• Elfie Semotan
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    Interview; ELFIE SEMOTAN BEAUTY AND PERFECTION ARE BORING IDEALS

    20 April 2012

    by Sophia Czerny

    Elfie Semotan has made a name for herself with a body of photographic work encompassing fashion, portraiture, advertising, and landscape, and is now top-of-the-league among international photographers. She’s currently offering a free behind-the-scenes look at her work in the exhibition center of the University for Applied Arts `the Angewandte`in the Heiligenkreuzerhof section of Vienna.

    At present, the 70-year-old lives in New York, Vienna and Burgenland—three different worlds providing manifold sources of inspiration. The current exhibit focuses on the wide variety of themes that are of prime interest to Semotan, unfinished and utterly beyond restriction.

    Sophia Czerny.: When did you become aware that the perfection of the fashion world disturbed you so much?

    Elfie Semotan.: Perfection in itself doesn’t bother me, it’s the current ideal standards for models that bore me. When I was modeling myself, I never matched what was currently in demand. since in actuality there are as many ideals of beauty as there are people.

    S.C.: So you decided to pick up the camera yourself and try to change things.

    E.S.:  Yes, since to me it‘s the people in and of themselves that are important, not just aesthetics, some relationship to beauty, to perfection. I try to yank fashion out of its beauty-and-perfection niche, since, truth be told, only a few people are really pretty, but everyone can define themselves through fashion.

    S.C.: In your pictures, there’s no information whatsoever about what the actual situation in the image is. How come?

    E.S.: For me, self-explanatory images very often lose exactly what interests me, that is, a certain directness and spontaneity. In contrast to commercial and fashion photography, with mine you can come up with your own image of the situation from which the picture arose. Which also endows the whole thing with character. You don’t always have to be able to explain everything.

    S.C.: Is that to say that your own personal taste has hardly anything in common with the pictures for which you’re commissioned?

    E.S.: No, since they belong together nonetheless and exist on parallel tracks. When I select pictures for an exhibition like this one, I look for photos that depict people and don’t limit themselves to beauty and fashion. I’ve always collaborated with people I like. When that’s not the case, the images are just pretty, nice, or aesthetic. But in an exhibition, no one would be interested in them.

    S.C: Cordula Reyer, for example, is a woman with whom you get along very well and with whom you’ve worked a lot. Where do you two connect?

    E.S.: Cordula had a tough time of it accepting her own beauty as such. She wanted to be seen as a person and not as a model that you could buy, rent, use.  For me our work together was always interesting because I liked her, and also found these superficial points of view to be tiresome.

    S.C.: She’s also worked with Helmut Lang for years …

    E.S.: We come from two totally different spheres, but in the way that we observe things, we’re very similar. We have in common an affinity for art and the fact that we both come from Austria has certainly been a bond.

    S.C.: You live, among other places, in Vienna and New York. Do you see similarities between the art scenes in the two cities?

    E.S.: Vienna has so many great museums, and I often think that the exhibits you see in New York you can see in Vienna directly afterwards. But in New York, an audience of millions is being addressed, and therefore being more precisely and, at the same time, more lavishly worked, and you have to take a lot more time with everything. I think a city  also calls attention to itself when really good people come from it. That was the case back with Helmut Lang.

    S.C.: To what extent do you concern yourself with other photographers‘ pictures?

    E.S.: To a great extent, and then of course very often I think that I myself could be working entirely differently. Not that that means a picture would automatically be better because of it .

    S.C.: And how do you see your old photographs now?

    E.S.: There’s always some development, but the essence and this certain direction are always there. With me it’s always about the negotiation with light, and that’s never changed.

     S.C.: Thank you for the interview.


    Credits

    semotan.com


               


     
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