Meet Ana Bathe, born in Belgrade in 1987, a self-taught artist with a diverse array of talents. Currently, she calls Berlin her home and canvas, where she continues to weave her artistic tapestry.
The perpetual enchantment of scientific wonder envelops all of us, an ever-present phenomenon. It's the transformative dance within our earthly realm and the boundless expanse of the cosmos. These ceaseless evolutions serve as the driving inspiration behind her creative passion. She deftly intertwines them with mythology, conjuring glimpses of alternative realities, which she fondly calls her "Portals."
This artist meticulously crafts intricate sets, molding masks, integrating prosthetics, and hand-painting each component with precision. The project's mission is to harmonize photography, performance, and various visual arts, giving birth to an ever-expanding tapestry of fantastical realms. In this creative journey, the unknown takes on a strangely familiar hue.
HAZE.GALLERY: What inspired you to become a surrealist photographer and use yourself as the subject in your works?
Ane Bathe: This process, which is now the core of my creative expression, fell into place once I moved to Germany. Not having known anybody here, it was tricky to find models who were inspired by my fascination with non-conventional poses and expressions. I wasn’t interested in making people ‘look good’ in a traditional sense and in time I discovered that the movement I was directing others to express could only come from me organically. Because it was my emotion to express. I started experimenting with being my own model and it instantly became it for me, I felt something inside me move with each shoot that I staged. I started shooting daily and realized this process allowed me to express something I could not do otherwise. And so the creation of these otherworldly realities started to unfold.
H.G: How do you approach the process of creating surrealistic images that incorporate both your own image and fantastical elements?
A.B: One of my favorite aspects of this multi-layered process is creating set pieces or props, this is usually how the idea develops. I’ll start working on a set piece, usually from papier mâché and that will lead me to make costume pieces, and latex prosthetics slowly as the pieces and ideas build onto each other, a character will develop alongside the world that I am creating. The last step of the process, once the set is prepared and the photography equipment is in place, -is to step into that imaginary world and become an organic part of it. Then document it with a short video and a photograph and afterwards destroy the set.
H.G: Could you elaborate on the symbolism and narratives behind some of your most intriguing self-portraits?
A.B: Most of my inspiration comes from reading and I try to keep the poetic link to my work visible and alive. I’ve been fascinated and inspired by myths, legends, traditional folklore and beliefs of various regions as well as microbiology. Linking the two worlds is what drives me the most, referencing both matter which is real and that which is only said to be real or has been lost to time. My series Portals plays with the notion of stumbling across portals and being given momentary glimpses and glitches into these worlds.
H.G: What challenges do you face when blending reality and imagination in your photographs, and how do you overcome them?
A.B: I have a few mantras and one of my dearest ones is ‘It must look and feel real’ no matter how absurd or strange, the image has to make sense in its own way. Every aspect of the set, background, color scheme, my own pose, and movement, everything is calculated and meticulously manifested for a reason. It is challenging to make surrealism or fantasy look real, but it has to make sense in its own way. That’s something that I always keep in my mind when posing and being an inhabitant of the world I've created. To subtly overcome the challenge, I’ll keep the setup for a few weeks before the shoot. I’ll test the light, the feeling, I’ll sit in it, I’ll meditate there and at some point, gradually ideas fall into place and it becomes real. I know I’m ready to shoot when I no longer need to experiment with poses, they happen naturally because I’m now a part of the set I’ve created. It’s real.
H.G: How does your personal connection to the subject impact the creative process and the final outcome of your images?
A.B: I have a very playful approach to everything I do, mixed in with endless curiosity. I guess whatever I am currently diving in, sneaks into my sets. From mythology to feminism to mycology.
H.G: Surrealism often challenges conventional perspectives. How do you hope viewers interpret and engage with your self-portraits on both conscious and subconscious levels?
My initial goal at first was for the viewers to be able to have some curiosities about the work without focusing on the nudity or the gender of the character in focus. I wanted to create images in which nudity, mixed with all the other elements makes sense and is not the focal point of the image. Something that is acknowledged, but not amplified.
I still keep to this and am always glad to hear when someone tells me that they recognize elements of a particular myth, and have their own analysis or scenarios about the work. It’s lovely and intriguing to hear in which way the imagination is stirred when engaging with my work.
H.G: From a technical standpoint, what are some of the techniques or editing processes you employ to achieve the dreamlike quality in your photographs?
A.B: I have such an analogue mind, I love building things, deconstructing objects to see how they’re made, and then making my own versions of them. I spend weeks, sometimes months constructing each set. From painting the background, sculpting the props, making prosthetics, and designing the character, all of it is done by hand. I love working with silicone, latex, clay, body paint, plaster, and many other materials which all aid in set building. The dreamlike quality is often achieved through DIY filters that I place directly onto the camera lens. I do not enjoy editing images or postproduction or working on the computer, so I choose not to edit my images more than just cropping or adjusting the contrast.
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Text by Irina Rusinovich