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In conversation with Spirits

King Solomon said that the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.

Like a red line on one of Valya’s photographs that transcends this and the otherworld, the reflection on the overcoming of trauma caused by encountering death of the loved ones penetrates this series of Valya’s photography.


„There was a period of my life when suddenly, people close to my heart started to pass away. Some left their life rapidly, departing hardly having said goodbye. With others, I witnessed their slow departure, accompanying them until the very end. It stoke me how the departure can be so different: one almost pulpable, and another one rather ethereal, transient…I started to inquire – quite globally – how do people in various cultures encounter death, how do they survive the trauma of loss?” The rememberance suppers in Christianity, Jewish shiva, preparations for the bhāvacakra in Buddism – for Valya it is fascinating to explore how these customs can be interpreted as coping mechanisms with the overwhelming feelings of confusion, sorrow, fear.


In her photographs, elusive transition to the hereafter is captured in its fragility. She does not rush, nor does she solidify the images– but gently, even timidly, observes the scenes, letting them develop on their own. Valya’s expression is reinforced by experiments with techniques, from digital photography to rare hand-printing, and tests with various lenses and cameras selected individually for each photograph.

Work in progress.

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Model: Katie Wilkes

is it possible to jump if you are being held? I was often told in childhood: "Do not think about the dead, you keep him in this world with your thoughts and he suffers."


Model: Katie Wilkes

Set designer: Louise Emily Thomas

Prop makers: Mavi Curiel, Louise Emily Thomas

A Tjurunga, also spelt Churinga and Tjuringa, is an object considered to be of religious significance by Central Australian Aboriginal people of the Arrernte (Aranda, Arunta) groups. Generally speaking, tjurunga denote sacred stone or wooden objects possessed by private or group owners together with the legends, chants, and ceremonies associated with them.  These items are most commonly oblong pieces of polished stone or wood. Some of these items have hair or string strung through them and were named "bull roarers" by Europeans. Upon each tjurunga is a totem of the group to which it belongs. Tjurunga are highly sacred, in fact, they are considered so sacred that only a few are able to see them and likewise it is considered sacrilegious to publish a picture of them. Durkheim suggests that the name "churinga" is normally a noun, but can also be used as an adjective meaning "sacred". 

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Model: Katie Wilkes

Set designer: Louise Emily Thomas

Prop makers: Mavi Curiel, Louise Emily Thomas

People buried in the embryo position are found all over the world. I get the feeling that in this way life and death are looped, coming into the natural balance of repetition. And all over the world, handprints are found in sacred caves. As if alive in the past I am trying to tell something to myself in the present.

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Model: Daria Sherman

When I was developing this series of photographs with a mask, I thought about Indian and Japanese beliefs, where spirits from the afterlife, creepy and scary at first glance, end up as friends, simply speaking their own, very specific language.


How would this ritual of meeting and friendship with the spirit look to me?

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