amongst the rooftops of the favelas, like tiny flowers poking through concrete. And then a portrait of a child with his face painted in pastel colours, engaging intensely with her camera. A triangulation between document, aesthetic and human, between observation and active participation, is evident here. Tiny shreds of graffiti, or the shadow of a flower on a wall, or the scar on the shoulder of a teenager, are given the same weight as huge, blockbuster images of sprawling tower blocks, or unfolding cityscapes, or the more conventional portraits of the people she met along the way. Land of Black Milk did not emerge in a vacuum. Indeed, there’s a clear continuity between this new work and Moshammer’s earlier, namemaking series Vegas and She, her first photo-book, published in the early spring of 2015 – the sign of a photographer developing a methodology which she might be able to apply to any subject. The series again began with a poetic introduction: ‘It‘s the desert with its burning breeze, a man-made oasis in the middle of its wide valley with the mountains around. It‘s the downtown with its faces shaped by life, and the suburbs with its tract homes, tireless and sprawling. A city as a furious beast with many heads, innocence of the past is caught in there, no ability to escape.’ These words, a celebration of how beauty can often be found in the most depressing of contexts, appeared before any of her photography. Vegas and She, published by the renowned Fotohof edition, came from a two month stretch Moshammer spent in Nevada’s shimmering capital of sin. ‘Las Vegas is the strip-club capital of the world,’ Moshammer has said of the series. The city is a tourist town, a Disneyland for
dysfunctional people – one of the most garishly visual cities in the world. Photographers have long endeavoured to capture the unique attractions, the strange underbelly, of the City of Lights. But what is it like to live there permanently, to call Vegas your home? What do you do, in a city often defined by vice, when the consequences of untrammelled indulgence become excessively clear? Moshammer’s ability to explore this question is remarkable. Moshammer describes her work as playing ‘on the the boundaries between documentary and art, touching on subjects of subculture, intimacy and ambiguity.’ A lot of photographers make similar claims. Yet Vegas and She fulfils her ambitions, and more. Moshammer’s series was part documentary, part something else entirely. ‘My portrait of this place is a mix of my experiences and the world that was going on around me,’ she wrote of the series. Slight, almost imperceptible gradations of perspective, from the uniquely personal to the coolly subjective, lie at the core of Moshammer’s work. She asks us to guess at the dynamic that somehow developed between this cool photographer educated in Scandanavia, and the often down-on-their-luck yet powerful, alluring women who have become reliant on such a lifestyle, such a place. Moshammer imbued her series with geometric studies of shapes and shades that recall David Hockney’s early works in Los Angeles. She focuses her frame, with unusual angles and an intense focus on colour that would not look out of place in a Harry Gruyaert photobook. The resulting is a fragmented, surrealist photography series, as if we’re seeing strange, nebulous flashbacks from the morning after the night before.
Vegas and She was circulated widely, but Moshammer has remained coy about her other projects. This is not a photographer set on self-promotion, of constantly updated social media feeds and extrapolations of her work. Beyond a single, unexplained image on her website, few will know as of yet about Land of Black Milk. But expect this series, in a year where the ‘multiplied realities’ of Rio are under more scrutiny than ever before, to go far in the public consciousness. It is the work of a photographer beyond her years, an artist with the ability to capture our shared existence, the essential insecurities of comparing one’s life to another as we increasingly live in smaller and smaller spaces, with an eye as sharp and intense as any of her generation.
All images © Stefanie Moshammer, courtesy of the artist STEFANIE MOSHAMMER – (b. 1988, AT) lives and works in Austria, where she received a BA in Graphic Design & Photography from the University of Art and Design. Her work - which has been exhibited in Austria, France, Portugal and Italy – has been published by the likes of Collector Daily, Purple Magazine, i-D, GUP Magazine and VICE. In 2015, Moshammer’s first photobook, Vegas and She, was published by Fotohof edition. TOM SEYMOUR – (b. 1985, UK) writes regularly about arts and society for the likes of Time Out, The Guardian, VICE, The Independent and BBC Culture. He is also the Online & Social Media Editor at The British Journal of Photography. He lives and works in London.