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In Focus: Alma Haser

By September 21, 2020 No Comments
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Julia Kryshevich

In Focus: Alma Haser

She used to roam across the matchstick factory as a child, having left for a world trip with her family at 13. She usually mixes up words (finding herself quite dyslexic) and prefers visual narratives to the verbal ones. An amazing girl coming from a distinctive background, Alma Haser has decided to turn her life into art and magic. Learn more about her cubist, origami-structured works today.

01. From the ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

Alma Haser was born to a rather creative family of a painter and a sculptor in the Black Forest (Germany). Her parents used to work on the territory of a matchstick factory in turns, thus, Alma and her brother were often on their own, making up and playing games and exploring the world around them. The artist recalls, it was her wild and free childhood that really shaped her. 

‘We were very much given the freedom to experiment and use our imagination, which I believe is the bedrock of my practice now.’ (Alma Haser, from the interview with AnOtherMagazine, 2018)

03. From ‘I Always Have To Repeat Myself’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

04. From ‘I Always Have To Repeat Myself’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

Alma Haser got acquainted with photography while traveling around the world with her mum and her brother over 6 months (instead of attending middle school in the interim). She didn’t lose much, though. During the trip she tried shooting and modeling (for her mother, who is a keen photographer as well). Alma’s rising interest in the world of visual arts resulted in her entering Nottingham Trent University, where she graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Photography in Art Practice in 2010. Fairly predictable, the artist tried using Photoshop during her studies, but realized soon, it wasn’t the only (and the best) way to manipulate the picture.

‘I preferred to do things by hand and assemble the picture off screen. It’s not perfect, it’s not crisp and clean, and that’s what I like about it.’ (Alma Haser, from the interview with AnOtherMagazine, 2018)

05. From the ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

06. From the ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

Having spent much time experimenting with self-portraiture, Alma liked the idea to bring other people in photograph. Thus, in the majority of her projects the artist focuses on creating multi-layered portraits. In her work Alma Haser combines such craft-related techniques as weaving, folding, cutting, stitching, and painting, finding them surprisingly relevant for contemporary photography. 

‘I love making things, so I’ll often add other elements before, during or after taking a picture.’ (Alma Haser, from the interview with Photoworks, 2016)

07. From the ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

08. From the ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

Fascinated with Japanese culture and origami, in particular, the artist integrated paper folding into her creative process. For instance, in her debut series Cosmic Surgery Alma transformed parts of the subjects’ faces to place them back with a complicated modular construction. Re-photographing the final composition, Alma Haser received a completely different image, uncanny and futuristic in a way. Interesting enough, it’s the younger generation only, not their parents that the artist exposes to such kind of a metamorphosis. Why so? Here is the answer firsthand: 

‘The people in the photographs represent the next generation from us — the ‘alien people’. The mother and father (the first generation) aren’t defaced, but the others (the next generation) are. Cosmic surgery is a playful statement on that.’ (Alma Haser, talking about ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series in the interview with Metal Magazine) 

09. From the ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

10. From the ‘Cosmic Surgery’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

By the way, the title of the series Cosmic Surgery is a wordplay itself. And not just a play, but a play based on a slip. Alma misspoke the word once while discussing the topic of cosmetic surgery with her parents… and decided to name her project after that! The amazing thing is, Alma Haser managed to find her dyslexia a more useful way, fulfilling her artistic narrative with visual puzzles. Intentionally mixing up elements of the works, each time she arranges a new picture and new meanings.

11. From the ‘Twins’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

Another series by Alma Haser really worth noticing is Within 15 Minutes, which is puzzle-based in the true sense of the word. To back the story a bit up, Alma has always been amazed by twins — their external identity and closeness to each other. She even devoted one of her prior series to this phenomenon, shooting two girls who, though not being sisters, experienced their made-up affinity posing together. 

‘Intrigue and mystery need to be strong. It’s far more interesting to look at a portrait which doesn’t tell you everything all at once.’ (Alma Haser, talking about ‘Within 15 Minutes’ series in the interview with Visura, WPO, 2020)

12. From the ‘Twins’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

For Within 15 Minutes (a time range during which twins are born) the artist photographed real twins to cut the portraits pictured into puzzles and blend them into each other a bit. Thus, we still have a couple of perfect pictures of twins, but there is something bizarre about each of them: e.g. three nostrils or a narrowed eye on the face. Sounds like an automatically generated image, right? Well, almost — in the series Alma intends to reverse the process of gene transfer, demonstrating how different, actually, twins can be. 

13. From the ‘Within 15 Minutes’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

There is also a project in Alma’s practice that stands out because of the focus suddenly shifted… to plants. In Pseudo the artist refers to plants as a metaphor for the fake, strongly believed to be true. Plants as a distillation of nature yield us a highly authentic experience, however, it’s plants again that people so often try to imitate. Here Alma Haser skillfully draws a link to the way we interpret and respond to information.

‘It relates to the way we hear, read or see things on the news. We tend to cherry-pick things we think we can trust and believe in’.(Alma Haser, talking about ‘Pseudo’ series in the interview with AnOther Magazine, 2018)

Speaking on the whole, Alma Haser is recognized (and loved) for her paper aesthetic, which has something of a gloomy mystery and a bedtime story at once. So contradictory and complex is Alma Haser herself as an artist. 

16. From the ‘Pseudo’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

17. From the ‘Pseudo’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

18. From the ‘Pseudo’ series. Courtesy of the Artist_

P.S. Obviously, Alma’s projects mentioned above haven’t been left unnoticed — the artist received 3rd place People’s Choice Award for Cosmic Surgery series at the Foto8 Summer Show in 2012. Her Within 15 Minutes series debuted at San Francisco PHOTOFAIRS and was on display at Photo London in 2018. In addition, British Journal of Photography called Alma Haser one of the best graduates in Photography in 2010. 

Alma Haser’s website: haser.org
Her instagram: @almahaser