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Schattenrisse –
A Soul’s journey

Gundula Schulze Eldowy

The series Schattenrisse (2010–18) is the artistic debut by photographer Kathrin Karras (born 1967). The prelude, a bang. From within her own spectrum, she developed an usually captivating visual language that takes inspiration from the lived – not however the external, but more so the internal worlds.

The phrase ‘He lives’ is a synonym that references experiences that have passed through someone. Kathrin Karras’s photographs are vivid in their ability to move people because one senses they are living extensions of her. “I had the impression that the figures I depicted in my photographs walked out of myself, that they gathered around me to inspire their own creation” she said. “Entranced” she felt during the creational process.

Perhaps the secret to the uncanny intensity and aliveness of her works? Her photographic figures originate from old family pictures or movies, are taken out of their environment and re-contextualized into something New. Photography’s ability to freeze the moment is much like capturing a soul in its eternal condition. Kathrin Karras immersed in her creative process becomes a magician that frees the captured.

Her transformations seem analogous to a ritual, her visual choices are an energetic transmission as characteristically found in painting and poetry. Art’s strength to conjure unknown realms into daylight is virtuously at play in Karras’s work. Our waking awareness represents merely 5% of our brain capacity. This inherent limitation is why we aren’t perceptive to the many unseen layers.

Her figures exist in dynamic relation to texture, light, shadow and other visceral choices. She paints through distortion, melting, layering, reduction, blurring, mirroring, reversal-combining elements of compositions most of which she creates during the actual photographing process. “I work by combining several layers, subtraction and distortion, adding new elements, and photographing the results anew. The images come into being through an associative journey, that could not be repeated.“

A women’s circle found amidst a crystal forest … a hole in the wall that appears to be pulling into itself next to an empty bed, in which moments ago, somebody was seemingly lying but must have disappeared into the hole. At the feet of a castle ruin long deserted, a lake, in which we find mirror reflections of people that might have lived there before. A subtle line that cuts thinly through a newly wedded couple. The man, by stepping through a mirror, comes to be next to his woman. Fire accompanying his appearance … A blond girl with long hair and a dog steps into the light cast of a bright fullmoon, which appears to double … A woman on a white horse is being led by a young child.

At the core of these metaphors we find archetypes of the human psyche. At the beginning of her series Schattenrisse the photographs seemed to reflect a descent into the underworld, the photographer’s underworld. A young woman with frightened facial expressions is running away … from something outside the picture frame, toward an ascending staircase inside a house. The framed picture of a teeth barren Dracula suggests the potential of her destiny … demonic creatures with deep eye sockets await the victim to feast on her energy. A horse carriage with two gentlemen dressed in formal attire is headed for the lake. “Man needs reckless courage to descend into the abyss of himself” said Irish poet Yeats. Kathrin Karras had that very courage.

Just as with Dante’s Divine Comedy in which the poet, accompanied by Vergils, is taken into hell, the photographer descends into her own abyss. Since Gilgamesh this archetypal soul journey has been know. We are not dealing with material manifestations, but subtle aspects of the unconscious that are seeking our attention for salvation. Who doesn’t fall to ones depth, cannot rise to equal heights. In order to get to the light, we got to go toward the shadow.

Schattenrisse is a healing process-through acknowledging and accepting ones shadows can our soul find her way home.