What Becomes In Her Eye
"There is this rawness of real life what I admire and what you only find if you step outside to the world. My tableaus are created from reality, but I'm the creator", says new C-print favourite Austrian-born visual artist Stefanie Moshammer about her work, in our new interview. Moshammer who is currently presenting her biggest show to date in her native Austria at the OstLicht Gallery in Vienna, is set for exciting times in 2017 exhibiting her work as one of the selected FOAM Talents 2016.
C-P: You are currently presenting your first big solo show in Vienna, at OstLicht Gallery, and I found it to be very delectable and visually titillating which gets rarer for me over time with photography. What is your background into your practice as an artist?
S.M: I started with a fashion school where my focus was on textile design, which in turn led me into graphic design afterwards. I love the conceptional part of graphic design – finding ideas to visualize something, but only visualizing in front of the computer bored me. Later on it was photography that really got me, what mainly startetd with travelling and, thereby always taking pictures.
My parents started travelling with me when I was three years old. At a certain point, being in a foreign place felt more comfortable than being in my hometown what is supposed to be my comfort zone.
C-P: What strikes me particularly looking at your images is this great command and sense of bold colours and light, coming across as a descendant of William Eggleston, and your conveying shapes for the camera jointly from urban environments, people and found objects, bringing a favourite like Viviane Sassen to mind. In your work, even the seediest of motel rooms is rendered a canny beauty. I understand your work sits somewhere where documentary and mise-en-scène intersects?
S.M: In general, the base is documentary photography, and therein the attachment to reality and the idea of truth. But my images also involve an allegorical approach which gives more freedom in how a viewer might read a story. I want viewers to have doubts and questions too.
For me, photography is always a subjective interpretation of reality and should not be mistaken with the reality itself, as having any grade of objective truth. My images have a personal vision, but they are not an explanation. Rather it is about the questions they raise. I certainly believe that all modes of descriptions are a tissue of metaphors.
C-P: It is clear that your work is informed by travels to faraway destinations that might be attributed as “exotic” or “romanticized” in popular culture, like Vegas, India and Brazil. From what end would you usually begin approaching a project on a location like these?
S.M: Normally I try to get close to places, people and subjects that interest me but that I do not fully understand.
I start with a journalistic research, to get as much as possible information about the place I want to go.
Later on the work develops during the process on location.
You can’t plan everything if you deal with a real place and real people. It’s always a different dynamic and spontaneity I really enjoy. There is this rawness of real life that I admire and what you only find if you step outside to the world. My tableaus are created from reality, but I'm the creator. My work springs from my experiences and is a conglomerate of my observation and personal impressions. Often it is also an exploration of myths and stereotypes as well as the unreality that the places I go to often require.
C-P: Your work is often beautifully contextualized and extended with written narratives; take your project “Vegas and She” which puts forth the women, exotic dancers and the likes, who become a representation both of the city itself as well as the human condition and universal states like happiness, love and sorrow.
Of the city you note that meeting it is like standing on the edge of a very tall cliff. If you fall, you fall in a jungle of madness. I love this.
S.M: Thank you.
I like these written narratives to hopefully take people on a journey of their own. I always try to embrace a series with different typologies to create an interplay and different gradations of story lines.
C-P: Absent Presence from 2014 deals with the intricate subject of love in India and the social discrepancies between men and women in society. What did you find there?
S.M: Absent Presence is based in Kolkata, a place that seems to be frozen in time and arrested in a moment. For me, Kolkata is somewhere between romance and drama. Walking around in the streets of Kolkata means walking with 90% of men around you. Which resulted in photos 90% of men. Therefore, when I think about Kolkata, I think mostly about men; and me somewhere in between.
I don’t have a clearly understandment of Kolkata, it’s still very abstract to me. I felt distanced, detached to their world. Being a woman, I felt a certain tension which I didn’t really like. I tried to visualize that kind of tension through the series.
C-P: Young Gods to me seemingly offers a relatable portrait of certain type of young male identity that hovers between attitude and projection and fragility and uncertainty. The way portraits of males were juxtaposed with metaphorical still lifes I thought to be nicely considered.
S.M: The series Young Gods is a document of a young male generation in Denmark. It deals with the issue of self-absorption and the observation of the photographer — me, the female. All of them are in the age of searching and finding their raison d'être.
I was asking myself, if it actually still exists – a pure young human being, an unspoiled mind that doesn’t care about fitting into a civilized form. The more grown up you become, the more you are forced to fit into a shape. As if there must be a specific reason for you to exist, because "wasting" time is not accepted in a world like ours.
The series was exhibited in the Gallery Of Photography in Dublin until September. They did a really nice set-up and also presented the video of the series.
C.P: On a different note, I’m excited about the recognition you’ve had for your work, with your book having been shortlisted at the Festival Rencontres d’Arles and you as one of the FOAM Talents 2016. Notably, how has the experience around FOAM been for you?
S.M: Ever since I discovered FOAM, I admired their approach, so I feel very honoured to be selected as one of the FOAM Talents. It’s exciting to see how former FOAM Talents developed over the years. And it’s a good showacse to see what people of your generation create as well.
FOAM defnitely brings a great recogintion. However, it is within your responsibilty what you make of it. Hopefully it helps everybody pushing forward. Unfortuntely FOAM didn’t exhibit their Talents during this years Paris Photo. It will be in May during Photo London, where all the works of the FOAM Talents 2016 will be exhibited for the first time. Later on the exhibition will travel to New York and Saint Petersburg.
C-P: Lastly what’s coming up for you in 2017?
S.M: Everything is still pretty open for 2017. I’m about to finish the book of “Land of Black Milk” what hopefully comes out at the beginning of the year. I’m still not sure where my next travels will take me to. I have some destinations in mind, but they still need some more considerations. In general, I hope I can keep working on my personal work, combined with exciting commercial projects.
Stefanie Moshammer's show "The Land of Black Milk" is on view at OstLicht Gallery in Vienna through December 23.
All images courtesy of Stefanie Moshammer
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