Shareem Amry breathes new life into death through her photos

  • Culture
  • Saturday, 14 Jul 2018

Shareem's work 'The Scale Of All Things' (silver gelatin print on matt fibre paper, 2017), which is part of 32 photographs at her exhibition called 'Redux.' Photos: Shareem Amry

Shareem Amry’s first solo photography exhibition Redux is a world where dragonflies, grasshoppers and moths are suspended in time, and at times, in ice. They are in bottles and jars, and embedded in ice sculptures, their intricate detailing very much present in these images.

Walk into The Print Room in Petaling Jaya this weekend and you will see more dead things: gecko skeletons and leaf skeletons, dried flowers, feathers, a baby octopus, and insects galore. No, this is not a science lab, although one could argue that film photography could be a precise science.

Four years in the making, Redux presents 32 works, most of which have not been exhibited before.

“I started working on Redux in 2014, although I didn’t know it at the time. I had done one joint still life exhibition at The Print Room the previous year but found myself always returning to my original series. I kept adding more pieces until I realised it was becoming a proper body of work,” says Shareem, 45, who is a writer by profession.

She was born in Vientiane, Laos. Her father worked with the Foreign Ministry, taking the family along to countries like Mexico, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

The Klang Valley-based artist has been a regular name in The Print Room circles, having participated in the gallery’s group shows like Encore (2017), Twisted Life (2015), Up Your Alley (2014) and It’s Still Life (2013).

After The Party (silver gelatin print on matt fibre paper, 2015) .

She started with film photography as a hobby five years ago, drawn by its uncanny ability to mirror life as we see it.  John Blakemore, a renowned British landscape and still-life photographer, is one of Shareem’s main inspirations.

“I had always loved photography as a viewer, and there was something about film that I found more compelling. A film photograph just seems more alive, there is a craft and a discipline to it that I appreciate, being the mule-headed person that I am. A day spent in the darkroom bringing your pictures to life is a good day,” she says.

“Redux” refers to something that has been brought back: what once was, is again, she shares. The exhibition mulls over themes of revival and incarnations, and new purposes.

If These Wings Could Fly 1 (silver gelatin print on matt fibre paper, 2017).

There is beauty to be found in the most unlikely places; and in this case, Shareem finds it in the dead and discarded.

“The subversion of what we usually associate with death and decay is deliberate in Redux,” she says. So even the faint of heart will not flinch at her showcase of tiny skeletons and carcasses, because it does not provoke the usual emotions we associate with death.

“I wanted to create a visual landscape that was animated by a sense of renewal even when all its elements were things that had died or been discarded. Beauty is resilient and possible everywhere we look. Visually, Redux is contemplative and hushed with a measured dose of wit,” she describes.

And Ouroboros Fled 2 (silver gelatin print on matt fibre paper, 2017).

Challenges came fast and furious while working on these photographs; using long exposures meant she couldn’t have any movement in front of the lens, so on a hot day it could get very sweaty with the fans turned off.

Likewise with her ice series where timing was critical. It was not just about a race against time as the ice melted rapidly under the studio lights, but also double boiling the water to minimise air bubbles, layering the ice over three days and shooting the day after. Any later and she would risk having the whole thing frost over.

Sacred Heart (silver gelatin print on matt fibre paper, 2015).

Redux is the first solo exhibition mounted by a former student of The Print Room, a film photography darkroom and studio in Petaling Jaya.

“It is hard to believe it is actually happening, that I’ve managed to come this far,” Shareem says of her solo show.

“I am grateful to The Print Room for giving me this platform and feel so lucky that I have a chance to show my work. I’m also petrified that no one will turn up, to be honest! I just hope that my pictures move people in some way, create some kind of emotional response. That is the best I can hope for as a photographer.”

Redux is on at The Print Room, 49 Lorong 16/9E, Seksyen 16, 46350 Petaling Jaya, every Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 6pm, from July 14 to Aug 5. Visit Call: 012- 218 3590. 

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