Maika: My favorite photographers tend to be those who create entire worlds, both large and small. Worlds that I wish I could myself inhabit, but instead may only experience via tantalizing and tormenting glimpses, and perhaps what bits manage to permeate my dreams. The singularly beautiful and haunting work of photographer Laura Makabresku has been one of those photographers from the first time I set eyes on her work, so much so that I find I still struggle to articulate what her oeuvre means to me.
I’ve been quietly in love with the work of Polish photographer Laura Makabresku for years. Her otherworldly photographs fall into that special category of things that feel too personal and precious to mention to another living soul. Or rather, that’s how I once felt about certain things I held dear: that sharing something intensely meaningful to oneself somehow dilutes it.
Fortunately, I’ve long since realized that part of the joy of connecting with works of art, music, films, or even physical locations, is sharing them with people you feel will also enjoy them. There’s a singular pleasure to be had in watching someone else light up at the discovery of something from which you derive meaning. So here we are.
Laura Makabresku’s photos feel like frozen moments from dreamlike narratives with no beginning or end. There are ghost stories and love stories, folktales and fairytales, stories of witchcraft, deep friendship, immortal romance, crippling grief, forbidden love, arcane rites and rituals, magical metamorphosis, and endless combinations thereof. And one need not know what has happened before or might happen next in order to be moved by these affecting scenes.
Makabresku tends to work in austere surroundings, often alone in the frame, but sometimes posing with or shooting her husband and other friends. She makes both props and active participants out of taxidermy mounts and pelts, plants and flowers, preserved insect specimens, live animals, puppets and sculptures made by fellow artists, and even her own blood and tears on her translucently pale skin.
Depending on my own mood and present circumstances, Makabresku’s photos speak to me differently each time I look at them, but the narrator of these poignant tales is always the same: an unearthly presence in the form of a velvety silence. It’s that special sort of quiet, like a nighttime landscape covered in a thick blanket of fresh snow, that’s so deep you can hear your own heartbeat. This unsleeping silence watches everything, but passes no judgement, a ghostly witness.
Suffused with incredible vulnerability and tenderness as well as boundless sorrow and suffering, these enigmatic fragments feel like part fantasy and part nightmare. They are achingly beautiful memento mori, expressions of the fragility of our hearts and minds, of a longing to connect more deeply with the natural world. The photos don’t have to portray things that I’ve actually experienced in order to resonate on a breathtakingly personal level. They are visual depictions of feelings for which there are no words.
I considered reaching out to Laura Makabresku for this piece, to inquire about her process and personal symbolism. But the more I think about how and why I enjoy Makabresku’s work, the less I want to know about what goes on behind the scenes. Let’s allow this sorceress to work undisturbed behind her curtain.