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Paper Planes

Poppy is 18 years, 1 month and 20 days old.
She has a fear of flying.
When she was 5 she witnessed a plane crash.
She has been folding paper planes and flying them into the open fire periodically ever since.

PAPER

ESSAY BY HELEN MCGHIE

Connecting people with the simplicity of paper. Exotic past lives are revealed in short stories which invite you to read more into each image, but it is up to you to choose what to believe. - Alma Haser

 

Paper is a small series of photographs by the artist Alma Haser. The project consists of a collection of four carefully constructed portraits which each explore the notion of 'past lives'. By encountering each image, with the helpful assistance of the artist's accompanying literature, the viewer is invited to delve into the fantastic world of the characters Vivian, Jim, Duane and Poppy. Upon closely inspecting the images, the viewer is able to detect each visual signifier, which are carefully positioned to give hints about the past existence that the individuals have witnessed.

In Paper Planes, Poppy (who developed a fear of flying after experiencing the distressing sight of a plane crash at a young age) sits in a particularly stark living room, quietly surrounded by symbols relating to this traumatic event. Whilst the presence of paper planes has a direct reference, other elements become psychologically connected to Poppy's trauma. I believe that the swan ornaments (carefully seated upon the domestic fireplace) suggest that travel by other means could be a safer option - this

idea becomes further highlighted by the realisation that the swans appear to be travelling as a comfortable familial unit. The various candles become signifiers of not only fire and destruction, but also the important act of 'remembrance', which many of us do by lighting a tealight within cathedral walls. Within this photograph, the image of paper becomes both a fragile signifier of not only the substance itself but also the tenuous stability of life as a whole.

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Paper Boats

Vivian is 74 years, 10 months and 23 days old.
She was a ship captain's mistress.
She traveled the world on her lover's cruise ship for 43 years.
She moved back home into her one-bedroom apartment 5 years ago.
Ever since, she has been looking through her old photographs, folding origami boats and remembering her exotic life.

In Paper Boats, Vivian (a 74 year old former ship captain's mistress) carefully assembles a multitude of origami boats whilst modestly bathing in a stand-alone bathtub, in respect to the vessel she once lived upon. In contrast to Paper Planes (where the standard white paper sheet is utilised), the character chooses photographic 'snaps' as her medium, creasing her design only after sentimentally viewing the various past occasions. In Paper Boats, it is unquestionably the theme of 'memory' that is being explored, although it is the composition of the figure photographed that I find the most interesting. I see this photograph as more challenging than the one critiqued above, as the historical story conveyed is personal only to the individual recorded, Vivian herself, unlike in Paper Planes where many can relate to the common psychological fear of flying. However, if we unpick the arrangement of signs within the portrait, it is possible to witness a wider level of meaning. Due to both Haser's narrative explanation (noting that the subject has "moved back home into her one-bedroom apartment") and the subject's indirect pose, the viewer becomes aware that this private moment gracefully illustrates an inevitable stage within human existence: the experience of ageing (and perhaps the solitude attached to it).

The series includes two further images, one presenting Jim (a 65 year old man in the midst of contacting an estranged lover) who creates a number of 'handwritten letter' origami parrots. The final image presents Duane (a 21 year old insomniac) who superstitiously constructs a number of colourful paper cranes. As Haser's series is entitled Paper, it is important to consider the artist's recurring substance choice. It is true to say that the different folded sculptures created are objects of beauty - although 'origami' is attributed to Japanese culture and has little reference to the nationalities of Haser's characters. I therefore believe that it is the physical act of paper folding (rather than the final creation itself) that the artist intends for the viewer to focus upon.

This act becomes a cathartic form of production, which may be used by each individual in order to deal with the psychosomatic or emotional conditions suggested by the four accompanying narratives. Whilst the characters in Paper Planes and Paper Cranes could be attempting to transform and restore their lives by psychologically managing their personal conditions, the older characters in Paper Boats and Paper Parrots appear to be building structures that retain the happy memories of their younger years.

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Paper Cranes

Duane is 21 years, 8 months ad 4 days old.
He is an insomniac.
After reading about different solutions to get rid of his sleep disorder, he came across the paper crane.
According to myth, making 1000 origami cranes is believed to be a symbol of luck and will grant your wish.
He has made 170 cranes.

In the photographs, the four origami structures produced (bird, plane, boat and crane) each relate to the subject of travel. On initial inspection, these particular objects appear to be created for the purpose of literal meaning: Poppy obsessively produces paper planes as she has a fear of flying and Vivian sculpts boats as she lived aboard one for 43 years. As three of the images refer to past events (with the exception of Paper Cranes, where Duane's image theme refers to the present), the modes of transportation actively signify the notion of a personal voyage of memory. It seems apt that Haser's artistic medium of choice is photography, a tool widely used to produce and keep images in order to maintain personal memories.

Returning to Haser’s statement, where she explains that the series was created to explore ‘past lives’, I believe that the objects symbolise an aspect of ‘time-travel’ to moments that may (or may not) have existed. Haser suggests that the viewer should “choose what to believe” about the authenticity of the image. I have however read elsewhere that the depicted characters were taken from folk tales and fairytale stories. Nonetheless, this carefully constructed series is well considered and could well be authentic, potentially provoking further debate into the authenticity of the photographic medium itself.

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Paper Fish

Thomas is 22 years 0 months and 0 days old. He is a Pisces.
His mother collected his horoscope from newspapers and magazines ever since he was born.
He does not believe in Astrology.
His mother died 22 days ago.
He has made 22 paper goldfish, one for every day his mother would have cut out his Pisces reading.

ALMA HASER

ARTIST STATEMENT

Origami is very therapeutic. People all around the world create paper sculptures for many reasons: art, bringing back memories, to clear their minds and to keep in touch with people. In the series Paper, five unrelated people are connected by the art of paper-folding. Exotic past lives are revealed in short stories alongside each photograph, which invite you to read more into each image, but it is up to you to choose what to believe.

ALMA HASER

BIOGRAPHY

Alma Haser is bilingual in English and German, and comes from a family steeped in the arts and creative industries, both in the UK and in Europe. She graduate from Notthingham Trent University in 2011, completing her BA(Hons) in Photograph in Art Practice.

Alma’s first formal work experience was with Emily Stein and Celia Willis’s London-based We Are Photogirls group in summer 2009, organising fashion photography workshops for youth groups and creative young people.

Alma has also gained first-hand knowledge of the art gallery business, both private and public, assisting with dozens of exhibitions near Bath and in Cirencester. Her publicity photographs are regularly used as posters, exhibition invitations and advertising materials. She has contributed images to book publishers in the UK and the US.

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