Being Naked in Front of the Camera Is Brutally Cathartic

Sydney-based photographer Sylvè Colless brings a provocative new series to LA gallery Slow Culture.
June 3, 2016, 8:20pm
All images courtesy of Sylvè Colless and Mild Manners Gallery

Sydney’s Mild Manners Gallery traveled to California for an overseas residency, and brought photographer Sylvè Colless with them. Colless' new exhibition, Aurelia, a series of photographs exploring transformation and the nude female form, opens this weekend at LA’s Slow Culture.

You may recognize Colless’ photography from publications like Harpers BazaarVogueElle, and Russh, but this body of work is denser than those editorial projects. Quite literally, there’s more to Aurelia than meets the eye—many of the images depict subtly warped reflections of the nude women they feature, rather than the figures themselves.

“I’m interested in ideas around what is real versus what is not,” Colless tells The Creators Project. “I wanted to explore the way the mind can twist and contort things before coming to a resolution or a point of clarity that is the precursor for change.”

“I’ve been really intrigued by female form since I was a kid,” she says. “I love the dance between the fragility and power of female nudes."

None of the women featured in the show are models, and it is that first-time experience of being naked in front of a camera that interests Colless. “The vulnerability of being naked in front of the camera is foreign to them, which I feel is an important part of the image-making process,” she says. Through a progression of 11 frames, she explains that she wanted to explore the "shared and solitary experience in different phases of the process of transformation.”

The exhibition is deeply personal, containing intimately autobiographical references to Colless’ emotional inner-life and how she has grown and transformed herself over time. “I’m particularly interested in ideas around the concept of catharsis, which for me is a powerful element in psychological metamorphosis,” she says.

Aurelia features a self-portrait of Colless with bruises on her face taken in 2010, the result of abuse at the hands of a former partner, and she’s interested in the cathartic effect of re-visiting the trauma. “When I broke up with the person, we were engaged and I swallowed the ring,” she says. “In the split-second I decided to do that, it made perfect sense, and from this I became really aware of the power of catharsis… I guess by sharing this image, I want to show my vulnerability in the hope that other people will connect with the realness of it.”

Aurelia opens this Saturday June 4 at Slow Culture, 943 N. Hill Street Los Angeles. It runs until June 12. You can find out more about Colless and her work here and follow her on Instagram.


This article originally appeared on The Creators Project Australia/New Zealand.


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