As creative individuals, we all chase that dream of creating a project that perfectly encapsulates who we are as an artist and also resonates with our audience. For Alma Haser, that was a series of kaleidoscopic origami portraits known as Cosmic Surgery. This imaginary medical procedure combines photography, collage and origami, and together they disrupt the parameters of traditional portraiture, challenging our perception of identity. We spoke to Haser about the genesis of the project and how she blends craft and technology to reimagine what photography could be.
“The project changed my entire practice. From then on, the photograph became the first step of the process, followed by experimentation and seeing how far I can take an idea before photographing the final image. I trust my instincts and work through a period of trial and error. Sometimes I know quickly that I have something, and sometimes I go too far and need to reign it in, but it’s crucial for me to push it all the way to discover that.
Experimentation has shaped my identity as an artist. I’m always thinking about different sculptural approaches to photography and how I can build layers into the work. I never know exactly how I’m going to produce the work until I’ve spent hours experimenting. Most of the time it’s a happy accident that shapes the final piece.
When I was trying to explain the project to my family, and that the subjects might look like they’d had cosmetic surgery, I kept pronouncing it ‘cosmic surgery’. I tend to talk very quickly because of my dyslexia and sometimes get things wrong. They corrected me, but we all liked the name. And it made sense because the people look like they’re from some new, future generation.”
Haser’s disillusion with traditional approaches to photography took her on a journey of self-discovery that opened up an entirely new realm, fusing handcrafted techniques with digital technology. Her complex and meticulously constructed portraits catch the eye and captivate the mind. Her work seeks to flatten the world around us and fold it into something new and beautiful.