Evan Dale // May 13, 2020
Photography as narrative. Storytelling through stills. In the age of fast fashion and videography available at our fingertips, telling a tale the masses consider worth listening to utilizing only raw imagination and photography is nearly impossible. There has to be a point of differentiation. And for Polish photographer, Laura Makabresku, the thing that differentiates her aesthetic from that of her peers is born of the same thing that differentiates the stories she tells. Imagination is her greatest tool, and hers is rooted in the timelessness of folklore across myriad cultures.
Using a blindingly unique aesthetic, she cultivates what she refers to as creative photography – a contrasting spectrum in the field when compared with documentary photography where a camera is aimed what already exists, or portrait photography where the camera is aimed at a subject that at the very least, too, exists. Makabresku ideates her story, sets the scene, arranges her subjects, and designs their outfits to bring her ideas to fruition, only then turning to her one-of-a-kind vision through a lens to make it all come to life. What she brings to life seems to live albeit in an alternate sphere of existence. Denatured by impossible interactions, surreal settings, and a white balance always favoring the cool tones, Makabresku’s portfolio is one truly transporting a viewer to an unreality all her own making, rooted in the fantastical and unnerving.
A lifelong creative, Laura Makabresku began with prose and poetry – fitting foundations for an eventual photographer whose aesthetic bleeds of interlaced complexities relying on the simplicity of a viewer breathing their own meaning into her work. And just like an upbringing straddled between Krakow, her grandparent’s country home outside Brzesko, and time with her Aunt in a Catholic covenant, her catalogue – a reflection of her life instilled with interruptive inspirations – is wide-ranging and dynamic.
It’s interpretive, yet not in the way one might think – not in the way that modern art is interpretive by the very nature of space, shape, and color. Where most photographers of the Instagram era leave very little to be inferred or discovered, telling it all through the lens and telling even more through a caption, Makabresku’s canon sets the stage for a viewer to create their own story – interpret the lifeline of Makabresku’s photos. And though her stories are almost always born from the meaning of ancient, timeless tales – from the folklore of Andersen & the Grimm Brothers to religious texts – they, like those mentioned, are stories whose heart and soul exist in interpretation.
Her work evokes the imagination of those seeing it, for, dare they not, viewers see nothing but pretty, confusing pictures. They require story to even subsist in the substance of our minds. And in that skill to arouse creativity in any who interact with her work, Laura Makabresku is an unparalleled manipulator of creative mindsmanship. Much of her work and its subsequent necessity for life to be brought to its landscape emerges from her own inclusion as subject for her photography.
‘Makabresku is an integral part of the frame which she creates in her head. In the pictures she is very pale, almost transparent, suspended on a thin line of life and death, unable to decide what dimension of existence she is supposed to choose. She is still somewhere in between.’ – Justine Morrow
Her work transcends life and death by the viewer’s willingness to bring a narrative to it; while in her work, Makabresku transcends life and death, too at the will of a viewer’s culminative creativity. Regardless of the story they tell – regardless of Makabresku’s subjects in that fate – the work lives if there exists a storyline projected onto a photograph by the audience. And that’s the underlying goal of it all. Story is queen.
For her own part, Makabresku’s storylines – not necessarily needed for an audience to understand their interpretation of her work, but certainly needed for Makabresku to be inspired to photograph in the first place – are predominantly drawn from the stories she holds closest to her heart. Her early work – like her early life – builds upon those childhood memories spent exploring the ‘far reaching fields, long ivy tendrils, velvet petals’ of her grandparents countryside home. Merging with the creative influx of influence from folklore, her early ‘photographies are like screenshots from beautiful but cruel fairy tales. Their narrations are not straight. Images that appear are more like feelings that come during a lecture of an old folk-based story – full of witchcrafts and retributions.’
But, as she spoke about in her interview with art blog, My Modern Met, her ‘style developed over time. [She] started with very dark, gloomy images inspired mostly by the fairytales of Andersen and the Grimm Brothers. As years went by, when [her] personality evolved and [her] spirit was more open for silence, images became more soft and minimalistic.’
Today, she draws most of her inspiration from the influence of religious text and Catholicism in particular. And though not outrightly religious, her work exudes an underlying spirituality. In her frame often exists herself as subject sharing space with the least expected of company. Foxes, crows, snakes, and does share intimate moments with her subjects, themselves often entangled in roses, IV tubes, vines, and cloth wrap. And even amidst a string of nouns that sharing one image would seem to be overbearing, Makabresku’s photography is defined by simplicity, minimalism, and softness. There are no hard-edged clashes of her subjects, no fervent pain displayed through their interaction. There is only interpretation of her audience’s inner child, where imagination is a must and a strong stomach could be a valuable second.
So, for an artist so fervently attached to the fluidity of storyline and the tradition of folklore and text, what could be next in the evolution of Laura Makabresku? Her most common answer is film. And though we haven’t gotten a taste of what that could look like through the eyes of such an intriguing force of photographic fairytale, there is no doubt that it would draw a viewer into a realm of darkness, strangeness, and undeniable beauty.