'Fault Lines' - Clarissa Sofia
Hi Clarissa, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions surrounding you, your thoughts and your brilliant work! Firstly, tell us a little bit about you as a creative.
I would describe myself as a contemporary photographer and poet, common topics in my work revolve around vulnerability, intimacy and support. I am currently working a lot with self-portraiture and collaborating with other artists. I suppose my love for photography was born in my school’s darkroom, I was 16 and had completely different career plans at the time, but had picked up photography as an A-level. I thought it sounded fun and easy, it was a lazy choice that turned out to be pivotal for me. I spent a lot of time in that darkroom fascinated by the magic and science of developing images, I haven’t stopped since. Poetry on the other hand came a little later, I began writing as a way to understand and process my thoughts. I feel especially influenced by poet Ocean Vuong and photographer Francesca Woodman.
Most of my inspiration comes from an internal space, and then I bounce off of my surroundings, I’m fortunate to live in a place where there is an abundance of nature! I shoot on film and mostly use my Mamiya RZ67 and Canon AE1. My poetry is a little less consistent and comes at random moments, but I make sure to always carry a notebook to write down initial ideas and first drafts, though sometimes it is a simple note on my phone.
I have noticed in a lot of your work that there is a powerful narrative occurring shown through body language, lighting and scenery etc. Is this something you plan ahead of the shoot or does it depend on how you’re feeling on the day?
I don’t tend to plan much ahead, I find that my shooting style is very intuitive. I like to create spaces where I am free to explore, sometimes you end up somewhere completely unexpected, and other times you find yourself repeating habits - there are always opportunities to grow in both situations. I do however like to shoot mostly during sunset hours, I would love to take advantage of sunrises more often too… but I’m not a morning person! In terms of location, I am always looking out for interesting rock formations or striking trees and shapes in nature that can mimic or contrast the human body.
Your' poetry complements your' photography very well and certainly brings the images to life in a powerful way. In particular, ‘The Weight Of Your Name’ is incredibly vivid and impactful. Mental health is an important topic and I feel your work does well at showcasing significant human struggles and ultimately embracing them. Firstly, do you feel that mental health is still generally overlooked by society? And secondly, would you say that the production of art helps you better express and understand your own struggles?
Thank you. I can only speak from my own personal experience and observations, but yes, I certainly feel that mental health is still overlooked by society. I do think there has been improvement, in terms of conversations surrounding the topic and the amount of voices we now have, especially young female voices. Today, if I was in the same place I was back then, I might have found the whole thing a little less scary, knowing that so many people are going through similar situations. I do however think there is more work to be done, all in all, we have taken some steps forwards, and I hope we can continue to do so at a faster and more impactful pace.
I absolutely believe that art helps me in many ways. I’ve found that both photography and writing are almost coping mechanisms, I’m my happiest when shooting or writing and tend to feel lost if I leave them aside for long. They feel like an extension of me, an essential form of expression to release any tensions that are trapped inside. I think we all have ways of releasing our tensions, and it’s quite beautiful that often these expressions come in the form of art and creativity.
The Weight Of Your Name
How many times have I melted into this Earth
before today? I think i’ve lost count.
My body plummets down to an ocean of noise,
static swallowing me whole until my lungs
begin the process of begging.
I think I like it - this kind of pain,
how numbing and silent it is
to not carry the weight of your own name.
I admire how confident the water is,
how she doesn’t ask for permission
to envelope me, she just occupies this space
without a trace of guilt.
For someone who finds comfort in control,
this kind of dying hasn’t shaken me yet.
How do you decide which poem pairs with which photo? Do you use a photo as inspiration, do you take a photo that represents one of your poems? or are you able to simply find two separate pieces that complement each other?
For me it really comes down to an instinctual feeling. I like to pair images that evoke similar feelings in the viewer as the poem, to emphasise these emotions. I usually pair two separate pieces that complement each other, though during the creation of my book, I finished the poems before the images which gave me an opportunity to use the writing as inspiration to guide me during the self-portraiture sessions.
A lot of your photos show a vulnerable subject seamlessly becoming a part of its natural surroundings. Talk me through your decision behind this and why it is such an important aspect to your story-telling?
I believe it all began as circumstantial. Though I grew up in London, I spent all my summers in Ibiza (where I now live) and I’ve always been surrounded by nature and nudity, which was never taboo here. I suppose that has formed part of my identity as a photographer and it’s actually a space where I feel really comfortable and safe. I know many other talented photographers on the island that share this feeling. On some level, I think this is my way of trying to bring this sense of comfort with nudity to other people, to show them that it doesn’t have to be taboo, and it certainly doesn’t always have to be sexual. I believe that we are closely connected to nature and spending time with her can be truly healing and freeing. I have a huge amount of respect for the earth, as I do for our bodies, and I see a lot of correlations between the two. They are both homes that deserve more love than they receive.
Coming from someone who struggles with this a lot… Do you ever get creative blocks? If so, how do you manage/keep going?
Yes, of course! It is something that is inevitable, and we will always find ourselves facing creative blocks. Honestly, I don’t manage or keep going.. I can’t say I have any useful advice. I struggle with this a lot and go for months at a time without creating, during these times I’ll post old work on Instagram to make myself feel better, or ill use the time to submit to magazines, or just focus on my personal health. Then I just hope that inspiration will soon envelop me in its warmth again.
Lastly, you have a fantastic book out published in 2020 titled ‘Fault Lines’ - tell us about the writing/selection process, and your' ideal aim for the people that read it?
I wrote this book over a span of 3/4 years. It came together quite naturally as I was coming out of my experience with depression. I really just wrote the book for myself and at a certain point I decided it was something I wanted to share with the world. For the selection process, I wanted to incorporate poems that narrated my personal journey with mental health and all the parts of life that interacted with it. I wanted to show how subjects such as love, can become skewed and tainted and how they can also become healing. My ideal aim for people that read it, is to allow the feelings explored to be evoked in them; especially some of the more difficult ones, to be open to surrendering to their own vulnerability and to feel less alone in the world.
And if people wish to secure their own copy, where should they go?
You can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and locally in Ibiza. If you check out my Website I have a page with all the direct links plus a few sample pages of the book. https://www.clarissasofia.com/faultlines
Many thanks again, Clarissa. We look forward to seeing what you produce next!
Thank you, it’s been lovely having a space to chat so openly x
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