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January 13, 2022

ANGELIKA KOLLIN-WHAT IT IS TO BE A WOMAN

By itchysilk In PHOTOGRAPHY

While our interview with Tampa based photographer, Angelika Kollin is our first for 2022, we decided to delve once again into the theme of catharsis and healing. Healing (on a wider scale) is particularly relevant as we go two years with the global upheaval.

Like any of us learning to understand our ‘inner demons’ takes time, patience and lots of learning. For 45-year-old Angelika Kollin, her photography (and of course life) has slowly built a bridge to unravel those demons a product of a “chaotic” and “complexed” childhood in Communist Estonia (during the Communist regime).

With her intimate photographic work Angelika Kollin is on a quest (in a way) to find out ‘what it is to be a woman’.

Tell us how your childhood shaped your journey to be a photographer?

Although I remember myself as a relatively cheerful and imaginative child, (by the current standards), I had a somewhat complex and, to a sizeable degree, dysfunctional childhood. It was the time of Communism and people used alcohol as a socially acceptable way to manage stress.

During my adolescence and almost my entire adult life, I dealt with several common emotional issues for children raised in the chaotic environment: co-dependency, low self-esteem, and an inability to build close intimate relationships or friendships. I explore these themes and pour my deep suffering into my ‘art’.

My artistic path was my healing and my attempt to find out who I was. In the last two years, I became increasingly aware how these exact “issues” helped me become the fine-tuned person and the passionate artist I am today. While I am still not entirely free of the little demons of my childhood, I increasingly experience a stable sense of inner harmony.

I came to Africa as a photographer but left as an artist

The passion for photographer must be powerful tell us about that journey.

My passion for photography, or art comes from the core of my being. Spirituality, art were my life support when treating my emotional issues. All my successful series and projects are autobiographical. It was creation, it was an outlet, a two-dimensional space, where I could work and explore my emotional pain and haunting memories at a safe distance. It was fascinating that life always brought me people to photograph who were dealing with the same problems.

Explain and elaborate more on this quote-“interhuman connections, intimacy, and/or the absence of such.”

I started using this description when I worked on my series Tales of Intimacy. I dedicated this body of work to explore my inability to build close, intimate relationships. At the time I felt a deep sense of shame, so it was hard to be open about. I was sure that something was wrong with me. It felt like an overdue secret that asked to be brought to daylight.

All my images focused on the disconnect between (us and) nature, and the disconnect (tragically) between humans. As I started publicly presenting this body of work, I was surprised to receive tons of positive feedback. It really amazed me how many people were feeling the same: It started the conversation.

How has photography helped you ‘find yourself’ and indeed, who is Angelika Kollin now as a photographer?

I rediscovered my passion and interest for life through photography in its multitude of expressions. Seeing the world and people through images is an ongoing 24/7 process in my mind. The blending between my two lifelong passions, spirituality, and photography, started to be barely perceivable until I no longer could keep them separated. An integral part of my spiritual practice is to truthfully bear witness to the mystery of life, not excluding lesser welcomed aspects of human existence, such as sorrow, grief, hardship. I am passionate about offering people the experience of reconnecting on a deeper level to their being through my photographic process.

In the work we have seen on Instagram you are focusing much on that relationship between children/babies and their parents discuss this more?

While I went through a long (almost two year) project photographing parents with children, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is the focus of my work. This was a theme that I was actively working through and exploring in my own life, and so inevitably, it dominated my art through that time. The focus of my work has always been ‘what it is to be a woman’. Nowadays, I wouldn’t necessarily assign any gender to my work; this organically unfolded and established itself. Yet to arrive here, I looked for almost a decade into womanhood in its all roles and aspects.

Tell us about those images where you seem to go for less colour (in many ways)?

I never choose my visual language or the coloristic solution consciously. On my artistic path, it was always something intuitive. Looking back, I can tell what my subconscious was communicating to me through a particular choice. The start of the You are my Mother series coincided with the Covid pandemic. I stopped using color for that time. It was a combination of my psyche’s reaction to the collective fear. I was suddenly working with the fragments of my childhood that were holding heavy charge of grief and trauma. Working in colorless space helped me investigate all these themes through a definable two-dimensional and less realistic looking space. 

Love the images in Flight of a Dove it’s like an ode to 1500’s paintings-discuss this more?

Same as with colorless portraits, nothing was planned. I merely wanted to explore the space and emotions between the two women. Their instant chemistry, (this was their first meeting), and openness to vulnerability shaped this soft and tender image, despite the rugged terrain and stormy weather. We only focused on our comfort or discomfort around intimacy when being so physically close with a stranger. It turned out to be a beautiful and touching experiment. It was one of few I did, and I plan to continue this kind of work: opening an exploration of human sensuality and sexuality.

A Song of Psalms sounds an intriguing documentary you are starting work on.

It’s a story of a happy three-year-old little boy. His story is too inconvenient for many and yet too familiar for some-struck by the opioid crisis, unemployment, and lack of opportunities. With his two older sisters, Psalms is being raised by his maternal grandmother. His mother, battling with bipolar disease and gripped by addiction, keeps disappearing out of his life. While his father recently out of jail after serving two years wants to give his best for his only son.

Not ideal by many standards, yet this inconvenient situation and truth exists for thousands of families. Their voices are often judged, labelled, and ignored; as a community, they are not acknowledged in any positive way. Kids born into these complex families and surroundings must battle with a difficult childhood. They learn to feel shame and difference (and to feel different) from an early age. By choosing to look away or judge, we become accomplices to this crime of ignorance and indifference.

Psalms is too young to understand these complexities of life, but he is old enough to desire the feeling of belonging to his family and society. We don’t choose our circumstances-our roots are outside our control – but in a healthy and well-functioning community, everyone should reach their full potential.

Lastly tell us about your time in Africa and the impact?

Due to my husband’s job (as a family), we ended up in Africa, Ghana (at first). I must admit I was not excited but that changed quickly. I never expected to fall in love with Africa, but it became like home and stole my heart forever. Africa changed me completely, or to be more precise, it helped accelerate my renewal and reminded me of my life’s purpose and meaning. To say it in one short sentence in the context of our interview: I came to Africa as a photographer but left as an artist. 

ANGELIKA KOLLIN//INSTAGRAM