Art

Philotography. Neil Craver.

I am fascinated at the fact that photographs dissect one moment in time, to create an image that could never have existed in our perceivable senses.

art by Neil Craver - interview by Icarus Blake and Teo J. Babini
Fluidizing-Dimensions__NeilCraver©

Fluidizing-Dimensions__NeilCraver©

If Freud had been an artist, his images would have probably looked very similar to Neil Craver’s. With water as the omnipresent catalyst, naked bodies are suspended like adult fetuses between the world of matter and the depth of the unconscious. Trapped in this bi-directional limbo, humans can choose to dive deeper into the knowledge of the self, or surface into a question-less world. Welcome to Omni-Phantasmic.

To begin, can you give a little introduction into how you got into photography, personal and professional?
Photography holds all the intrinsic values of all the other arts; but differs in the fact that it’s the foundation of existence. Nothing can exist without the photon, and every aspect is controlled by its usage. After attending school for commercial photography, I soon found myself working full time at an established photography studio specializing in high-end contemporary furniture. Realizing after a couple of years in the commercial world of consumable relaxation products wasn’t exactly what I desired. I decided to dedicate myself to my real passion as a fine art photographer.

Brilliantly-Despairing-Edit_NeilCraver©

Brilliantly-Despairing-Edit_NeilCraver©

Omni-Phantasmic feels like it is influenced by your abstract painting and sculpting days, can you tell us a little bit about that transition and crossover?
As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with transformations. As a young kid, I remember one of my first sculptures was created by melting crayons over a bottle to produce a multi-color stalagmite. I loved that the surface still had the appearance of liquid and had gone through this transformation of solidity. Later I started a series of poured paintings; produced by pouring about eight gallons of paint over a two month period into a four by six foot container. I could slowly move the paint around with the aid of gravity, controlling my compositions of color and forms for weeks, by raising and lowering different sides of the tank. I became intrigued by the ocean-like ripples and the textures of pigments dissolving into themselves. I’m surprised to see a direct lineage from these past more sculptural works, manifested into my newest series of underwater nudes. No matter what medium I’m using it always is driven by my interest in the formlessness form of water.

Catalyzing-Openness_NeilCraver©

Catalyzing-Openness_NeilCraver©

You describe the Omni-Phantasmic series as a journey in “Subconscious waters of the mind”. Your subjects are immersed in water and there is a womb-like quality to the situation. We can’t help but think of psychoanalysis as well as birth/re-birth can you please elaborate?
In the Freudian’s dynamics of personality it was the “ID” that was the foundation of character and your own personality (ego) was to build from that. It was said to be the “Oceanic”, because like the sea, it contained everything. I think some of my images illustrate this perfectly with the human body emerging from a cloud of bubbles beneath the water.

Dismantling-Connections_NeilCraver©

Dismantling-Connections_NeilCraver©

All the subjects of Omni-Phantasmic are females, why?
I wanted a homogeneous form… I felt that the women’s form was somewhat stronger in that regard; because you can’t see the reproductive organs. I wanted sexuality to not be a subject matter for this series.

Psychological-Trajectories-2_NeilCraver©

Psychological-Trajectories-2_NeilCraver©

Did you brief your subjects on the conceptual intent of the project? What exactly did you ask them to do?
At first it was kinda hard to translate exactly what I needed from them, we talked about the water and what it means to them first. After I had a couple tests under my belt, I then worked with print outs of the previous shoot for the models to get a visual idea of their performance. This became essential for achieving the final images, each session built from last session. It’s really a ticking clock when you’re shooting; holding your breath in sixty degree water. The fear of the unknown takes its toll very quickly!

Bathing-Deactivations_NeilCraver©

Bathing-Deactivations_NeilCraver©

Tell us a bit about the technical difficulties to shoot under water and how you prepared for the different sessions.
I first started the project shooting with an eight dollar fish tank and some dumbbells for buoyancy; basically because I didn’t have money for a underwater housing. It gave me the spilt-level perspective that I wanted, but really lacked the control I needed. I had too many close calls floating around in the rock quarry; this forced me to later invest in an underwater bag.
I really had to study the behavior of the light that barely kisses the ridge line around the mouth of the quarry. It’s a large constructed pit in the ground, I can only get about three hours of good light in a day. Each season I get better and better; really understanding the light and the time of the year to start shooting. Late summer is the best; the sun barely skims the mountain around the pit. Water clarity is the biggest problem of all, and the water clarity is better if the water is very cold. In the middle of the summer I cannot shoot. I need to wait about a week of no rain, because the run off from soil around the pit makes the water too dirty for shooting.” It’s very physically demanding also; usually about three hours of shooting time and by the end, both me and the model are exhausted. Free diving repeatedly under the submerged tree line is taxing and can be very dangerous with the sharp loose boulders and broken tree branches surrounding you. Due to this risky environment, many people each year drown just playing in rock quarries in the United States.

Primary-Horrors_NeilCraver©

Primary-Horrors_NeilCraver©

In your Florae series, your flowers are also falling into water, any connection with Omni-Phantasmic? Or it was just a purely aesthetic choice?
Florae was a perfect precursor for my work with the human figure, you really have to start studying the subject matter before you can really understand its possibilities! My endeavor into the idea’s of origins and the simplification of existence; that idea extends into the water being a driving photographic element in my work. I think a lot about origins of thoughts pertaining to living creatures, and how to illustrate that abstract idea. I like the innate power of water to create and destroy in the same wave of energy. It’s only from a human’s point of view that we label each one bad or good, helpful or useless.
Our first nine months of life start floating in our mother’s womb, how strange it is to be floating in a container inside a human body that is also made from water. I ponder even further the intact memories that could travel within water itself, before it started forming a fetal’s organs. Could it have flooded a valley of dinosaurs, been the urine of Jesus, or the fluid of a dragonfly’s eye?

Limits-of-Representation_NeilCraver©

Limits-of-Representation_NeilCraver©

How does the essential reality of photography work with abstract aesthetics?
I am fascinated at the fact that photographs dissect one moment in time, to create an image that could never have existed in our perceivable senses.

Do you intend to elaborate further about the depth of the unconscious and its relationship with the conscious in future projects?
The struggle to comprehend the nature of consciousness and pin down its essential properties will be my lifetime work. My visual effort will be a meditation in my evolution of understanding the world in a mind unique way.

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