Artist Profile: Chris Dei

Photographer Chris Dei presents a stunning portfolio of photography, and talks about the meaning of her work.

 

"Shunya IX" Silver Gelatin Prints, 6" x 9" and matted 16" x 20" in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

“Shunya IX” Silver Gelatin Prints, 6″ x 9″ and matted 16″ x 20″ in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

 

ABI:  How did you get started as a photographer, and how did your work evolve?

CD:  My early and undergraduate training was in classical music.  I met my husband when I was a student at the Conservatory of Music in Madrid and after we married, we started moving from place to place because of his work. Many of the moves were international, often to remote places, so it became impossible for me to take my piano. I bought a camera and a few lenses as an easily transportable creative alternative. Seeing the world through the lens of the camera was an epiphany. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would change my life. I guess that was the beginning. From then on, I always had a camera with me.

 

"Shunya III" Silver Gelatin Prints, 6" x 9" and matted 16" x 20" in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

“Shunya III” Silver Gelatin Prints, 6″ x 9″ and matted 16″ x 20″ in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

 

Years later when we returned to live permanently in New York, I started submitting travel images and was contracted by several stock photo agencies. I was also doing studio headshots and promo material for performing artists, mainly from The Julliard and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, because that was a world I knew and was very comfortable with from my own background in the music world.

 

"Shunya VIII" Silver Gelatin Prints, 6" x 9" and matted 16" x 20" in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

“Shunya VIII” Silver Gelatin Prints, 6″ x 9″ and matted 16″ x 20″ in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

 

But in 2001, my professional life took a radical turn. I booked my first trip to Africa.

And I was hooked. I knew I had found my true calling. I fell in love with it’s people, it’s astonishing wildlife and its vast primordial beauty. I very quickly became less engaged in studio work and spent more and more time in Africa. It became my passion and life’s mission. My work there began getting noticed and winning awards. I started exhibiting and was, and am very fortunate to have that work represented by galleries and collectors both here and abroad.

 

"Shunya XI" Silver Gelatin Prints, 6" x 9" and matted 16" x 20" in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

“Shunya XI” Silver Gelatin Prints, 6″ x 9″ and matted 16″ x 20″ in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

 

As deep immersion in the African wilderness became such a significant part of my life, a more intimate and introspective exploration of the rhythm of life and the mysteries it holds, began to emerge. This was a much more personal journey, a spiritual quest that eventually led me to the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in India. Here I was incredibly fortunate to learn an ancient meditation technique taught directly by one of the world’s rarest living Masters. Over time, a body of work I named Śhūnya began to take shape. Śhūnya means stillness, and these images represent a gateway for the viewer to move inward to the space of deep peace known only when the mind becomes indescribably still. It is a parallel work that also invites the viewer in a more intimate way, into a world of beauty and wonder.

 

 

"Infinity" Silver Gelatin Prints, 6" x 9" and matted 16" x 20" in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

“Infinity” Silver Gelatin Prints, 6″ x 9″ and matted 16″ x 20″ in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

 

ABI: How would you describe the signature style that defines your photography?

CD:  Every artist has a unique vision – a way in which he experiences the world that is a little different than the way most people see it. I have always secretly felt I was mistakenly placed in the wrong century…so it was natural for me to gravitate to sepia tones for the work I do in Africa, and to go back to the darkroom Silver Gelatin printing method for the Śhūnya Collection. Presenting the sense of timelessness – the eternal rhythm and deep peace of the universe…and wanting the viewer to feel that too. So I would say the starkly monochromatic treatment of subjects that most people would not consider presenting without color – to create a feeling, an intimate, personal  experience, rather than reproduce a scene – is what defines my work.

 

"Shunya XV" Silver Gelatin Prints, 6" x 9" and matted 16" x 20" in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

“Shunya XV” Silver Gelatin Prints, 6″ x 9″ and matted 16″ x 20″ in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

 

ABI:  What is the concept behind your current body of work?

CD:  Śhūnya means Stillness….Emptiness…

Through long and disciplined practice of meditation, when the state of Śhūnya is reached, the activities of the mind, intellect and emotions come to a total standstill, and consciousness is experienced in its purest form.

 

"Shunya XXIX" Silver Gelatin Prints, 6" x 9" and matted 16" x 20" in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

“Shunya XXIX” Silver Gelatin Prints, 6″ x 9″ and matted 16″ x 20″ in a soft white cotton rag mat. Printed in limited editions of 30.

 

Śhūnya is altogether beyond the reach of the intellect. For this reason, in ancient Sanskrit texts, it is represented by Zero, because all attempts of the human mind to define it, end in Zero.

When the mind becomes so indescribably still, the deepest layer of Awareness emerges, and the profound peace found in the stillness of every heart is revealed. We are surrounded by this stillness all the time, but we miss it because we have forgotten our true nature.

 

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