.:.CRAFT AND MEDITATION.:.
The Photography of Krist Mort
The whisper of a profile through gauze, the chiaroscuro of a ribcage, the texture of leather and bone… Quiet visual moments like these characterize the work of Austria-based photographer Krist Mort, whose black-and-white imagery is instantly recognizable to those who follow ethereal music and esoteric fashion. The soft-focus, dreamlike gaze of her lens captures images that are unlatched from time: sometimes melancholy, sometimes erotic, sometimes mystical. It’s easy to see why she has collaborated with several prominent musicians who share a sense of the magical, including Chelsea Wolfe, Lamia Vox, and Windhand.
Mort’s focus on natural textures—the grit and weathering of the world around her—is complemented by her commitment to working with analog photography techniques. Her time in the darkroom differs dramatically from the digital work that characterizes contemporary photography. She elaborates:
I think analog photography forces you to slow down, to really focus and think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Being in the darkroom is always something calming, almost a bit meditative to me. Besides, I much prefer being in the darkroom for hours and getting headaches because of all the chemicals and bad ventilation, rather than sitting in front of the computer for hours getting headaches from staring at Photoshop.
The potential for the unexpected offers Mort an opportunity to explore the potential of the photography medium. Working with darkroom chemicals and processes can lead to unexpected results and what might even be perceived as errors by other photographers: scratched prints, dripping emulsion, and overexposed negatives. For Mort, there are times when a print will be transformed into an accident of fate that she embraces.
Her intent in working with such seemingly anachronistic tools is not to look to the past, but rather to capture the type of imagery that most appeals to her:
Heavy grain, rough textures, harsh contrast, grittiness, imperfections… It’s simply a preferred aesthetic of mine. I have never thought of these things in relation to a certain time period.
Her mode of working is as organic as the subjects of her photographs, relying on instinct to capture an image:
I think you could describe my way of working as very intuitive. I don’t really make detailed concepts or plans. I like to work with whatever is there when I take a picture or film a scene. How I interact with my surroundings and vice versa always plays a big role. I do give instructions to the subjects I am portraying, but these instructions aren’t based on a set plan. They’re based on what I feel I want them to be doing in that very moment.
Two books of her photographs have been released by Cyclic Press, the publishing offshoot of the Cyclic Law record label that is best known for its dark ambient releases. The elegant soundscapes from Cyclic Law mesh beautifully with the otherworldly yet organic imagery produced by Krist Mort. The first of her books, Inlumaeh, is a collection of previously produced images that includes a compilation of songs created by Russian musician Lamia Vox to accompany the book. Sumptuously realized, Inlumaeh explores themes of light found in darkness, presenting Mort’s images on black pages. When viewed together with Lamia Vox’s mystical music, the experience is one of meditation on mortality and the beauty in life’s cycles.
Where Inlumaeh includes images produced over the course of Mort’s career, the photographs in her follow-up book, Tera, were conceived specifically for this project. The architecture of the human body is the focus here, and the immersive blackness of the previous book gives way to a calming gray. Signature textures and grain found in the background of Mort’s images are brought onto limbs and bodies, fusing human and earth.
In addition to her photography, Krist Mort has ventured into filmmaking, producing music videos, fashion films, and experimental shorts. Her films translate her fascination with black-and-white textures into the moving form, capturing changing shadows beneath moving lights and allowing shapes to be revealed while darkness passes over them. Mort’s commitment to analog photography meant that compromise was necessary when making films:
Making motion pictures is a process that I have immense respect for. It was always tricky for me to find the right way to properly express my ideas through filming, and, to be frank, I don’t think I ever fully managed to do so. I never tried to imitate my photography and simply transfer it into the motion picture medium because I quickly realised that it is a completely different realm. Also, 35mm film equipment and material is insanely expensive, so I was stuck with doing everything digital, which always felt rather bitter for me. While I appreciate the challenge and new perspectives it offered me, I am quite certain that my venture into making films is over already.
Upon viewing examples of Mort’s filmmaking, such as her video for Chicago-based ethereal ambient artist Lykanthea, one can’t help but hope that she will return to the medium with the right resources at her disposal. Her eye for subtle moments—a leaf draped over a foot, hair caressed by the receding ocean tide, a hand emerging from the darkness to pass over rough concrete—creates a calming beauty.
Krist Mort’s combination of intuition, experimentation, and unique vision ensure that she will continue to be an artist to follow. When asked about what projects she will be working on next, she had this to say:
I recently started photographing dead fish that I feed my dog. So, I guess at this point anything can happen.
Seeing the alchemy she works with photographic darks and lights, even this deceptively simple subject achieves artistic significance.