I walked in the Kostanjevica church, surely one of the most prestigious exhibition spaces in our area, which on this occasion for the first time hosted a photo exhibition. Steps echoed throughout the spatious church as I moved from picture to picture, hanging between the arcades.
The cycle of nudes reproduced on large canvases merged with the architecture of the church, while the black and white colors represented the contrast to the church's whiteness. I stopped to take in the sheer beauty of the area, then my glance slid towards the choir. There was exhibited a photography, which despite everything I've already seen maneged to put a tear in my eye, the eye of an art historian. If you were convinced that something like that would only be possible in Rothko's chapel, you now have proof that it is also possible right here and now, in Kostanjevica na Krki, by the opus of the photographer Uroš Abram, entitled "Body. Made in me".
Uroš, whom I first met on his home turf in Kostanjevica, finished secondary school for design and continued his studies at the famous FAMU in Prague. There he experienced "Eureka!", which forever changed his view of photography, as well as life itself – coincidence as the antipode of control. Technically processed photographs, which we are witnessing today, did not interest him, apart from being inaccessible to him, because he had no digital camera. His image is therefore built on the primacy of photography, camera obscura, but he also spiced up this process himself. Photos are in fact "conceived" within his body, in the mouth.
These exceptional photographic situations literally melt together with the idea of chance. It is no coincidence, therefore, that he graduated and laid down the cornerstones of his authorial
photography through the process in his mouth, what dr. Andrej Smrekar called camera oralis.
Soon after graduation exhibitions started to multiply, including the famous Paris Photo in the Louvre. Today, he is proudly presented by Photo Gallery, and he also has an agreement for an agency with a gallery in New York, while his conceptual authorial photographs enrichen Mladina on a weekly basis.
When I invited him for an interview he replied: “Shall we go grab a coffee or climbing trees?«
And so we went...
Do you often escape from Ljubljana to Kostanjevica?
Whenever I have time. Kostanjevica still represents a sort of cultural and intelectual stimulation. That is where my curiosity toward art began, because the walls of my grammar school were full of artistic works. Back then I didn't really understand what is exhibited, however I knew that it was important. Therefore I started asking myself the key question: Why? Whenever I can answer that question, I also know what, with whom, where...
I always wanted to work for Mladina. The newspaper always set new standards of photography in Slovenia. Also its content agrees with me, as it is still bold enough, sometimes even provocative and controversial. Most photographs at some point working for Mladina left a strong imprint in the Slovenian media space and left their name in the history of Slovenian photography. Nevertheless, in the beginning I had serious doubts. It's not easy to step into the shoes of Borut Peterlin.
The unstoppable polytheism of Beauty, which can be noticed, as Umberto Eco states, from the 20th century onwards, encourages human nature to continuously record images for a later assessment. Mass of images, with which we are surrounded, is increasing on a yearly. How do you manage to be seen?
I do not know. Perhaps this is due to my relationship to photography, perhaps because of the projects that I am undertaking. These usually deal with one of the "punctums" (essences) of photography, such as integrated ideas, not only with the object we obtain in the end, or aesthetics by which we address. I try not to be limited by the photographic genres, while at the same time preserving a responsible attitude toward what I am doing.
Your biggest advantage over the others seems to be that you do not have a camera. Photos are literally born in your head.
I could not afford a camera, during my studies, and now this has become a part of me. In one of my authorial projects I started using camera oralis. Instead of a black box, I use my own mouth, thus becoming a camera myself. Consequently, there is visible organic matter on it, i.e. fingerprints, saliva. My DNA become my signature.
Even your signature must be worth something by now. After all, you shared walls with Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa...
When you are constantly repeating how society no longer has values, it is difficult to say how much something is worth. Some of my photos are priceless to me, although not the most expensive. Personally, I think that the only way of evaluating is the effort and energy invested in work, be it photography, job or relationships.
Nevertheless...the characteristic of your series Made in me is its unpredictability.
This project is controversial by its very nature. Since I am taking pictures with my mouth, I do not have the ocular to control the scene. Photographic paper is exposed to moisture in the mouth, and when it is inserted in and out of my mouth, I leave uncontrolled fingerprints. There are pieces of saliva. I find it difficult to regulate the exposition. In fact, you could say that the process is a set of uncontrolled coincidences. When I realized that I no longer even tried to control the process. Rather, I was focusing on the selection of these "errors". And in the context of digital, technically perfect, sterile, mechanically cool photos, a mistake can represent the human warmth toward which we so aspire. Perfection is a matter of perception.
Do you like taking chances in life too?
We buy photographic cameras together with instructions for use. Therefore, our photos are correct. Boring, but still correct. In other respects also, the modern man accepted instructions for use of life. Think about it, just to learn the basics of survival in this society, we need to educate ourselves for about 20 years. Only to become correct. Boring. Mr Lennon once said that life is what happens when you're busy with planning. And I planned a lot. When I was in high school and planned to go to class, I found myself behind the Križanke in a passionate debate on the reasons for the emergence of jazz; when I was planning my matura examination, I accidentally ended up in Greece, where I photographed for a travel agency. During the planning of my diploma, I all of the sudden decided to go running in front of the bulls in Pamplona. It has also happened that on my way from Ljubljana to Maribor I ended up in Innsbruck on a blind date. Like in photography, I came to the realization that life can not be controlled. Therefore, it doesn't matter if I try to control or lean back and enjoy the ride (to sit down and enjoy myself along the way).
As a photographer you probably often deal with the concepts of good and bad. What is your attitude toward beauty?
It's very different. Something is beautiful or ugly only in reference to something else. Close-up of an ulcerated wound, photographed from close up, does not appear as terrible to the viewer who does not know what he/she is watching. It looks like an abstract color texture. However, when we connect it to the context, the motive chages its connotation. It's the same with horror movies. They often feature little girls, because they can conjure up maximum contrast in a viewer. In a horror movie, Bedanec can not possibly be a horible character, while Kekec, on the other hand, may shock the audience. Of course, the same goes for beauty. Among leprous patients average person is regarded as extremely handsome/pretty.