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Distorted Perceptions: The Avant-garde Silent Landscape of “A Page of Madness”

A Page of Madness (1926), dir. Teinosuke Kinugasa, is a mesmerising Japanese psychological avant-garde masterpiece exploring the oscillation between reality and fantasy through a distinctive, unsettling cinematic approach. The film was part of a broader context of Japanese avant-garde works created during Japan’s interwar period (1918-1941), when Japanese artistic expressions, as exemplified through poetry and other art forms, were influenced by European modernist and avant-garde art, exploring themes such as political repression, technology, and censorship through a mix of erotic, grotesque, and nonsensical depictions.

Set within the confining walls of a mental institution in Japan, the narrative primarily centres on a janitor haunted by the guilt of his past and struggling with acceptance whilst working to care for his institutionalised wife and grappling with his own emerging fantasies. Through a mixture of striking visuals, dream sequences, and silent storytelling, Kinugasa creates an unsettling cinematic experience that delves into themes of guilt, mental illness, and the fragility of human mind.

The film was also closely linked with the modernist literary group, shinkankakuha (New Perception school), as the screenplay was derived from consultations with several members of this group. One of the founders of the group, Riichi Yokomitsu, wrote “The phenomenon of perception for Shinkankakuha is, to put it briefly, the direct, intuitive sensation of a subjectivity that peels away the naturalised exterior aspects and leaps into the thing itself.”

Both Kinugasa’s films and the shinkankakuha focus on the concept of sense perception: A Page of Madness is characterised by its distinctive use of narrative and visual techniques, such as rapid montage sequences, multiple exposures, and lens distortions, as well as eerie painted sets and stylised lighting reminiscent of German Expressionism, to delve into the abnormal sensory experiences and perceptions of inmates in the asylum. The portrayal of mental illness reflects a tendency to transcend traditional, naturalistic depictions, in a way that also raised deep questions about societal perceptions of mental illness during the time.

Strangely Familiar Visual Narratives: An Exploration of the Interplay between Reality and Unreality in Contemporary Collage Art

Collage constitutes a dynamic medium where elements of the familiar are unsettlingly displaced into unfamiliar territories, offering a visceral exploration of the uncanny. Teetering between the comfort of recognition and the chilling thrill of the unexpected, the realm of contemporary collage art opens up a world of paradoxes, where the mundane is rendemasred extraordinary and the predictable unexpectedly disrupted. Among the artists shaping the narratives in this sphere in the virtual space, Angelica Paez, Colette Saint Yves, Sato Masahiro, Sara Shakeel, and Robin Isely each stand out with a distinct approach to this medium, employing their unique artistic vernacular to translate the ethereal, the uncanny, and the nostalgic into tangible, visual experiences. As we shall see, these contemporary collage artists, albeit divergent in their techniques and thematic focal points, share a predilection for the provocative interplay of reality and unreality.

Angelica Paez‘s surreal monochrome collages engage our perception in a ludic, nostalgia-infused dialogue of complex, dreamlike contradictions through the depiction of hypnotic scenes created by cutting out old papers, catalogues, and magazines collected from second hand markets. The eerie atmosphere of her work is achieved by incorporating familiar objects in strange ways in intimate settings, unveiling images embedded in the unconscious. These enigmatic scenes, often characterised by a cleverly conceived atmospheric eeriness, artfully compel the viewer in a way that simultaneously challenges and delights.

Paez’s strikingly enticing works echo her early love for collage-making, a practice she developed from a tender age with safety scissors and her mother’s discarded magazines. Today, her notable artistic skills, manifested in her ability to conjure complex, layered narratives, reveal a sophisticated metamorphosis of her childhood pastime, though her affinity for the tangible, tactile process remains undiminished. Her intricate compositions, often bearing the inscription “Houston, Texas”, hint at the subtle interplay between the origin of her eclectic materials and their ultimate reincarnation within her art, further accentuating the intimate dialogue between the past and the present, the mundane and the extraordinary that permeates her nostalgic oeuvre.

Colette Saint Yves is a photographer and collector of evocative imagery featuring film stars with enigmatic gazes, mysterious apparitions, celestial settings, and melancholic monochrome nature shot in analogue. The artist creates haunting, surreal collage art by interweaving a range of elements from photographs, films, and books to create dreamlike, at times unsettling scenes that intrigue. Her work also acts as a bridge that connects modern audiences to the vintage aesthetics and poignant emotiveness of silent cinema. Saint Yves’s distinctive methodology involves the meticulous collection and curation of varied visual artifacts – abandoned photographs, vintage postcards, enigmatic screencaps, and illustrations from time-worn, antiquated books. These become the eclectic building blocks of her captivating collages, providing a rich, layered, and textured backdrop for her surreal, dreamlike compositions.

Her evocative works usually exude a deep sense of melancholy, offset by the mysterious, irresistible allure of the subjects she artfully depicts, often incorporating elements from celestial bodies and the untamed natural world. The striking monochromatic tones frequently featured in her intriguing collages heighten the overall enigma and ethereal, otherworldly nature of her mesmerising compositions. Each intricate piece is an exploration into the depths of the subconscious, where evocative nostalgia and vivid fantasy intertwine, eliciting a memorable sense of intrigue and a poignant longing for an elusive era irrevocably lost to time.

Sato Masahiro, operating under the creative pseudonym Q-TA, is a distinguished collage artist residing in Tokyo. Q-TA’s works consist of an innovative fusion of ephemera from antiquated encyclopedias, exploiting both digital manipulation and traditional techniques. The blend of old and new characterises his strikingly surreal artistic style. Masterfully employing both digital and analog techniques, he invites the viewer into compellingly strange and aesthetically rich landscapes through a juxtaposition of elements into an improbable assembly generating dreamlike, surreal compositions. The ability to render the absurd into harmonious continuity forms the distinctive appeal of his body of work.

In one if his interviews, Q-TA mentioned his hopes for audiences to experience a mix of feelings reminiscent of childhood book reading—surprise, delight, and a nostalgic yearning. This child-centric approach is not merely aesthetic; it underscores his aspiration to convey an innovative perspective by bestowing upon his audience a glimpse into a child’s world, whilst situating children in these distinctive, surreal environments. Even though his works don’t carry explicit messages, they are embedded with fragmented keywords, adding layers of subtle commentary and sparking curiosity.

Imbued with a profound understanding of the interplay between human form and animalistic instinct, San Francisco-based digital artist Robin Isely eerily bridges diverse historical and aesthetic influences in his haunting, compelling collage work. His compositions, marked by an uncanny fusion of the sublime and the unsettling, draw from a broad palette of eras and stylistic movements – the grandeur of classical mythology, the intricate mysticism of the Gothic period, the allure of French New Wave cinema, and the visceral expressiveness of the tumultuous sixties.

Isely’s intriguing, surreal collage art, resonating with a dreamy and sometimes disconcerting quality, crafts immersive, eerie yet aesthetically pleasing visual narratives. Through a creative blend of vintage photographs, his work constructs uncanny, richly textured scenes that immerse spectators into a universe where reality and fantasy seamlessly intersect. The effect is an enchanting, eerie tableau that invites a journey into the labyrinth of the subconscious, stirring up nostalgia and discomfort in equal measure.

Recognised for her distinctive combination of traditional craft techniques and experimental practices, Jana Sojka is a self-taught mixed media artist creating haunting, evocative art which often features natural motifs, fragmented words, vintage textures, and self-portraits. Born in Poland and now based in Bristol, Sojka’s varied yet recognisable body of work reflects her life journey and her intimate connection with the world around her. Having begun her artistic journey through a fascination with photography, Sojka soon started to explore various mediums, incorporating collage, animation, and journaling into her creative process. The result is a distinctive, multifaceted oeuvre that bridges the gap between introspection and universal resonance, personal memories and shared narratives. One of the signature elements of Sojka’s work is her dedication to using traditional craft-based techniques and materials. Sourced from her family home, old ephemera play a central role in her collages and prints, grounding her creations in a tangible sense of history and continuity. She imbues these pieces with a nostalgic resonance that is both deeply personal and universally relatable.

Sojka’s work also displays a profound connection with nature, a theme that is often manifested in the presence of floral motifs and her exploration of natural light and shadows. Her nighttime escapades, as she calls them, led to a fascination with the interplay of darkness and light, an element she beautifully translates into her photographs and animations. Her artistic practice is guided by intuition and emotion, evident in her ‘always experimental’ approach. She believes in the importance of surrendering to creative impulses and the process of making art as an act of liberation. This philosophy permeates Sojka’s work, resulting in pieces that encapsulate the raw and authentic beauty of life. Within her oeuvre, Jana Sojka’s journals hold a special place. They are collections of thoughts, images, and ephemera, each telling a different story. They constitute both a documentation of her life and a channel for processing feelings, an intimate reflection of her journey that she occasionally shares with the world.

Sara Shakeel, the original crystal artist and a former dentist from Pakistan who found her artistic calling in the gleam and glitter of crystals, creates scintillating, bedazzled collage artworks. Through her striking, glamorous art, various aspects of the world are imbued with her signature magic. The magic is created by adding layers of crystals and glitter to subjects ranging from pop culture and artists, classical paintings and religious iconography, urban aesthetics, luxury brands, fashion, as well as tears and stretch marks promoting body positivity. Her artworks blend a sense of healing, empowerment, and joy with a unique aesthetic that draws the viewer into a universe studded with shimmering details. Shakeel uses her art as a medium of personal therapy, each creation reflecting a therapeutic journey that resonates with viewers and triggers a sense of shared healing.

Despite not having any formal training, Shakeel’s rise to fame, courtesy of social media platforms, has seen her distinct aesthetic reach over a million followers. Her first body of work, notably known as #glitterstretchmarks, challenges societal norms regarding body image. It reflects her stance towards body positivity, as she embellishes images of stretch marks with gold glitter and crystals, transmuting perceived imperfections into vibrant art. This theme, along with the artist’s penchant for incorporating celestial galaxies into her work, underscores her talent for finding and creating beauty and strength in the most unexpected places. What sets Shakeel’s work apart is not just her stunning technique but also the emotional depth and vivid storytelling that unfolds in each creation. Drawing inspiration from her surroundings, memories, and personal desires, she uses her pieces to communicate complex emotions through dazzlingly bright and captivating crystals.

The mythology of Archive 81

Based on the eponymous supernatural horror podcast, Archive 81 unveils a world blending occult, mythological, familiar, parapsychological, and Lovecraftian elements, all revolving around the archival process of restoring video tapes to reconstruct an enigmatic story from the past. An archivist with a tragic history that binds him to the case unearths secrets involving cults, demons, summoning rituals, sacrifices, a place with obscure patterns of mold with seemingly hallucinatory properties (referred to as stardust or the body and blood of the god), and glimpses into a temporally disorienting Otherworld – by replaying unseen footage which ends up gradually unravelling a spell between two worlds. During the video restoration process, he is plagued by a ghostly apparition of the same god/demon worshipped by cults of the past, trying to cross over from another realm via technology.

Kaelego is an entity that can be invited into the world through a bloody ritual that requires the presence of a victim, a demonic statue, a “Baldung” witch, obscure chanting and humming, and has to be synchronised with the passing of Comet Kharon (referring to the ferryman of Hades in Greek mythology) over Earth. The arrival of the demonic god – both healing and destructive – is associated with the end of the world as it is; one of the worshippers thinks that it would lead to a purge, to the salvation of humanity from ‘itself’, from war and sickness, and that Kaelego could grant people eternity, whilst the Baldung see the being as a spirit of destruction.

The show has its own fictional mythology that doesn’t fully allude to any particular real-life myths or organisations. The cosmic religious component is reminiscent of the UFO cult Heaven’s Gate, whose members synchronised ritual suicides with the approach of a comet, holding the belief that a spacecraft was connected to the cosmic body and their consciousness would be transferred onto it and ascend to another plane of existence. The cult members also recorded farewell messages on videotapes. The occult snuff film and The Circle, as referred to in the show, as well as the Visser are entirely fictional. “Baldung” witches are not based on real witches – the term is a reference to artist Hans Baldung known for his depictions of witchcraft in paintings.

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.




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

Mira Nedyalkova’s Underwater Photography

A selection of artworks from the stunning uncanny underwater photography collection by Bulgarian visual artist and fine art photographer Mira Nedyalkova.



Mira’s work depicts the beautiful facets of pain and sadness in fluid forms, whilst linking water with sensuality and exploring erotic and emotional themes.

Water symbolism always makes us think of regeneration, purification, and catharsis – a reflection of the beginning and the end. Mira emphasises the dual dimension of water, symbolising sin and purity, as well as pleasure and innocence. The aquatic element has both generative and destructive powers; it can be life-giving and apocalyptic. Her models are depicted as otherworldly beings, seemingly frail, yet also dark and enigmatic. Water is also the essential element contributing to the surreal aesthetic of the pictures, since it changes the light, colour, and shapes captured in unexpected ways.

Mira Nedyalkova is not interested in pure photography – as opposed to many photographers who praise raw analogue photographs for capturing unaltered moments, she recognises the creative and transformative power of post-processing and digital editing as a way of enriching photography, of creating something new, conveying an emotion, and telling a story. As a former painter, she now sees digital editing as a way of getting closer to painting again.


Like many artists, Mira believes emotion is an essential part of a remarkable piece of art. Her view is epitomised in her stunning, memorable photographs, often depicting expressive, intense characters found in captivity. Other recurring characteristics of her artistic vision are a preference for nudity, the eerie beauty of nature, enigmatic, fragile-looking animals, and subtle sexuality.


Laura Makabresku’s Dark, Uncanny Fairy Tales

Uncanny Portrait Crow Eye

Polish self-taught fine art photographer Kamila Kansy, known as Laura Makabresku, draws inspiration from her deep, intimate connection to her native land – which she perceives as a mysterious realm of sinister fairy tales, in order to design a tragic world revolving around death, obscure eroticism, suffering, and human frailty. The suggestive name of her artistic identity conjures up the darkness portrayed in her haunting photographs which seem to reflect the Freudian uncanny through their eerie and strangely familiar quality.

Stepping away from digital cameras, she embraces the analogue practice with a soft painterly style with dark undertones. To create a gloomy, glacial, and morbid atmosphere, the colours used are often desaturated dark blue and green and the photographs are intentionally underexposed. Some photographs adopt the technique of superimposition to achieve a ghostly aesthetic and induce the impression that there is always something morbid looming within the frame – a dormant presence about to be unleashed.

  • icy portrait fox
  • snowy portrait fox

The distinctive imagery depicting Laura Makabresku’s artistic world can be compared to a dream: it has multiple layers, inviting the observer to begin an internal exploration. Her pictures should not only be admired aesthetically, but also felt from within. The shots are like collections of impulses, raw emotions, objects filled with hidden symbolism displayed in a beautifully chaotic, surreal manner which often involves strikingly unexpected combinations of elements such as dead animals, naked bodies, blood, knives, ants amplified in size, ravens pictured indoors, and human bodies with animal masks. The uncanny is ever present in this artistic realm: from dead birds coming out of the mouth of a woman collapsed on the autumnal earth, a naked body covered in moss, guarded by a mysterious fox, a sorrowful girl’s languid body enveloped by a goat’s hide, a pensive woman touching a bowl filled with blood, upon which a little bird rests, a touching portrait of a girl embracing a fox in a glass coffin, eyes covered by pressed flowers or positioned dangerously close to a raven. All of her entrancing visual creations are filled with lyricism. In addition to these transparent motifs and compositions, the uncanny also lies in the homely atmosphere of the photographs, as well as the strange aesthetic quality reminiscent of macabre fairy tales.

Influenced by Francesca Woodman, her black and white portraits of the naked female body convey a duality between the calm, beautiful, graceful vulnerability and simplicity of the nude body sight and the undertones of death, darkness, emptiness, isolation, and dark sexuality. Through self-portraits, she embraces her fears and anguish and explores themes like autopsy, witchcraft, love, and a deep connection with animals, mortality, and the evil that lurks within her. The universe she creates makes the viewers look within and be inspired to embrace their own dark instincts and fantasies.

Diana Marin – Requiem for the Aesthete / Uncanny Photographic Poem

Diana Marin’s photographic project, Requiem for the Awakening, is a postmodern audio-visual trip, visual poetry constructed primarily from still photographs, a few moving image moments, and piercing, post-modernist monologue. Her activity included single-handedly editing, photographing, filming, as well as recording sound and voice-over to crystallise a concept that was inspired by her own dream experience. One morning in her previous home city, during a time when days were seamlessly, furtively blending into nights, Diana was immersed into a dream of an uncanny afterlife, in which the dimension of temporality became absurd. It was a special type of dream within a dream, evocatively described through the voice-over in her Requiem.

The fantasy-style digital manipulation is present throughout many images, with some particularly memorable ones featuring surreal compositions: the stormy skies surrounding the woman’s body embraced by tree branches, the woman with a grandiose pose standing behind what looks like a glass case followed by a shot of the graves with a similar layout, the Gothic images of Lilith guarded by her shadow, the elegant yet decaying decor in which she finds herself in the last tableaux.

Each “chapter” of the story contains conscious literary, artistic, photographic, philosophical, and cinematic allusions and influences in its depiction. The prologue, describing an ambiguous post-mortem state, summons up scenarios of the after life, whilst the strange connection the protagonist – as a disembodied presence traversing the ether- has with her still living brother has an element of unreality to it, and is partly rooted in occultism and the concept of astral plane and astral shells. Visually, the prologue is constructed from digitally altered photographs, created through the technique of digital painting, merging visuals, and adding layers. The first chapter, in which she re-learns how to live, has been inspired by The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser and philosophical contemplation, particularly existentialism and the sense of disorientation characteristic of existential angst. It has a soft, aesthetically pleasing photographic style, somewhat in contrast to the eerie atmosphere and tension. The narrative style and stream-of-consciousness monologue of the second chapter carries echoes of Samuel Beckett’s Not I, combined with dark visuals directly pointing at German Expressionist cinema and Gothic films. The third chapter depicts the act of seeking harmony and purpose in the sanctuary of nature, the shots resembling idyllic paintings before the aesthetic switches to sombre and sinister and the mood becomes ominous once again, which leads us to the fourth and final chapter. In this final collection of photographs, the natural is replaced by the artificial and decaying decor. The atmosphere recalls the debauchery and aesthetic focus of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as being a feminine, photographic re-interpretation of the artificiality of Des Esseintes’ life from Huysmans’ À rebours. The mise-en-scene includes paintings, statues, bottles of wine, female figurines, Gothic fashion items, jewellery boxes, and other aesthetic objects. These painterly photographs reveal the life of an eccentric, solitary aesthete, slowly turning into a still life painting.

A brief description of the concept and a few photographic stills:

Prologue – Purgatory: Lilith lives through a centuries-long dream that she believes is the afterlife. She finds herself in a liminal space, with only one connection to the real world to keep her sane, until everything eventually proves to be designed by her mind.

Chapter I – The awakening: Lilith awakens from the dream and tries to re-learn how to live.

Chapter II – Anxiety: She cannot seem to be able to adjust to life once again. In a stream of consciousness, she re-lives epiphanies from her childhood when she gained acute awareness of her ephemeral condition

Chapter III – Nature escapism: Lilith thinks her environment is a cage, and decides to seek refuge in nature, only to realise she is a living cage. The outer world becomes a reflection of her inner world.

Chapter IV – Refuge in art: The girl turns away from nature and towards the artificial, and eventually, towards art. She reconciles with the idea of death through art, when she becomes art.

Model: Rosie Cochrane

The voice-over:

“On the 19th of July Lilith drifted away from everything that she knew and acquired a post-mortem insight into the world, after the bomb explosion that shattered the hearts of her relatives. She likes to think that she can still reach out to the closest person she knew while alive. Her brother, who was also the first one to find out about her death.
My consciousness is spread across an indefinite area of pulsating matter. I could not tell you whether I’m on another planet, wandering in the ether or lost in my own mind. I can tell you this is neither heaven nor hell. I have been here for a very long time, I couldn’t tell you how long, perhaps years, perhaps centuries
My sanity has relied on this inexplicable connection.
When I realised I had died, although sad, I was also relieved, that I still existed somewhere, even in this confusing state. I never believed in life after death, although I wished for it, as nothingness always frightened me. After a while however, existing like this became wearying.
How can I ever trust my mind and my world again now that I’ve wandered away from reality for what felt like hundreds of years. I’ve been awake for a few days trying to make sense of what happened to me. I can’t fully remember life before the explosion, and my body is finding it very hard to readjust to normality.
Words, voices, spiders crawling on the wall, abnormal shadows with a hundred legs, waiting, waiting waiting for the right moment so they could choke me…I would then be one with the shadows. I used to love the darkness as a kid, wandering in gardens after midnight, sneaking out of the house through that small window; making sure everyone was asleep to avoid punishments. The garden…looking at the stars, knowing from a young age that what I was seeing in the sky may have died a long time ago. Those were astral traces, spectres of something that once was; I wanted to exist I wanted to exist beyond time, beyond space, I wanted to see the beginning of the world and the end of the world at the same time…to understand it. To understand my urge for creation and destruction.
I have to get out of here. everything around me pulsates and feels like it’s about to explode, my heart jumps with every turn. I fear my nightmare is going to replace reality.”

Diana’s Website: