SHAMAN OF IMAGES
Katka Konecna, published in Talent In Motion Magazine, New York
Gabriela Landa was born in Czechoslovakia but grew up in Germany where she studied both anthropology and art. However, most
of her life she spent exploring other countries and cultures, and discovering the depth of various civilizations.
With her abstract photography, Gabriela captures a variety of genuine moments that embody a deeper symbolic statement about the
surrounding world. She is searching for a common language to take away boundaries between people of different cultures.
To get a better understanding of her work, I recently asked her the following questions.
TIM: Can you describe what you mean by “common language” in your work?
GL: The overlapping worlds in my images, as I experience them in real life, record the flux and immediacy of the exuberant lives in
cities as well as in different parts of the world. There is no preference for good or bad, no interesting or boring, no past, no future,
no given definitions. There is only the moment of the image, unrepeatable and free. The images become kaleidoscopes of colors
and shapes with fragments of identifiable familiarity, as points of reference. My photographs are deeply personal, but at the same
time, I think, they become symbolic for the lives of city-people, travelers and people in remote places, who may never leave their
home, but connect through dreams and thoughts.
TIM: Seams like you get inspired nearly by everything surrounding you. You have lived in New York City for several years, how is
the energy affecting your work, and how do you use it?
GL: When I first moved here in 2001, the City felt monstrous to me. The large amount of information constantly attacking you
together with the experience of 9/11, left me vulnerable and passive at first. The camera was the only way how to understand and
overcome a feeling of being only one little part within many seemingly disconnected elements. What I found then, is that it is all
these fragments in their fast movement, which might carry a uniting language, which is there to be discovered. So I started
experimenting with the technique of over-layering elements and framing them by the viewfinder.
TIM: How did you come to use the process of over-layering in your work?
It started, like many good things in art, with an error. For one and only time I decided to have a closer look at celebrities and went to
photograph the red carpet at the “CBC at 75” anniversary. Since this event took place on 35th street, I encountered myself on one
of my favorite streets in New York, for its reality. Here, workers stream between their jobs and the shopping world into the subways
and fast food restaurants, which I have come to photograph many times before, as I did on this day. Later, photographing the
celebrities, I accidentally used the same film and the result was astounding. Reality and illusion have clashed together, and created-
to me, more of a real dimension. The juxtaposition came together in this one very moment, and I realized that while working with
such phenomena, I might find a new language that would express more clarity. I started to photograph things that I would later
consciously use to over-lay with another theme.
TIM: Can you pick an image that would describe this more in detail.
GL: I did a series on the Columbus Day Parade, mainly for showing the absurdity of putting young people into uniforms. To balance
the subject of such violence, six month later, I over-layered them with Christmas themes, such as lights and gifts. The below
presented image “Angel face” is an example of exploration of the busy illusionary commercial world of Time Square with the
peaceful religious images from stain-glass church windows. In the final effect, the composition of all fragments from both images
creates a new window symbolizing reality. Living in Guatemala and painting images of ruins of the Colonial buildings, I once came
upon a stone window frame opened to the sky. And I asked myself, what I would put in the center of that window, to symbolize my
life. I think these new photographs represent the answer.
Further Publications on Jewelry-Sculptures:
DAMA, Prague BLESK, Prague HARPER'S BAZAAR/COSMOPOLITAN Hampton's Sheet
Jo Ann Cooper: News Czech Embassy Filmproject "City of Dreams" in:
"Capturing the Abtract of Things"
Washington D.C., Febuary 2008 Visual Art Beat Magazine
is a sense of de-fragmentation but also one of unity, which co-exist like in a breathing process”
What might sound paradox pressed in words, comes to perfect clarity in Gabriela Landa’s two-layered photographs, contrasting city
impressions with seemingly opposite realities. Pulling out certain elements of their political, cultural or religious context, Ms. Landa forms a
new abstraction, always skillfully playing with the viewers associations.
The Czech born, German raised and New York resident artist creates this carefully mixed blend using a method of over-layering two or more
images. Unlike many contemporary photographers Landa builts both images within the SLR camera so no post-production like photoshop is
needed. This decision allows the artist to „leave room for the accident“ and „suggests a new way of seeing, instead of controlling the viewer“.
Gabriela and her family immigrated to Germany when she was two and settled in Bayreuth, Bavaria, the home of the famous Wagner Festival,
which she describes as her “university”:
“If there had been nothing else in Bayreuth at that time, and there was nothing else, Wagner’s operas were worth living there. Over a period of
15 years Wagner’s oeuvre taught me about mythology, legends, mysticism, and psychology as well as the world’s best singing.”
After studying in Munich, Prague and Vienna, Landa also traveled between, exhibited and lived in Berlin, Los Angeles, Miami, and Guatemala:
“In Guatemala with all its time, color, and spirit, I feel like painting. Los Angeles inspires me to sculpt. New York is a media city, perfect for
photography, and Europe is a mix of those things”
In 2001 Landa moved to New York, finding Times Square one of her favorite motives. To her it represents “a contemporary idea of modernity”
though being comparable to “an ancient market place”.
Through her New York photomontages, Ms. Landa tried to “catch the moment of diffusion in all the energy and movement happening in
Manhattan.” She then layered many of the photos with pictures of Prague, France, Italy, and elsewhere, “to create a common language
between those places,” and was struck by how the cultural differences were easily bound together in one image. In other series, she
combines Times Square images with icons of religious, ethnical or personal background and creates tension of contemporary meaning.
A sensation one can share, learning how natural contrasting and at the same time completing each other to a “play of global elements” can
be. (Interview: Jo Ann Cooper)