Emerging photographer Alma Haser speaks to Wonderland about her origami-inspired portraits in “Cosmic Surgery.”
Alma Haser’s photographic work may not have been around for long but it is definitely making waves. Since graduating from Nottingham Trent University, she has received an abundance of recognition; named by the British Journal of Photography as one of the four best graduates of 2010, recently shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize shown at the National Portrait Gallery for ‘The Ventriloquist’, and her work has featured in 10 exhibitions internationally. Not bad for someone who only graduated three years ago.
Haser’s intricately abnormal portraitures ‘Cosmic Surgery’ has in particular gained a lot of attention, having received third place Peoples Choice Award at the Foto8 Summer Show 2012. Wonderland spoke to her about the series, along with origami, travel and an evolved future generation.
You come from an artistic background, how has your upbringing influenced your work?
I am extremely lucky to have two parents as artists and to have had such a great childhood filled with creativity. I am always taking [inspiration] from my past experiences and getting advice from my family. I couldn’t see myself going down any other route other than art.
Where do you find your inspiration?
From films, books, stories I hear about on the radio or read in the daily newspapers — [they] all trigger ideas in my head that then create new projects.
You travelled on a round-the-world trip when you were younger; did that have an influence on your creativeness?
Yes, of course! I would recommend for anyone to travel and see as many places as they can. I can get immersed into learning about each new culture for example Japan has been a big influence on my work; it’s the catalyst for my origami obsession.
Having been chosen as one of the four best graduates of 2010 from the British Journal of Photography, how has your style changed since graduating?
My style has changed quite a lot. I would say I became a little freer with my ideas and process. I did however become very stuck just after that article was written. I didn’t know where to go from my degree show, what to create and how to make my name in photography. But I soon became aware of the freedom and that I was the only thing holding my creativity back. I would often use myself to experiment my ideas, to see if they worked before trying them on anyone else.
Cosmic Surgery is both unsettling yet strangely beautiful, was that your intention to unnerve and fascinate at the same time?
Yes, I am always trying to make work that either confuses or invites the viewer to take a closer look.
Origami is used in Cosmic Surgery and has been included in previous projects, how did it become a feature in your photography?
I used to watch a lot of Japanese films and read about Japanese stories and myths one of which stuck in my mind. ‘Sadako and the thousand paper cranes,’ a true story about a girl who lived in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing by the US. She developed leukaemia from the radiation and spent her time in a nursing home creating origami cranes in hope of making a thousand of them. She was inspired to do so by one of the Japanese legend, that one who created a thousand origami cranes would be cured by gods. However she only managed to make 6644 cranes, and died in 1955. People in Japan now fold a thousand cranes in memory of Sadako, and leave them on her grave. I found the story so compelling, it inspired me to create my series ‘Paper’ which are each accompanied with a short story.
A lot of reviews have said the faces look futuristic and alien-like, could they be a possible insight of an evolved future generation?
I actually have this in my project statement, so I guess they got that from what I said. But yes I always like making work that has an otherworldly feel, and ‘Cosmic Surgery’ in my eyes, are the next generation. The parents are not disfigured by the origami because they are like us.
Its interesting to hear what people say and how the interpret the images, some say its to do with cosmetic surgery (a play on the title), some say its how we are becoming unknown and unrecognisable. But it’s really up to you to decide.
You’ve said before about wanting to hide your true identity, why is that important to you?
I know it is hard to hide your true identity, but I try. As I said before I used and still do self-portraiture but away hide or disguise my face. I started it because I was shy but also because I didn’t want the work to be prominently about myself. By making myself anonymous I was allowing people to relate to the work more freely. It wasn’t about me it was about the girl in the picture who could also be ‘you.’
I also think its fascinating that most photographers, unless really famous or a big self-portrait photographer/artist, are anonymous. You know of their work but you hardly ever see their own portrait. I guess I like this anonymity.
Tell us about any future projects you’re working on right now.
I have many in the pine line, but I rarely tell anyone about them before they are finished. So you’ll have to wait and see.
Words: Kayleigh Rawlings (follow Kayleigh on Twitter @kayleighar)