Alma Haser was born in Germany and grew up in squat (a former matchstick factory). With both parents full-time artists, Alma was surrounded by art and creativity - an environment she believes was fundamental to her thinking towards her current practice. She has made her name in contemporary photography by using techniques normally associated with craft, such as weaving, folding, cutting, stitching, and painting.
Since her work The Ventriloquist gained critical acclaim, Alma Haser has been surprising her audience with her signature aesthetic. In her recent project, Within 15 Minutes, the German photographer moves away from the conventional 2D photographic image to create jigsaw puzzle-based portraits and segments images into 1000-piece puzzles by hand.
Alma takes over our Instagram feed for the week (September 8 to 14) with two of her series Within 15 Minutes and Cosmic Surgery.
Why do you take pictures?
Because I feel like that's how I can express myself. I'm quite dyslexic and feel like that's my way of saying things. I've always been a visual person. Art is very important to me.
You are associated with Firecracker, a supportive network for female photographers worldwide. What has belonging to this community brought to your photographic practice?
It's brought a sense of connection to be part of a bigger group. I don’t do or see a huge amount of the other members of Firecrackers, but recently one fellow photographer had come to visit my studio in Hastings. It was lovely to get to know so many other creative photographers who all share a similar passion. It's also interesting to see how we can spur each other on and inspire one another.
'The image is important, but it is the starting point in photography' says Dayanita Singh. This idea could be linked to your practice. What are your thoughts on this quote?
Yes I love this quote. For me the photograph is the backbone to my practice, something I use both to start and finish pieces. The start is always the photograph which I can then use to create the wider body of work.
You say, 'One of the things I love about my twin puzzles series is that I never know how they will turn out until I actually start swapping the pieces. How jumbled up or recognizable they will be.' What's more important to your personal practice, the concept or the process?
It depends on the project, but obviously I'm obsessed with making things so the process is very important to me. Sometimes I'll come up with a process first and then realize what it means – helping the project fall into place.
Has Instagram taught you anything about your work?
I used to use Instagram as a sort of blog. I'd post my work in progress pieces which I could then look back on. When I started to gain quite a few followers I changed the identity of my feed slightly. I don’t want to use Instagram as a place of acceptance but I do sometimes find myself waiting to see peoples' reactions once I've posted something new. I try not to take it too seriously now.
We're featuring two of your series on our Instagram feed this week, Within 15 Minutes and Cosmic Surgery - both projects rooted in portraiture. What does a portrait need to bring to its audience for it to be compelling?
Intrigue and mystery need to be strong. It's far more interesting to look at a portrait which doesn't tell you everything all at once.
You seem to create a lot of artwork for musicians, what do you think it is about your style that appeals?
My style's quite graphic but also grainy and ageless which seems to speak to musicians. I think my use of bold colors and that I disguise and manipulate their faces using various paper techniques comes into play too. Creating music artwork can be a lot freer than commissioned portrait photography, it's a great way to experiment and try out new ideas.
You've won a number of awards and have had numerous group and solo exhibitions. What's next for your photography?
I'm currently working on a new series of work based on films my father took of me and my brother for eight years. I'm using them as a way to explore memory, using new techniques such as cross-stitch. But after having a child of my own time is a tricky thing to come by so this project may take longer than others to make!