If there's one thing that photographer Eva Abeling is most interested in, it's the theme of the subconscious. How Eva manifests this theme in her photography is quite unique – she uses the human body to create the impression of dreaming. For Eva, the human body is an enigma worth unraveling. She omits faces and heads from her composition, removing key components of a person's identity. In her body of work, there's little to distinguish one subject from another. Her images pose wordless questions that are open to a wide range of interpretation. As well as an analogue photographer, Eva is also a poet. Perhaps this is why her body portraits are so pensive.
Hi Eva! First, welcome to Lomography Magazine. Tell us, when did your love for photography start to blossom?
From a young age, I have been surrounded by poetry. I wanted to show the images that the poems provoked in my mind. I was inspired by the mystery of the poems. The mystery of the choice of words. That there is not one understanding, no right or wrong. That there is not one truth, but only your own subjective truth. A truth influenced by your dreams, sensitivity, and desires. By your fears and nightmares. By your unconsciousness. Anything real. Anything pure.
You mostly shoot body portraits. Why you do focus on that subject matter alone, and why do you often omit faces and heads?
My photographs are about our unconsciousness, our sensitivity. Through the state of body, I suggest a stillness or tension which for some might evoke desires, softness. For others nightmares, fears. The female gaze is very powerful – eyes closed or looking into the camera. It can be very quickly interpreted in one mood. One truth – the truth of the person being photographed. So when I exclude this gaze, the mystery is able to survive. My choice to omit faces provokes the imagination. It can be about your own desires, emotions, and softness. Our unconsciousness gives the power of reinterpretation.
Focusing on bodies in photography has always been a delicate subject matter, as it calls into question our perception of beauty and the self. What does a beautiful person look like to you?
Sadly, it is very rare that the person I photograph comes to the shoot without warning me about all the things that are "wrong" with her body. One girl is convinced she is too short and another girl thinks she is too tall. Some would say they have too much hair, others too little hair. Too skinny, too big. Too muscular, too curvy. We all have our insecurities.
I normally work with women who are my friends and family, and sometimes people I met along the way. Women with personality inspire me... their softness or confidence. You can find beauty in every soul you discover. We are all individuals and none of us are perfect. I think that is the beautiful thing, because our world would be incredibly boring if we were all the same. We start with almost a blank canvas, and our freckles, stretch marks, bruises, birthmarks, and scars make it evident that we have lived. They make us unique. They compose us.
For me, the most beautiful girls I have photographed are the ones who forgot about everything. The ones who trusted in me and in themselves. The ones who showed themselves naturally. The ones who did the opposite of apologizing for themselves. The ones who loved their body during the whole shoot just as it is.
We notice that your subjects' bodies are often posed in a rather artistic, or dance-like position. Is there any reason behind the style?
There is a secret communication between your soul and your body. You can dream with your feet. Like a silent poem. Through the shape of our bodies, I communicate what sometimes is too deep to express through words.
As a photographer, from where do you draw your inspiration?
From everything that’s soft and sensitive. Vulnerability. From my dreams and nightmares. From moods. From poetry. From our most natural minutes of the day. From stillness.
From things that I have to portray because I don’t understand them. The image as an acceptance of the fact that it will never be understood.
Your photographs are very inspiring, and mostly captured under natural light. Do you have any words of wisdom for photographers who are just starting out?
We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. It is your world. Your dreams. Your eyes. Don’t let the fear of others rub off on you. Be kind to your mind. Follow and trust in your universe. Your unconsciousness. Your sensitivity. There is no shame in being vulnerable.
What does a day in the life of Eva Abeling look like?
Normally during the night, I have a lot of dreams and I am confused about them in the morning. I go to yoga which all happens on a trapeze. It happens upside down and I think most of the time I have too much blood in my head. I feel slightly dizzy all day. I also daydream a lot. A lot. I have to be careful when I am on my bike riding through Barcelona to my studio. Daydreaming is dangerous. In the studio, I create, and I am in my own universe.
I have conversations with the girls working next to me about everything, anything and nothing. About the moon and the different oceans and our mind. Sometimes I have a coffee around the corner. I wait impatiently for the developed films to arrive. I go to my roof terrace and take photos or watch documentaries about the sea because I’m obsessed with those. The nights are wild. They are free and filled with fun things.
Any on-going projects, or other plans you're keen to work on?
I will tell you about two new projects. One is about the sea and the moon and our tears. I shot it this summer and I will show it to everyone soon. The other project is a new collaboration with the poet-artist Leyla Margareta Jafarian called Forget Me Not. It is our second collaboration after Hot Dreams.
The How to Cover-Up Your Nipples series and my diary are both ongoing, so there will always be new work to discover. My online shop will be updated with new products and prints, and I might do a pop up store soon.