In her own light

She’s an artist full of mystery that makes of her research of empathy through subconscious her vital motor. She travels through the light in order to get out of herself and try to understand the others knowing that rules are nothing more than a jail fruit of our own fear of being unaccepted.

I’m not a photographer or a narcissist. I’m an artist with a camera. Who is Kalliope Amorphous?

That is the question that I hope is unresolved when looking at my work, because although these are self portraits, I do not view them as portraits of myself. I would like the viewer to feel the same way and often it is the case that most people do not immediately recognize my work as self-portraiture. I want to tell convincing stories through these images, which is why most of these concepts involve complete physical transformation and the blurring or eradication of my own physical look. When someone asks me who my models are, I am happy.
There can be this assumption that if you are pointing the camera at yourself, then you must be a narcissist. For me, this self portraiture is the opposite of that, because I have to forget about “Kalliope”. I have to thoroughly drop the idea of myself, or at least go deeper into my subconscious, in order to get into the essence of what I ideally would like to depict. I usually do not see myself in the photographs at all. My latest series, Natsukashii, is probably the most “me” of all of my series.
I think, however, that a lot of my subconscious feelings and personal affinities do come to the surface through the subjects that I am drawn to. When I look at my work objectively, I see certain themes that tend to repeat themselves and I actually learn a lot about myself through it. No matter what subject an artist is pursuing, it is inevitable that the essence of the artist will be seen somehow in the art.
As for me personally, I am an artist and daydreamer. I am prone to viewing almost everything in poetic or metaphorical terms. I tend to romanticize things quite a bit and visual art is a way for me to make these visions tangible. Art is my 24-hour a day job. When I am not working on my photography, which is my primary focus, I am usually engaged in other art projects like assemblege jewelry and mixed media art. I also make perfume for Black Baccara Perfumery, which although it is a far leap from photography, is actually another way to present evocative stories. I have found that these two artforms play off of each other in interesting ways. For example, I have a perfume called “Ophelia”, which was inspired by my photo series of the same name.

Our senses distort reality because they have a blind faith in visible light. Your art transforms that vision but visible light is still the essential element. What does light mean to you?

This is an interesting question, because I am very fascinated by the study of consciousness and ideas of how each individual has their own “reality tunnel” as Robert Anton Wilson used to say. His theory was that we all perceive the world according to our own subconscious set of filters formed from experience and belief. This does not imply that there is no objective truth, but that our access to it is arbitrated through our senses and individual life experiences. Our perceptions of light correspond to this theory, because it is impossible to determine if individuals perceive light and colour exactly the same way.
Of course, light is the entire backbone of the magic and possibilities that exist in photography. So, I view light as the ultimate alchemical tool in this artform and I enjoy playing with it and manipulating it in unique ways. When we create art, we are filtering images and ideas from our minds and trying to make them tangible and “real”, but ultimately we are creating more illusions.  Light itself is an illusion, so in photography we are creating illusions by using illusion itself as a tool. I really love paradoxes like that.

Portrait is your unique framework. What are you looking for in faces?

It depends on the project, but usually I like to capture subtle moods and nuances that might lend something evocative to the images. I read something interesting many years back which explained that researchers have found that the human face is capable of 250,000 expressions. When I am in front of and behind the camera, much of what goes on is pretty spontaneous. Very little is planned other than a general mood and the resulting imagery is usually a surprise to me. I have no idea what I am about to look at when I sit down to review a shoot and often what I see in front of me is completely different from what I might have envisioned. The concepts are planned to a certain extent, but the element of surprise in the resulting imagery is my favorite part of the process. With 250,000 potential expressions in the face alone, nevermind the body, there will always be that element of the unexpected. The unexpected element is why I really enjoy portraiture.

Circus Ghosts is a portrait series about circus artists. Where do you find a link between circuses and ghosts?

While these are self portraits, it was my intent to present this series from the perspective of a documentary photographer. As the subject of these portraits, I wanted to convey the subtle emotional nuances of the characters as they began to take shape for me conceptually. As the photographer, I wanted to capture the characters from an intimate yet candid perspective.
Each of the characters has a distinct personality and story to tell, which I tried to capture through creating the mood of an intimate portrait session. I wanted to convey the humanness and personality of each of the characters, giving the viewer a glimpse behind the facade of makeup and costumes and into the potential stories of each of the characters.
I have always found the idea of the circus to have somewhat of a haunting quality about it. I wanted the portraits to have a timeless sort of feeling to them where it would be unclear if they were from the 1940s or more modern. So in this sense, these characters seem to be like ghosts to me, in that they are not fixed in any definite time frame.

Resurrecting Ophelia. Does Ophelia symbolize something to you especially?

Ophelia is a character I have always had an affinity for. On a purely visual level, there is something about the juxtaposition of beauty and death that I am attracted to. The poetic and artistic imagery of Ophelia has always seemed to encapsulate that sort of thing for me.
I am very attracted to mythology and fairytales that have this sort of tragic theme yet beautiful visual quality to them. I have just started a series based on the old fairytale Frozen Charlotte, which is about a woman who froze to death. I am a strong admirer of the works of the Pre-Raphaelites and they seemed to be drawn to these sorts of themes as well. It is not so much a fixation with death, although it may appear that way. It is more about an awareness of the fragility of life coupled with my preoccupation with things that are nostalgic and wistful in some sense.
I was also working through personal ideas of isolation and alienation in the Ophelia images. Though my life in general is very happy and I feel greatly blessed, the darker aspects of my personality tend to be rather melancholy. There are aspects that definitely find some sort of relation to Ophelia’s character; moments of feeling separate from the world or somehow outside of things.

Light or no light, that’s the question in Valkyrie where you play with shadows. Have you a spiritual view of life?

I have explored several different spiritual paths, but I don’t have any type of fixed spiritual belief system. I resonate with a lot of different spiritual ideas which run the gamut from Christian Mysticism to Haitain Vodou. I do not have any solid answers, nor do I adhere to any particular doctrine. I like to think that there are higher forces operating behind the scenes of our reality. I consider also that I may be entirely wrong about this. The brevity of life is something that I think about often and it also is something that inspires me. If I could encapsulate my “spiritual” view, it would most likely be centered around the brevity and preciousness of life and my quest to always recognize that and work within the realization of it.

Persona Non Grata captures some dropout people. I was deeply impressed by the Bird Girl portrait. Does society hurt you?

I would not say that any of my work deals with society harming me in particular, but I am passionate about causes regarding those whom society does truly harm and ostracize. Those types of themes will probably always be a part of my work in some way. The outcasts, the outsiders, the persecuted; these are the archetypes that I find resonance with and whose moods I am sometimes compelled toward. These themes are also part of my own life, though on a much more subtle level. That is to say, I would probably not find resonance with these larger feelings and themes of exile if I did not harbor some of them within myself.
As a child, I would have definitely been considered an oddball. I learned to read and write at an unusually young age, which automatically made me a curiosity among both my peers and teachers. I was reading rather difficult texts at an early age and was always put into the curriculums of grades several years ahead of me because of this. So my youth very much ingrained within me feelings of “other”, which morphed into a very rebellious nature in my teenage years. I have always been very ambivalent about conforming to any set of rules or ideas of normalcy. What is seen in my artwork is probably a raw yet somewhat dramatized interpretation of these feelings.
The Bird Girl portraits came about simply because I thought it would be an interesting visual. Some people will read into the work and some may view it as simply a visual. Both would be correct; I rarely create anything with a solid pre-conceived intention. Again, that is the kind of spontanaeity and magic that I really enjoy.
Much of the Persona Non Grata series, which I am actually still working on editing, was actually made with quite a bit of dark humor behind it. I envisioned the most absurd, bizarre, troubled cast of characters possible, from old women with horrible attitudes to completely deranged looking children. Part of this was that I wanted to really push the limits of how drastically I could transform my physical appearance. Every now and then, I also like to intercept the more “pretty” series with series that are completely off the wall.

Sacred is a general vision of religion icons. Is God the light are you searching for?

The sacred series was one of my earliest series and the images there are probably the most personal ones for me. In various traditions, devotees dress up as their chosen deities in order to celebrate and honor them. That was the spirit in which I went into conceptualizing those images.
In various spiritual or metaphysical systems, there is a term called “aspecting”. Aspecting refers to the empathic invocation of aspects of the self other than the ego. The entire range of the psyche is utilized; not just the limited ego. That is what I try to do in my art. I want to invoke aspects as empathically as possible. A lot of times, this work is a way for me to literally get outside of myself.
“God “is not something that I am searching for externally, but rather internally. I believe that if the Divine does exist, it exists equally within ourselves, and I try to embrace certain virtues like compassion and empathy as much as possible in my life. I see what I would call “divinity” in the natural world and in human beings who embrace truth and deep-seated concern for other living beings.

Hypnagogia is a mental state between wakefulness and sleep that includes lucid dreaming, hallucinations and out of body experiences. Is it not a contradiction to use light as a way to express experiences that go beyond our senses?

When I was revising my artist statement the other day, I came across a thought that really parallels your question. The thought was: to define a feeling depreciates a feeling. In other words, attempting to define anything whether through word, visual or sound will never be able to fully express or encapsulate that idea. I find this truth rather frustrating, because it points to the limitations of all expression. In the same breath, I find it inspiring because it pushes me to try to get as close as possible to rendering a vision or emotion as I see it. Art is a way to convey the intangible in a way that is undefined and not absolute-yet at the same time tangible, as it is fixed in time and open to the interpretation of the viewer.
So, as with everything, art has its limitations. Art is the process of attempting to make the intangible tangible in some way.  If an artist is passionate about their work, they will continually strive to chip away at those barriers as much as possible. When I have strong emotional responses to another artists work, I immediately recognize that they have pushed the work to get it to that point where it just hits you in the chest. This is more common in music, and in fact is probably more easily acheived through music; but it can definitely be present in all artforms.
I work on these sorts of ideas daily, always refining, always revising and reconsidering. I rarely consider a series finished. In fact, I had been working on Resurrcting Ophelia for years when I finally decided that she was officially finished about a month ago. One simple step; the conversion of all of the photographs to monochrome, is what told me the series was finally complete.
So in answer to your question, yes I think almost everything could be considred contradictory. But, these are the tools we have.

Tell me something about your love concept.

Well, now you have asked a question which I do not really have an answer for! As I have said, I tend to romanticize so many things, but I think love is much more subtle than what most people think. At this point in my life, I think love is the ability to feel empathy for someone or something in the face of the most impossible despair. Compassion is probably the essence of love; the ability to get outside of oneself and truly understand what it may be like to be in the skin of another; to go beyond judgement, to get beyond assessing another human being only in relation to one self. This is very difficult, because selfishness is the plague of all of us. There is a danger in that kind of openness and vulnerability…but then, love itself tends to be beautifully dangerous.

Interview by Juan Carlos Romero
Photo by Kalliope Amorphous