09 August 2021
09 August 2021 - Written by PhMuseum
By using the photographic medium as a tool to counter ancient myths and create a new form of magic, German photographer Sophie Allerding explores the importance of escaping the imposition of colonial imagery and reconnects to the inner world of her childhood in Brazil.
Glowing Eyes is about the myths in the Amazonas rainforest and their leading role in the life of the forest and the forest inhabitants. I grew up with Brazilian folklore, it was my first contact with the Amazon rainforest. As far back as I remember, the images of the eerie yet magically attracting stories exist in my head and caused a growing interest in the place and its myths. I liked how nature was pictured as a subject, strong and humans as part of it. But since I was young I had the feeling that something happened to those stories, otherwise, there wouldn‘t be so much deforestation.
Myths influence our individual actions as well as the actions of whole societies in which they are told. The myths from the inner Amazon are part of its ecosystem. Where these myths are alive, the image of man as a part of his environment also lives. Through the preservation of this image, humans maintain a respectful and harmonious coexistence. Whilst some use these myths to maintain the respectful coexistence of man and nature, others abuse them to create a counterpart. Colonialists created images to drive and legitimize appropriation and exploitation. The "Tropical Dream", which lures with untiring wealth and the wild, unpredictable and chaotic nature, which must be tamed and civilized.
A reoccupation of dominant images could be a way to reverse the occupation of nature. A return to the myths from within, to the life of the forest, the river, the animals and plants. Brazilian folklore is also part of my inner life and for me, the vivid stories of Amazonia offer a perspective of a free, self-determined nature and a harmonious coexistence with it.
At the same time I grew up in Germany, so I carry within me, just like the stories from the inner Amazonia, those from a eurocentric perspective. In order to get closer to these stories, to understand them better and to absorb them to a greater extent, I have visited communities of river dwellers called Ribeirinhos, in the Brazilian Amazon basin. People and places where these stories are still very much alive. With glowing eyes, I looked at the forest, the river and their stories and looked for a way to unmask my own views and make them transparent.
During a longer stay, I organized a photography workshop. This allowed me to enter into a closer exchange with some of the residents. This leads me to open my way of working and my tools for dialogue. The results are not decoupled from my perspective as a European, which I also inevitably shared through this workshop. Nevertheless, this experience allowed a fusion of different perspectives, which also became research material and inspiration for my work. Far from the jungle and the river, I began to conjure up the magic of their myths. I used techniques such as multiple exposures or photograms to create illusions like magic tricks.
In order not to create a counterpart, I try to become similar, to then become part of it and to let others become part of it too. My work leads me to a physical examination of the outer landscape, the plants and animals, as well as the inner landscape, the myths and stories, which made a connection possible for me. Transforming myself from the subject into the object, in order to let the object become subject. Demystifying the familiar images, disenchanting symbols, in order to conjure them again and charge them with new magic.
Words and Pictures by Sophie Allerding.
Sophie Allerding is an artist and feminist currently based in the Netherlands. Her work often contains elements of myths and explores themes as human and more-than-human relationships, identity, embodiment and the unknown. She is motivated by personal questions and experiences and influenced by her Latin American roots, especially when it comes to a magical way to perceive reality. Find her on PHmuseum and Instagram.
This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.