ELLAS – La Vuelta

WOMAN PAPER ARLES

July 1 2017

ELLAS is the result of an excursion into the life of woman, through an admiration for the primal, for extreme states, vulnerability, and a reflection of contemporary society's underestimation of these elements.
Never judging and without censoring myself. I let and encourage these women to be themselves, so as to explore different aspects of desire, femininity and sexuality. I never tell them to be anything in particular, I just recognize certain qualities that I am attracted to and allow these qualities to come through. Qualities that come from dualities, such as power and vulnerability and self confidence and doubt. Also mysteriousness and plainness, transcendence and the material world.
They are, maybe, in the spirit of Manet's Olympia, imperfect Goddesses. Strong enough to stir us. I try to make this panorama interesting, hopefully smart and thought provoking and always through my own particular perspective. Whenever someone creates something, the method has to reflect the theme. So, naturally, it all begins by my choosing the female characters who will give life to this work. Authentic human beings within the confines of a system. Not conventional or traditional beauties. Im always very focused and connected to these women. I work with the female body in a very intimate way.

These images begin by questioning the structures and mores within the systems we live in. The notion of freedom, that an artist could be free, truly free, permeates the work, just as much as the need to reflect on notions of harmony and beauty. The theory of art is never separated from the practice of art, from life itself. It is in the interaction with these women, in understanding who they are, and being able to see their force, that I am able to represent this and thus create a new reality. The creation of a new reality created through art, and in my case, through the lens of a camera, is never an easy endeavor. The results, the actual photographs, pose uncomfortable questions. They show elements of life that are mostly ignored. The title of the series,'Ellas', evokes and highlights the gendered dimension in this body of work. It also shows these women located in a space outside of day to day conventional life, in a sort of suspended reality and on the edge of society. 

I have always wanted to engage the viewer, the spectator. Just as vital as the creation of a lasting image is the possibility of my work being a bridge, a gate, a passageway to somewhere else, into their own beings and imaginations and minds. Creating these Alice in Wonderland situations, suspending time and space and daring to go through the looking glass through art. I like films very much, John Cassavetes being one of my all time favorite directors. I consider my photographs, images and visual stories as a language very close to film. I make them in a similar way. Although they come from life, they are not an imitation of life. These people, although very real, become something else or more themselves depending on circumstances. Life cannot be imitated, nor should it. We see films to escape or to go deeper into life. To learn something. To think. have always wanted and still want the viewer to experiment a journey in front of my work, into their own infinity, with their own body, mind and soul.

My work deals with the complex and unequal power relations in society and between people. What factors decide how we are perceived in this world and how this affects the balance of power between us. The world being created in my photographs represent a kind of private utopia. The women in my pictures are either casually leaning or striking poses, being at least imaginatively, or in this new reality, the subjects of their very own fairy tales. In this process I am also creating heroes for myself. I want my characters in the photographs to resonate a certain power and strength. These characters can be complex, ambiguous and intense. It is likely that my work represents and reflects a certain type of strength  and an archetypal and mythological narrative that the contemporary world might not easily recognize. But in the end it may simply be a celebration of the power and complexity of being a real human being. 
For me, photographs are the performance of my own dreams.
A borderland. Always on the boundaries of reality and fantasy.

There is always something that comes from inside of me in regards to what I am going to do. As Michael Angelo would say, "certa cosa che mi vieni in mente". (‘a certain thing that just come to me’).This is a mystery and impossible to explain. But I can try to explain what happens next. These images that I make are the result of months and even years of continuous work. I am never physically removed from the subjects in the photographs. Although I am the image maker, I also form part of the image. These characters become a part of me. I become the Indian, the mother, the student and the prostitute. During the time spent on the process a behavior begins to develop. It is a story in process. I am trying to develop a language. There is a certain meditative quality to this process of working patiently. Being at the disposition of its needs. I become vulnerable and a different kind of strength begins to grow inside of me. My approach to photography is composed of a variety of related yet disparate methods and modes of making.
The themes mainly revolve around the human condition, especially in regards to sexuality, power, the body, eroticism, freedoms and limitations and what it means to be alive. They mean to push at the boundaries of photography and morality and explore the allegorical margins of our society.
For me the process of photography does not entail trying to 'capture' anything. If anything it is quite the opposite. I am trying to free up the image from so many constraints and mores imposed while living within the confines of a system, without censor and without limits.

Karen Paulina Biswell