Project

Up, Up and Away: How Photographers Capture Levitation

Four photographers tell about projects that conquered terrestrial gravitation – weightlessness as free falling, a form of protest, a dream and loneliness

Bird In Flight spoke with photographers that shoot the process of levitation – an illusion of weightlessness. Zoya Shu was inspired by India in her photo project; skills in rock climbing and martial arts helped Kerry Skarbakka; David Nemchik got his ideas in his dreams and Bence Bakonyi chose music halls for his photo shoots.

Kerry Skarbakka 44 years old

Born in Minnesota (USA), a professor of photography at the Oregon State University. Displayed his works in New York, Paris, Prague, Brussels, Los Angeles, Miami and Honolulu. Held personal exhibitions in the Museum of Modern Arts in Chicago, in the galleries Fifty-One Fine Art Photography in Antwerp, Belgium and the Irvine Contemporary in Washington, D.C.

Kerry took on the series of self-portraits “Aspiration to Come to One’s Senses” in order to show how the death of his mother and the September 11 tragedy affected his psyche. “In attempt to form the disarray that I experienced, I saw a precise metaphor of my emotions in falling.” Although Skarbakka treated snapshots in Photoshop, all locations and poses were genuine. “I managed to create these works thanks to my skills as a rock climber, years of practice in martial arts and the ability to move around, which I mastered over several years of theater acting.” In the most difficult scenes Kerry used special equipment and the cardboard boxes or mattresses to cushion the fall properly hid the chosen angle.

“In my works there are definitely certain elements of levitations, but they are all about falling and loss of control,” says Skarbakka. Over the past 13 years he tried to express in his photographs anxiety, lack of confidence and fear inherent in that people that live a conventional life and study the fragility of human nature. “This project tells about our struggle to maintain equilibrium in a constantly changing world replete with danger – war, political instability and a dirty environment.”


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Zoya Shu 44 years old

A documentary and commercial photographer. Lives in Kyiv, Ukraine. Exhibited her works in Berlin, New York, Kyiv and Moscow. Her works have been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, New York Post and The Kyiv Post.

Zoya took interest in India after she finished a course in Hindi in university. Yoga, meditation and other phenomena of Indian culture settled in her subconsciousness when she took a camera in her hands. The project “Ascension” is an allegory of all forms of protest as it reflects the primary basis of our material existence – gravitation. “This is also a symbol of spiritual ascension and the triumph of mind over matter, the author explains, as well as elevation of minimalism and asceticism over consumerism.”

“I like shooting true life, not forging it in Photoshop. It’s very simple: the hero jumped, made a pose and hung in suspended animation. There were no support systems aside from my systematic requirements to jump higher. This was easy because he was in great physical shape. I also asked him to hold his pose and the expression on his face.”


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{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_22.jpg”, “alt”: “Zoya Shu 3” },
{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_23.jpg”, “alt”: “Zoya Shu 4” },
{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_24.jpg”, “alt”: “Zoya Shu 5” }

Bence Bakonyi 23 years old

Lives in Budapest, Hungary. Studied photography at the Laszlo Moholy-Nagi University of Art and Design and the Shanghai University. Exhibited his works in Hungary, China, Germany, France, Ukraine and Hong Kong. He is a member of the Hungarian Association of Young Photographers..

The project “Floating” of Bence Bakonyi shows people suspended in air in museum halls. Technical manifestation of his idea was not ideal: “At first I tried to shoot the entire scene in the museum, but this was physically dangerous. For this reason, I was forced to take the shots in two layers: the first in the museum hall and the second one of models jumping into the air. For the jumps I used a trampoline and for the shoot I prepared the same background color as in the museums,” recalls Bence.

Art critic Marta Eva Frank describes the symbolic meaning of the project: “All photos show people in an unnatural environment created by human beings. A number of associations are possible: person – building, small – large, temporary – constant and live – lifeless. People in the photos levitate seemingly defying the limits they are bound to by society. Their relaxed pose demonstrates loneliness, which is more voluntary and temporary than hopeless and aggressive isolation.”


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{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_11.jpg”, “alt”: “Bence Bakonyi 3” },
{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_12.jpg”, “alt”: “Bence Bakonyi 4” },
{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_13.jpg”, “alt”: “Bence Bakonyi 5” },
{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_14.jpg”, “alt”: “Bence Bakonyi 6” }

David Nemcsik 22 years old

A Hungarian photographer, studied at the Budapest College of Communications and Business. Exhibited his works in Hungary and Japan and was published in the Daily Mail, Vice magazine and BuzzFeed.

The concept of the “Levitation” project in which David studied the nature of dreams came to him during his sleep. “I think that dreams are some kind of a gate. When a person is asleep they can resolve certain problems that cannot be resolved when they are wide awake, though the situation and objects around can be rather strange. All these thoughts inspired me to create such a series.”

Models in the photos are friends of David. For the shooting they tried to find places where they saw themselves in recent dreams. In levitation he took the pose of a person sleeping and two assistants held him in their hands. In the processing of the photos David removed all that was excessive in Photoshop. “I want to prove to viewers that people can suspend in the air,” David explained. “Falsifying reality is not difficult for me. The matter is how one sees the connection between reality and fantasy and how one perceives a photograph.”


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{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_16.jpg”, “alt”: “David Nemcsik 2” },
{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_17.jpg”, “alt”: “David Nemcsik 3” },
{ “img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/levitation_18.jpg”, “alt”: “David Nemcsik 4” }

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