The Elysian Fields were a place in Greek mythology where the souls of heroes and righteous people went to rest. In this land of eternal peace and happiness, the souls were absolved from all suffering. They had infinite time to stroll through the pale meadows, surrounded by music, poplars and asphodels. The last, a type of flower, came to symbolize death, grief, sadness, melancholy, sentimentality — and eternity.
In the words of English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson:
Others in Elysian valleys dwell,
Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel
History, memories, death and eternal life...Marcela Paniak explores and experiments with different mediums to express her feelings through images. Assistant editor Alexander Strecker reached out to her via email to find out more.
This project has a richly historical feel to it. Can you talk about your relationship to the history of photography?
There is one thing in common between all types of photographs: they store history. They are a testimony to the existence of places and to the presence of people. This magical property makes collecting historical photographs a fascinating exercise: they give you the ability to travel through time.
Besides that, my interest lies in memories. Photography has the power of preserving places and people we don't even know. It almost has the ability to grant eternal life. The specific idea of using historical cartes des visites (business cards) was spontaneous. There are lots of forgotten and abandoned things around us that can be found at the flea market. Seemingly useless things sometimes turn out to be priceless, if you think about what they keep. Although I re-made these images in a contemporary form, in a while they too will become part of history and in turn may be remembered by someone else.
Your body of work shows a great variety of approaches—color, black and white, alternative process. Can you talk about your desire/need to experiment, to try different ways of expressing photographic ideas?
In the beginning, I enjoyed photography for those moments when by using a simple mechanical method, I could create a different image from reality. In this way I was able to express my feelings, especially those which are impossible to describe in words.
Over time, I discovered how my main artistic inspiration is my own life. So, I reach for different media suitable for the feeling I want to express. Experimenting with different techniques allows me to present both the complexity of the world and the variety of my own feelings. That's why I have worked with montage, video, drawing and alternative processes. But everything is still based on the photographic image.
—Marcela Paniak, as told to Alexander Strecker
Exhibition of all 50 LensCulture Emerging Talents: Barcelona, October 13-31
Marcela Paniak's work, along with photographs from ALL the LensCulture Emerging Talents will be shown in an exhibition at the Galeria Valid Foto in Barcelona. Please join us for the opening party on October 13, 2014—we hope to see you there! See a preview of ALL the winners here in LensCulture.
ALL winners have already been featured at photo festival screenings in Dublin, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Amsterdam so far this year. Next screening in Korea at the Seoul Lunar Photo Fest.