This Photographer’s Portrait Series Captures Your Beautifully Strange Side

How do we learn to embrace the more bizarre and nonsensical sides of our personalities? For Munich-based Russian fashion photographer and master of dark romanticism Elizaveta Porodina, the answer is to turn them into art.

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Her series, Study Of A Body, plays with the psychological dimension of ambiguity, and brings together a surreal and intimate series of portraits. Last time we interviewed her, Elizaveta was making a similar journey into the surreal. This time, in a set of playful and expressive images, she completely removes the colour from the photographs.

“It’s a constant balancing act to be aware of all the voices in our heads and hearts and to satisfy the different needs.”
- Elizaveta Porodina

Elizaveta’s experimental approach to fashion photography is not only well known and loved by the art world and fashion industry, her work has made a splash in online art communities as well.

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Study Of A Body invites you to take a glimpse into the outer extremities of our personalities that we too often ignore. The series black and white surreal portraits makes use of techniques such as double-exposure layering, slow shutter speeds, low depths of field, as well as bringing in objects that disrupt light’s path.

We sat down with Elizaveta to hear more about her surreal art.

THE PLUS: What inspired this series?
Elizaveta Porodina:
The series is inspired by my constant search for the most appropriate visual representation of the following realisation: that our personalities are beautiful, sometimes strange and confusingly incoherent, sometimes stunningly fitting combinations of different traits and parts that we have developed in our lives. The clarity and pureness of the inner voice is something that I strive to achieve through and in my images as in my personal life.

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TP: Why did you opt for black and white with the series?
EP:
I removed the colour information in order to focus the attention on the expression, the geometry and the anatomy of the movements as well as to evoke a cinematic association. The images are meant to look like they might start moving any second. 

TP: What attracts you to the surreal?
EP:
A surreal approach attracts me as I love to use different ambiguous meanings and symbols that can be approached and “translated” in many different ways. When an almost dreamlike feeling is evoked in myself and my audience, I am happy. 

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TP: What frustrates you the most as a photographer?
EP:
I often go through all kinds of emotions, from being completely enchanted by the movements of the model and the magic that happens in front of me to being devastated by the inability to keep the elation and happiness alive during the selection or the post production process. While being critical is important, I sometimes find my almost cruel approach to myself and my images frustrating. 

TP: Are you a melancholic person?
EP:
It’s often said about Russian people that they are born with melancholy – and I would agree. I would compare it with looking at the world and its beauty through a shimmering transparent layer of tears, as if you just woken from a nostalgic dream full of unknown yearning for something long lost. 

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TP: Tell us about your process for a photoshoot.
EP:
Well, the process differs from time to time, depending on the aim of the shoot. With this one, my biggest aim was experimenting and evoking emotions, letting my subject as free as possible in the exploration of her expressions. For this kind of aim, I will usually keep the number of team members as low as possible and the mood board as vague as possible as I want unforeseen effects and emotions to be evoked at the session. We spent two days in two different studios, working with props on one day and focusing on the multiple exposures on the other day, using specific flash equipment.

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TP: This series has a very performative element to it. How do you bring the performative into your work?
EP:
The performative element in my work is owed partly to my love, to Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater and to modern dance and of course to the fact that a lot of my muses – like Jasmina al Zihairi – are actors, dancers, performers and brilliant collaborators with great ideas and impulses of their own.

TP: What’s your next series going to be?
EP:
At the moment I am working on the final chapters of my book which focuses on the different moments in life of models and siblings Lou, Nils and Mia Schoof. The last chapter will concentrate on the transitional phase my muse Lou is going through as a person. 

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