. And obviously, there is a comfort level that needs to be achieved and a friendship can do that. My models trust me, which I am ever grateful for.

DM: Some of your work can be controversial. What do you think of the condemnatory perceptions of your photography?

JS: I do not wish to be didactic to anyone, each person is entitled to an opinion. I am not trying to convert people. If they like what they see and it speaks to them, then great, and if not, the world keeps turning.

DM: What concepts do you plan on exploring through art in the future?

JS: As of late I have not been shooting all that much, perhaps I have said what I needed to say in the last 30 years. Perhaps not, I am not sure. We shall see. I am in the process of designing a third and final book, which will include my work as you know it, as well as my still life work and poetry in the Senryu form.


Interview with Russian fine art photographer and multimedia artist Natalia Drepina: tenebrous emotional portraits

The fine art photography of Natalia Drepina explores human frailty, fears, and melancholy, often in cold, quiet dreamscapes with a tinge of ominousness. Her conceptual realm is reminiscent of dark fairytales, conveyed through a soft, gloomy, painterly aesthetic. Darkness, a sense of sorrow, and lyricism are also the distinguishing marks of her multimedia art piecesshowcasing a mixture of poetry, voice-over, videos, as well as haunting sounds and instrumentals. Whilst her projects are deeply intimatemetaphors for her soul, portraying aspects of the human condition, the poetic message conveyed is disguised, symbolic, just as dream imagery. We had the chance to find out the thoughts behind the art, as well as getting to know Natalia beyond her artistic persona, as she was open to revealing more about her lifestyle and her views on inspiration and mortality.

DM: Where does your fascination with melancholy, sorrow, and the darker aspects of the mind spring from? Is melancholy a dominant emotion in your real life as well as in your artistic world?

ND: I’m truly a melancholy person. My sadness, which has been living in me for many years, has become my friend. I learned to see a special beauty in these emotions and draw inspiration.

DM: What is Natalia like in everyday life otherwise and how do you think your loved ones or people who know you best would describe you? Would they associate you with the same feelings you evoke in your projects or are these feelings purged through your art?

ND: People often tell me that I’m weird. Perhaps this word best describes me. I would also call myself inspired and pensive, because I’m always between two worlds – imagination and reality.
I’m rather unsociable, I prefer solitude and silence, rather than meeting and talking with people. But sometimes I also like talking with animals, birds, insects and plants. Nature is a place where I feel happy and calm. People scare me a little.
Of course, in everyday life I’m not always sad, I’m familiar with the spectrum of human emotions, but nevertheless, even in moments of happiness, I feel a strange longing, as if beauty and happiness also hurt in their own way.
I believe that my soul speaks the language of poetry, because true poetry combines pain and beauty, giving rise to a special feeling, a special vision of the world.

DM: The aesthetic of your photographs is characterised by a sombre and cold colour palette. It seems that you have a special connection to the cold seasons; and you also have a great grasp over the “winter of the soul”. There is a quote by Andrew Wyeth saying “I prefer winter and fall, when you can feel the bone structure in the landscapethe loneliness of it-the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath itthe whole story doesn’t show.” This epitomises the enigmatic mood and alluring aesthetic of your photographs as well. Do you feel more inspired during the cold seasons since they are often associated with the emotions underlying your work and do you have a special bond to your birth month?

ND: Yes, I’m a child of November, a child of Autumn. Fall is my favorite season, at this time all my feelings are aggravated, my dreams become more bizarre, I create a lot of photographs, music, poetry, needlework. Also I keep a diary every fall – I call it “The diary of wilting”. Every day I write my thoughts and add some leaves and plants filled with autumn colors and a foreboding of death. Autumn nature fully reflects the landscapes of my soul.
As for winter, it depresses me. I don’t like this white cold world. And I can’t sleep – insomnia visits me. However, most of my music is composed on winter nights.

DM: Do you think your photography is influenced by your native Russian roots and do you feel any emotional connection to your land?

ND: Perhaps the only connection with the Russian mentality that I feel is “Russian toska” – it’s ache of soul, longing with nothing to long for. This feeling is reflected in my works.
I’d call myself a resident of the universe. For me, the homeland is not a city or country, it’s a planet, its forests, fields, rivers, sky. I really love the nature that surrounds me, but I know that I’d also love nature in other parts of the world.

DM: Do the characters in your photographs embody parts of your identity, or are they vivid aspects of your imagination, inspired by the world around you or fiction? How do you breathe life into them?

ND: My characters are woven from fragments of my personality, fiction and dreams. They seem to live in parallel reality and sometimes come to visit me in a dream or wake up in the subconscious.

DM: Some of your projects are eclectic: you create music, poetry, and video art, interweaving these creative threads to give birth to beautiful and evocative atmospheric pieces. Describe your creative process as a multimedia artist.

ND: It is always very difficult for me to describe this process. Because all this happens mostly spontaneously, in a fit of inspiration. I don’t have any clear structure, plan. Sometimes I feel the need to supplement my visual creativity with music, poetry and I just do it.

DM: Do you make a living entirely out of your art or do you have any other side occupations?

ND: Art is my only source of income.

DM: Some of your visual stories—both photographs and videosunfold like dream fragments, often of an unsettling nature. Your art gives the impression of resurrecting elements from the unconscious mindrepressed fantasies, desires, and imagery. Is the visual symbolism borrowed from your own dreams, or nightmares?

ND: Yes, I write in my diary all interesting dreams and nightmares, and then use this material for my art. Dreams really inspire me to work.

DM: Do you believe in the concept of Soul as something separate from the body, and in the immortality of the soul? Some of your photographs have a macabre aspect, do thoughts of death scare and sadden you or do you embrace mortality?

ND: I’m not sure what I believe. It seems to me that the soul exists, but I don’t believe in immortality. It seems to me that death is a black void that will envelop us. It is like a dead dream, without images and visions, when you simply plunge into nothing.
Death does not scare me. Especially my death. I have long accepted and realised the fact of my mortality, and I’m fine with that. I would not want to live forever, to be honest. But the pain of losing close to me creatures—people or animals—scares me.

DM: Your Schizophrenia, your musical project, is such a moody, hypnotising piece of art. On the one hand, as we don’t have an understanding of Russian, we think we would like to hear an English version; on the other hand, Russian is such a beautiful-sounding language, it seems it contributes to the lyricism and the compelling, atmospheric nature of the project. Have you ever thought of creating English versions of your musical poems?

ND: The Russian language allows me to express everything that I feel, because of it I use it more often in my project. For my listeners, I also add translations (especially on Instagram) so that they can understand what this song or dark tale is about.
I also have poems and songs in English. For example:
Inner Demon
Late lamented
Fall asleep
We are dying with falling leaves
The lyrical fatigue

And in the near future I plan to release a book with translations of my poems and dark tales.

DM: What made you decide to go for the title, “Your Schizophrenia”?
ND: Partly it is connected with the person (schizophrenic) I knew and who influenced me in a certain period of my life.
Schizophrenia also includes hearing voices, delusions, social withdrawal. Your Schizophrenia is a character living in my subconscious, as if I transmit her thoughts, whispers, tunes, fears and sorrows.

DM: Do you believe an artist has to face the darker side of life and of the mind, being guided by chaos, darkness, and/or sorrow, in order to create valuable art, or can worthwhile art be generated by a peaceful mind, or in peaceful moments infused with happiness too?

ND: I think that art can be born by darkness and chaos, but also in peaceful moments. I think that each of the emotions can be used as inspiration for poems, paintings, photographs, music. Creativity is multifaceted. What is more important here is what inspires You, makes You feel. It all depends on preferences as well. In my soul, dark art and painful beauty find a greater response. It is like that strange feeling before the storm, when the breath stops and the heart beats so loudly…

Images © Natalia Drepina


John Santerineross – Neo-Symbolist Photographer

John Santerineross, considered a neo-symbolist photographer, creates uncanny, sinister, erotic imagery whilst focusing on conveying moods and evoking states of mind- an approach favoured by the symbolists in art in general. Neosymbolism explores mystical, emotional, spiritual, as well as sensual themes, the unconscious mind and dreams, metamorphoses of good and evil, the connection between image and soul, employing private and universal symbols. John Santerineross’ photographs incorporate religious symbolism and iconography, mixed with eroticism, occultism, horror, and a hint of pain; his subversive combination of the sacred and the profane has attracted both admiration and criticism. Whilst in some photography magazines he has been called “the world leading Neo-symbolist artist“, Catholic League President William A. Donohue describes Santerineross’ as a nihilist and one of the “artistic assassins and moral anarchists who want to artistically assassinate Christianity, especially Catholicism“. Santerineross does not confirm or deny any statements or interpretations due to his belief that art should appeal to each viewer on a personal level; that they should define his art for themselves rather than being limited by an explanation, another view also held by the early symbolists.
The Symbolist manifesto (1886, by Jean Moréas) emphasises:
“Truth in subjective experience. Truth in apparent chaos and insanity. Truth in excess and extravagance. The risk of what was once rebellious to become conformist.”

John Santerineross’ collections feature unsettling erotic imagery, dream symbolism, and the nightmarish aspects of the human psyche, as he delves into the dark recesses of the mind where sado-masochistic fantasies and decadent narratives are generated. Psychoanalytically informed, he has the awareness that many of our repressions and fears are rooted in childhood trauma, which draws the obscure map of our unconscious mind and desires. The uncanny is linked to repressed ideas about childhood, which are alienated via repression and sometimes return to us through strangely familiar moments, through a sentence, a word, or a piece of art that can pierce through the state of repression and bring back certain feelings, wishes, and thoughts originating in childhood. It seems that his photographs allegorically reflect and encapsulate the dimension of desire and repression.


Katie Eleanor: a ghostly world inhabited by ethereal, marble-like beings

Katie Eleanor is a London-based contemporary fine art photographer and Photographic Arts Graduate from the University of Westminster. Inspired by marble sculptures, the sculptural nature of Oscar Gustave Rejlander’s artworks, as well as scenes and characters from myths and from the artist’s fictional world, artistic memory, or, as she evocatively refers to it, the museum of her mind, “The Sialia Marbles” exhibition features hand-coloured photographic prints depicting ethereal beings frozen in time, marble-like, sometimes angelic-looking, other times ghostly. The uncanny dimension of her artworks stems from the dichotomous interplay between liveliness and death, between the ephemeral and the immortal qualities of her art; the rigidity and physical longevity of marble statues and the fluidity and ephemerality of the human performer; the deathlike stillness and the implication of physical and emotional movement. The beings depicted are also characterised by the archetypal (sentient-inanimate) ambiguity belonging to the Uncanny Valley.

The tableaux of Katie Eleanor allude to religious iconography and mythology art, with some subjects appearing to be solemn, others dramatic, involved in intense narratives. The veiled, white, diaphanous subjects portrayed are reminiscent of spirit photography, which amplifies the uncanny effect. It’s as if we are waiting for the motionless inhabitants of these unknown worlds to transcend the parameters of their existence within art; waiting for them to move towards the edge of the frame or fade away, for their veils to slip and reveal a change in expression, for their eyes to meet ours or glow. At the same time, the resemblance with statues (thus with something inanimate) makes this expectation perplexing.

The process behind the images includes the ritual of painting the models, performing a scene, the post-production process of hand colouring and enhancing the texture of the black and white analogue photographs. “Sialia” is the scientific name for bluebird – which Katie mentions is her alter ego, and the choice to include the word ‘marbles’ in the series title is congruent with her museum without walls parallel- a collection of uncanny human statues from her imaginary museum. The use of analogue photography and old film techniques brings uniqueness to the artworks; the physical, haptic quality of her work makes it more memorable and evocative, taking us on a mental trip through photographic art practices and through history, bringing back cultural artefacts and the sensory, magical properties of photography belonging to the pre-digital age. In more ways than one, Katie Eleanour’s photographs transcend temporality, having a hauntological dimension.

“I love tableaux vivants and creating intense, ambiguous scenarios with my performers. Angels are found in so much religious and historical visual culture, so they are familiar. They also symbolise protection, particularly when the series is viewed as a whole. I am not a particularly religious person, but I believe in sanctuary. My brain and my imagination are my sanctuary, and that is something I associate with these solemn spaces. It’s all creating a sanctuary for the viewer to inhabit, a sense of stillness and introspection.” – Katie Eleanor, Image Journal interview, 2019

Among the figures depicted in her work, you can find Saint Lucy and Daphne. After seeing a painting of Saint Lucy by Francesco Del Cossa, displayed at the National Gallery, the artist reveals:

“I was struck by the contrast between the brutality of her story and this ornate, delicate, almost whimsical rendering. In my version, the bandages over her eyes are significant, as I find the eyes of sculptures particularly haunting and vacant. This piece is a kind of homage to an amazing character in history.” – Katie Eleanor, Image Journal interview, 2019

“The Sialia Marbles” collection is on show at MMX Gallery until 15 February 2020