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Being in New York for the week, it was at the top of my list to see the Met’s Spring 2012 Costume Institute exhibition, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations. Braving torrential rain, I finally made my way to the museum. As you enter the exhibit, you are greeted with the two fashion icons, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, in the cinematic illusion of a discussion between them. The Met and curator Harold Koda commissioned filmmaker Baz Luhrmann to direct eight short features, with Prada as herself and Schiaparelli portrayed by actress Judy Davis. The videos set the tone for the exhibition as both women reflect on their taste, politics, culture and promoting non conventional ideas of beauty. Sometimes they agree, sometimes disagree. The debate is refreshing and somewhat touching as we see Schiaparelli being brought back to life as well as listen to Miuccia Prada who is known for being extremely shy. Each conversation is played along side garments and accessories putting forth the differences and similarities between the two designers. The result is thought provoking. I leave with my brain feeling teased, wandering wether Prada And Schiaparelli would have been friends or foes, who knows?
by Geraldine Wharry
Photos of Elena Kalis – Alice in Wonderland
Last year during one of my late-night searches for inspiring artists, I discovered underwater photographer Elena Kalis. Captivated by her series “Alice underwater”, I couldn’t help but wonder how she came to create images so poetic and intriguing.
Months later, I’m now speaking with Elena on Skype, from my desk in rainy London. She’s at home in the Bahamas, on an island so distant and beautiful, that I can’t help but feel she is not just retelling a tale, she’s living in one.
去年一個深夜，我在搜尋一些具啟發性的藝術家時，意外地發現了她﹐一個擅長水底拍攝的攝影師 – 倫娜卡利斯(Elena Kalis)。當時﹐我深深被她一系列作品「水中愛麗斯」吸引着，並開始對她那些既有詩意又耐人尋味的影像製作產生了好奇。直至數個月後，倫敦的一個下雨天，我在辦公室透過Skype和倫娜通電話，才得知她身處美麗又遙遠的巴哈馬群島。我不禁地猜測她生活的地方是否正是「愛麗斯」中的童話世界。
What inspires you?
The ocean is my main daily inspiration. It’s vast and multifaceted: bright, sunny and fun. Yet it has another side which symbolizes darkness, even death. The ocean is forever changing and that’s the biggest inspiration for me.
Which artists have played a role in your art? Your work seems to encompass different disciplines: music, painting, ballet.
Paul Gauguin is one of my biggest inspirations, especially his use of colour. I’m also inspired by photographers, especially Connie Imboden. But my ideas come from everyday life, they can occur in a fleeting moment. In fact we live in a world so overwhelmed with images that, for some projects, I don’t even look at images to avoid being influenced.
E: 保羅高(Paul Gauguin))是其中一位對我啟發最大的人，尤其是他的用色；同時我也受到攝影師康妮伊姆伯登(Connie Imboden)影响。不過﹐我的創作點子大多是源於日常生活，靈感可以在霎時之間出現。事實上，我們生活的世界正被圖像支配著，故此在創作時，有時我甚至會不看圖像以避免受到影響。
Do you see yourself as a storyteller because I see a lot of poetry in your work?
I do but I don’t like to retell stories literally. I prefer ambiguities and expressing a feeling. You’d be surprised at the interpretations people have made of “Alice underwater”. That’s what I like: the viewers can make their own story. Lewis Carroll didn’t have any specific public in mind. It just came from his heart and that’s why it speaks to people.
E: 我不喜歡平鋪直述，我會選擇用含糊的方式去表達一種感覺。你會因別人對「水中愛麗斯」的詮譯而感到驚訝。這就是我喜歡的地方: 讀者可以構造出另一個屬於他們自己的故事。劉易斯卡羅爾(Lewis Carroll) “愛麗絲夢遊仙境”的作者之所以能與觀眾溝通﹐是因為他並沒有任何特定的對象，這一切只是發乎於心。
I noticed in your photos the fabrics, objects and colours are carefully picked.
The props and costumes are very important. Especially the colours because underwater you have a lot of blues so I choose reds, oranges and yellows that will stand out. White always looks very good underwater. I also tend to use fluid fabrics, which look gorgeous, especially when the sunshine strikes them. It creates a dramatic effect which fascinates me.
What is your background and how did you get interested in photography?I’m a painter. When digital photography started, I composed images on the computer for my paintings, and that’s how I started taking pictures.
With underwater photography I work differently though. I don’t want to create an image, I want to capture it. So I barely do any retouching other than colour-corrections because the photos already have so much going for them. I wouldn’t even be able to recreate the reflections that happen naturally underwater.
So did you fall into underwater photography the same way Alice fell into the rabbit hole?
I was already doing underwater photography and had experimented with a few images. But no matter how much you prepare ahead of time, shooting underwater is always full of surprises and you might end up creating a whole different image. That’s what’s interesting to me, the element of unpredictability. The key is going with the flow.
What’s your favourite aspect of photography?
Being underwater and seeing how colours, shapes change. I listen to my breath and heartbeat because it feels like I’m in a different dimension. I forget about everything and look through the viewfinder to capture the moment.
That sounds very inspiring and like a very nice way to live and create art.
Yes, I’m fortunate I must say. I love what I do and that’s probably why it speaks to people.
I’m curious, what brought you to the Bahamas from your native Russia?
I was always drawn to water since childhood. It’s my element and embodies my way of life. I swim all the time and often with my camera.
Do you work in a swimming pool or natural surroundings? I wonder about the challenges that come with that.
I shoot in both but the ocean has a much better atmosphere. It’s much harder to work with though, everything has to be right: the conditions, the clarity. Also physically it’s more challenging. It takes a lot of time as there are many variables. “Alice underwater” was shot in the pool because it was easier for children and I had too many props to shoot in the ocean.
Is there something you think children bring to photography that adults don’t?
Children bring innocence, they’re not as guarded and can be free. The only thing is you can’t push them like adults. If they loose interest you have to wait for the spark to come back.
In “Alice in Wonderland”, Alice swims in her own tears, she shrinks and later turns into a giant. It’s a complete dream world. Why did you decide to retell the story underwater?
Underwater your sense of reality subsides. Your perception is altered and your link with other people is broken. It has the same quality as when Alice walks through the mirror. Alice’s world is not that much different to the world underwater. Also, I had my models: my daughter Alexandra (who actually only wants to be called Alice), and my son, who played The Mad Hatter.
Finally, the tale of Alice in wonderland has a lot of symbolism. What are the things in the story that attracted you the most?
It’s my favourite tale of all time. In essence it’s a nonsensical story. There’s nothing really happening, it’s not set in a particular frame, it’s limitless and free. That struck a chord with me in the bottom of my heart and I chose to make it my own.