Creating without limitation isn’t easy. A lack of boundaries sounds like a dream, but can quickly become a fear-fueled nightmare of self-doubt and indecision.
Working with a glut of restrictions over the pandemic, photographer Elisheva Gavra challenged herself with a series of somber self-portraits. Created over two 14-day periods of lockdown in Tel Aviv, the artist’s austere portraits are the surprise result of a makeshift bedroom photo session, quick costume changes, and an overwhelming amount of stress. Now based in NYC, over two years into the pandemic, Elisheva looks back on these photos as coping mechanisms: “The portraits make me think about imagination and photography as my tools to navigate the helplessness and stillness of isolation,” she writes in her artist statement.
In a Cindy Sherman-esque exploration of the transience of identity, Elisheva shows an ability to transform her appearance and dictate the commanding moods of her portraits. “[Portrait photography is] a device for constructing identity, wherein the act of looking and being looked at are put on display,” she notes. With full creative control but limited supplies and herself as the only model, Elisheva shows how personal identity can be masterfully altered with mindful composition and a few decorative modifications.
Now, as Elisheva completes her MFA at Columbia University, the spirit of her pandemic-inspired makeshift studio portraits live on as the limitations lift and her resources grow. Her latest body of work, In Procession, explores the portrait as an active scene, this time played out on the now-bustling streets of Brooklyn.
“[Portrait photography is] a device for constructing identity, wherein the act of looking and being looked at are put on display.” — Elisheva Gavra
All photos published with permission of the artist.
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