Exclusive: Self Portraits and Landscape Photography Collide in this New Series

Hailing from Southern Germany, photographer Laura Zalenga is always on the look our for magical places and special light. Magical places, it would seem, are closer than youse, might expect: in Hills in front of blue sky, the impromptu light-test-turned-photoshoot, Laura’s contorted body against a powder blue wall itself becomes a sharp and sinuous topography.

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“I love how ideas just happen. In my eyes this spontaneous process is more magical than if I would have had that idea before and just executed it.”

Laura studied as an architect originally, but it just didn’t “click” with her like the closing of a camera shutter. In the age of selfies, it’s refreshing to see self-portrait artists like Laura re-affirming the medium as a genuinely artistic form; in Laura’s projects, the creeping vanity of insta-shots gives way to a pure aesthetic fascination with the bundle of blood and bones we call our body.

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“Our body is so much more than we see on a daily basis. I believe sometimes a new perspective on it can bring back a little appreciation.”

It’s a nice human complement to Laura’s professional work, for clients including Mercedes Benz and Maxmara. And this human touch chimes with Laura’s conviction that photography is a type of therapy, with the capacity to heal both oneself and others.

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THE PLUS: As a self-portrait artist, how did you get these shots? 

Laura Zalenga:
For years I have worked with tripods and remote controls. Now with the AR7 II I have an app on my phone which makes it even easier. I don’t even have to go back to the camera to check what the result looks like.


TP: Do you have to be particularly flexible?
LZ:
I might be more flexible than most people are at my age, as I did almost 10 years of gymnastics when I was young. One thing that has luckily stayed with me till now is the flexibility.

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TP: Bodies tend to be gracefully posed in your work – why these more contorted, and truncated shapes?
LZ:
Sometimes I am a bored by those sweet everyday-aesthetics. I needed a holiday from them. A contorted one… It makes me realize, once more, that the rest of my work would look a lot more like this series if it didn’t have to pay the rent.

TP: Was it a conscious decision to diverge from the sexualised way in which art often depicts women?

LZ:
Definitely. It’s one thing that annoys me so much about what we see on the internet nowadays. The problem is, female breasts and bottoms are so over-sexualized that barely anyone manages to show them in a different light. Most people don’t even try. Don’t get me wrong, sexuality is something wonderful, but it’s used for nothing but attention-grabbing in most photos that I see.

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TP: What’s your favourite body part, and why?

LZ:
I love backs. They are so powerful, and can express so much. They can be our defense, but they’re also a weak spot, as we never know what is right behind us until we turn around.

TP: In the age of the selfie, any tips on upping the game and taking great self-portraits?

LZ:
Selfies are fast food, and self-portraits are more like a three-course menu: nothing wrong with fast food every now and then (if you don’t harm other beings with what you eat), but how cool is it to create something that shows that you put thought and passion into it?

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TP: What, for you, would be the difference between selfies and self-portraits?

LZ:
It’s a more conscious thing, maybe. It’s about expressing something deeper than just showing off your new outfit, or the cool place you’re at.

TP: Would you rather: hands instead of feet, or feet instead of hands? 

LZ:
Definitely hands at the end of my legs! Actually, that would be quite handy. Hands are such an incredible instrument – having four of those would be awesome.

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