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Laura Makabresku is an internationally acclaimed photographer whose pieces resonate so deeply with others, that she has successfully bridged the gap between creator and audience. Emotions, events, and perspectives are captured in a moment that many can claim as their own, though the work is through her lens and hands alone. Laura states that her work is completely based within the realm of Love, and it is statements such as this that rends our hearts open only to be filled with her gorgeous cathartic visuals. Based in Poland, Laura was kind enough to be interviewed for beautiful.bizarre’s Issue 016.
Justine: It would be lovely if you could give our readers a look into your background and upbringing as an artist. Where did you grow up, and when did you first discover your love for photography?
Laura: I was born in November 1987 in Brzesko, a small town in the southern Poland. I’ve spent much of my childhood at my grandparents’ home in the countryside. I suppose that this is where my love for nature, animals, folk stories began. In my early years, I also spent lots of my time in the convent – my aunt is a nun – where as a child I learnt tranquility, delicacy and to cultivate innocence. For my formal education I moved to Cracow, where I began studies in the field of Polish literature.
From the time perspective I think that the love for photography, the picturesque way of imaging was an another way of searching for essential means of expressions. I started this with poetry and short prose and it did not take long since I discovered that I feel more confident in photography than in poetry, nevertheless I often complement my visual art with poetic titles or stories.
Most often I use analog cameras, either small or medium format. Of course I also use digital cameras and there was a time when I did the majority of my works with digital cameras. But, to be sincere, the most important aspect of the creative process is the Image itself, without any significant matter what technique was used to create it. This doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to the technical aspects of the photography, these can have significant impact on the final effect, nevertheless I don’t devote my attention to these more than to the essential spirit of the image.
How do you traverse the art world? Is identifying as a female artist an important aspect of your artistic philosophy?
My passion for creating does not support anything else but Love. I don’t pay attention to identify myself with one or another group. It is not, and it never was, my occupational activity. The purpose and the source at the same time is Love, the will for people to feel a little bit less lonely when communing with my art.
To say it in other words: my art operates on the principle of suspending the reality, distancing the viewer from it, freezing it in the form if the Image. This way I hope to focus the attention of the viewer on an entirely new, metaphoric thread, allowing another kind of look to come into being, deepened and freshened, which allows to exceed our earthly reality, rather than just thoughtlessly outlive it. To contemplate it.
In the very beginning there is always a vision, a touch of light, from which, gradually, details emerge. It is a very intimate, sometimes very startling internal experience, which – as I suppose – every artist could describe in its own way, but there is probably something common in it: some kind of inspiration, however you name it. The echo of such vision trails me for a long time before I find the best fitting aesthetics for it. Very often I sketch ideas in a notebook in the form of a simple drawing or word-map that carries information about emotions coupled with the Image. I think over the colors, light, gestures, props which could portray the mood of a place or “event”, which I experienced in my imagination, and – above all – that could carry all of its beauty.
At the beginning I am mostly dominated by the excess, which I tend to avoid in my art. Thus in the first stage I focus on reduction of all elements to necessary minimum, to draw one line of aesthetics that will be mutual for all frames that presents a particular story. Sometimes I leave some ideas to grow in me for a bit longer and after some time I take a look at them to see if they are still evoking their initial strength, if they are in-line with me. More often, however, there is not much time distance between the first, convincing impression and the creation act – in-depth world of topics that concerns me is full of the Hidden Matter, than can be transfigured into an Image. Many of my works are not very complicated – on the contrary, there are periods that I create all the time literally, trying to use the stuff I have and surrounding circumstances to do this transfiguration from the Hidden into an Image. My small apartment in the past few years became my atelier, my sanctum, where many Universes arise and fade every day.
The next thing is to find a model, if one is needed; mostly the character on my photos is just me, if this can be done technically, and a place. Very often, the latter one is very troubling for me, because I don’t own my personal studio, which I could arrange in the way I would like, and to change it every time without technical limits. Thus there are many projects still suspended due to lack of necessary space.
I believe I have never told this before, but I think that my interest in the creational aspect of photography, more than just a documentary one, comes from the fact that since I was a child I have had very poor vision, a really serious defect. I started to use glasses or contact lenses only a few years ago, and before that I experienced world in a more intuitive way, one could say like blindfolded. I remember that when I wore glasses for the first time and went for a walk to a city I was very saddened. The reality around me stopped being tender and foggy, instead of this it became very invasive with all these details, especially the ones created by humans: bright, vivid and brutal. Before that it was much more like a dream: soft, round and smooth. And to this recognition of the world I tend to appeal, more intuitive than tangible.
Many of your photos are incredibly intimate and tread upon very personal concepts. Are these things you’ve experienced yourself, are you illustrating the stories of others, or is it all an experience in the surreal?
I am a Catholic person and I search for inspiration in the transcendental, divine matter. The Beauty, which is in my opinion the substance of creation, is at the same time something of a supernatural kind, given from Above, leading to Good. I don’t mean here demonic creation, which also can occur from inspiration of a supernatural kind, but it uses the imitation of Beauty and Harmony – this is some kind of charm, attractiveness. The content of my photos are some internal experiences, sometimes even very extreme, marked with love, faith, hope, tenderness and gentleness, and at the same time with very different emotions like fear, anxiety, pain, rebellion, loss and loneliness. Thus, my art is very personal, and, as I hope, at the same time close to other people experiences. However, this doesn’t mean that I intend to tell my personal story in my photos. In my opinion artists should be present in the work itself as little as possible, or at least stay transparent. Therefore, when I say that art is personal I mean that is has psychical and spiritual strength of its individual creator, which is always included in the work. The surrealistic element in my art I would rather call to be a spiritual one, which stands as the basis of every art piece, upon which all emotions, thoughts, et cetera, are mounted. When creating, I turn most often in the direction of myths and fairy tales, I try not to present the real, daily world, I don’t create documentaries, I rather try to give birth to some reality of possible kind for which we are probably longing, which we desire, which evokes emotions, sometimes frightens, which fills some unnamed absence, lack of something or someone, giving accession to new experiences which are unknown in the regular, daily life. From such experiences new consciousness arise. The photo is never a closed set, even though its form could indicate that. The photo “goes on” in the mind and emotions of the viewer, it changes him, this is why creativeness is also a great deal of responsibility for other people.
What would you like people to think about or take away with them after viewing your work?
I would like for the viewer to experience his own soul, and through this also something exceeding the temporal, guiding his thoughts to God. This is why the fabric of my photos are boundary regions or events, contrary experiences where tensions tend to emerge. These tensions evoke something like shock when one is standing speechless in front of the part of reality that could roughly be named with words like Beautiful, Painful or True.
Where do you go for inspiration? What artists inspire you? What do you do when you’re dealing with artists block?
I like to be in contact with art, especially with paintings of Bosch, Memling, Munch, Böcklin, Bacon, Wojtkiewicz, Beksiński. I truly admire music of Arvo Part, Zbigniew Presiner, Philip Glass. I am also strongly inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman, Emil Cioran, Augustine of Hippo, Plato, Simone Weil, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Edith Stein, Leo Tolstoy, Samuel Beckett and many others.
I expect from art to lead me to a contemplation state, where time is suspended, which allows me to take a look at myself from the other, exterior perspective, in the new context, uncover great emotions, make me feel achieving understanding, settlement with the work. What I seek in art is mostly experiences that exceed daily life and the world, that deepens my recognition of the world, that will make me feel like blessed with the timeless, enriching awareness stitched with the particular work, collection of works, mood and essence of life of the author.
Artist block, in my case, is in general the issue of dealing with anxiety, thoughts that tell me that I won’t cope with something, or the issue of flooding sadness which catches everyone’s heart sometimes. In my case lasting in prayers, quiescence and being in a natural landscape helps.
What is your idea of success and do you have any advice for others trying to get their work out into the world?
I never pushed myself to success, and it was never an objective for me, thus I don’t feel that I could be a person giving any advice for others in that matter. I think that talent is a Gift, this is why it is essential to use it with adequate care and delicacy. Even if ones art would reach a relatively small audience, one should mind only about the Good that it could rise in the hearts of these few.
Though, if I had to say, I feel like the success for me is to get into some kind of fellow-understanding, settlement with the viewer. However not in a manner of simple communication, but by revealing something truly new to which the viewer didn’t have access before, or at least to make it shine with new brightness in this meeting of artist and viewer. I also find to be a success to stay honest till the end with myself and my audience.
What does the future hold for you? What projects, collaborations, or gallery shows are on the horizon?
As I mentioned in the beginning, I would really love to make a movie, even one. For a start I am thinking about something short. For now it is my biggest dream. Nowadays, I am preparing a bigger photo set around hospital theme. Also, if everything will go well, I will take part in the exhibition within the Venice Art Biennale in 2017. Thank you very kindly for this conversation.