Reality Twists and Identity Splinters in Elizaveta Porodina’s Surreal Scene

The photographer overlays image upon image to force viewers to question just what they’re seeing

© Elizaveta Porodina, Julia Banas, 2021

Elizaveta Porodina’s photographs could be relics from the 20th century. They are rich and playful, celebrating the glamour of boldly patterned fabrics, twinkling jewels and sumptuous silks. The Russia-born artist has shot for fashion houses including Dior, Moncler and Carolina Herrera, and her experimental compositions bridge the worlds of art and design. Some call to mind the hazy album covers or fashion shoots of the 1970s, with references to surrealism’s dream states.

Porodina often slices up her subjects with the use of collage, mirrors and movement. Her image of model Julia Banas, dressed in a sleek lime green shirt, is a prime example of her exploration of the fragmented self.

Banas appears to have four hands, as both are repeated across her face and to the side. Two rogue eyes stare intensely at the viewer, peeking through semi-transparent ringed fingers. While Banas’ face is almost all but concealed, her green eyes and a slice of glossy red lip give a sense of her entire appearance.

“Two rogue eyes stare intensely at the viewer, peeking through semi-transparent ringed fingers”

This fragmentation points to the influence of Porodina’s training as a clinical psychologist, the artist’s slicing and dicing of her subject hints at fractured states of mind. The subject is not a single thing, but made up of manifold parts: the viewer must piece together these pieces to attain a unified whole.

The image connects with fashion’s long-held interest in the nightmarish and mystical, from Tim Walker’s Alice in Wonderland-inspired world to Alexander McQueen’s dark fantasies. The viewer is drawn in by the aesthetic appeal before being confronted with the strange darkness.

A tussle exists between surface appearance and the substance beneath, which Porodina hints at with a visual breadcrumb trail. It is a mirror of fashion’s façade. The image also calls to mind the blood-chilling Pale Man from Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, with eyeballs mounted on his spindly hands. Echoing her multi-faceted characters, Porodina says, “developing and adapting is the true nature of the artist.”

Emily Steer is Elephant’s editor

Elizaveta Porodina, окна, is at Fotografiska, Stockholm until 12 June



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