Emma Katka, with dreams of Chernobyl and the open road, is a photographic artist who refuses to be defined. Her work is versatile in content but with a consistent dark persona, of the lost, the desolate, and the complex and colourful. The macabre has always drawn upon the artist and is of personal relevance. As a youngster, Emma battled with depression and destructive obsessions after a difficult transition of moving school districts, after which more peaceful ways of escapism arose through the arts. Her photography takes on tendencies of documentary and fine art, with examples of portraiture, landscape and the conceptual. Not to mention when she doesn’t have a camera in hand, a sharpie is usually in its place, with recent experiments merging the two.

We are spellbound by Emma’s series of derelict homes and buildings where belongings of previous owners lay scattered as though by hastened departure. We too, want to become lost in the frozen time capsules the places of flat and vast North Dakota offer. They make themselves found by pure chance of curious road trips or word of mouth. Its apparent mundane quality is what spouts the magic for both Emma and us. The aid of left over belongings or lack-of helps piece together the lives of the previous owners and the neglect of their home. The abandonment may have resulted from the death of a spouse whom was source of income or due to lack of family funds from the struggle of competing with farms that own bigger and newer machinery. Each adventure holds its own significance, and every detail is remembered. The artist explains that when she was in her late teens she sought reassurance in the knowledge of places that were just as lonely as she had been in her early years. They held an emotional resonance, and now draw not only comfort but pools of inspiration.

As of late, Emma has been morphing images using both natural and artificial light, to enhance haunting or dreamlike qualities. It is the concept of light not being able to exist without the darkness that becomes inherent in the work, and takes on personal relevance, in propelling the light of a situation through the dark. Her editing process is not of a clean and coherent system; instead it takes on a spontaneous nature. Curves on Photoshop are used to enhance or manipulate colour and opacity, and contrast augmented through occasional image layering. Most importantly, though, no more than twenty minutes are spent per photograph. It becomes intrinsic in not over thinking the post production process and to remain in instantaneous reflection to create a ‘veil of nostalgia.’

Emma Katka is certainly discovering her voice and she expresses a noteworthy concern in the cons of becoming over influenced by found art work. She explains that the influence of online works reflected negatively in the work she was producing. The outcomes were bound by the imagery she was accessing. After learning to separate herself from the online photography world, Emma began to become more intuitive and take risks in responding to her own creative voice. By not over thinking concepts or ideas, but embracing emotions, the art arrived more freely. Whilst the artist’s emotions remain at the core of every piece she makes, it becomes evident in creative growth and development through the experimentation of the editing process and style as years go by. ‘So when I look back at old work now, I don’t really look at what I did when I photographed and edited it in comparison to now, I guess I just remember how I felt when I did it.’


Feature by Amber Scarlett / amber@thirstforvision.com


SÝN Magazine

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