When we stumbled across Kelia Anne MacCluskey’s photographs, we were hooked by her intuitive approach to soft lighting coupled tightly with a throwback aesthetic. From a stack of well-considered images, we picked out the series Crisis of the Real which Kelia created in collaboration with fellow photographer Luca Venter.
The Colarado native studied at Savannah College of Art & Design, where she earned her BFA in Photography. At the time, Luca was working as a freelance photographer. “Luca and I met through the internet when we were teenagers,” Kelia tells It’s Nice That. “What a cute introduction, right? We had a mutual admiration for each other’s work. In 2015, we were coincidentally in London at the same time, and we began collaborating on several photographic projects.”
One of those projects was Crisis of the Real, which seeks to probe form and function, asking the reader to question their perception of what is “real”. “I became interested in semiotics while I was studying. I read countless essays on how photography and semiotic theory go hand in hand,” Kelia says. “You know, lots of Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag. We made this project as a beautiful and quirky exploration of a heavier concept. Whether or not one is interested in theory, they’re able to recognise the irony in the photographs. If they don’t recognise the irony, they at least like the colours.”
The photographs take mundane, functional household objects – washing-up gloves, plastic bags, plugs and mousetraps – in unexpected colours like cherry red and Pepto-Bismol pink, and elevate them by recontextualising them into deliberately offbeat scenarios. “These strange images depict objects being misused and reinvented. We deconstruct the expectation one has for the recognisable object,” Kelia explains. “The signifier is the entity, the thing you can see, touch, taste, hear. The signified is the concept behind the object, the mental association one makes with the signifier. The objects used in the series already have cultural connotations, such as flames implying speed. Contrasting that idea of speed with a slowing, sticky piece of gum is where the deconstruction happens.”
There’s more in store from the photographic duo. “Luca and I have actively been working together since creating Crisis of the Real,” Kelia says. “We both directed and produced a music video and album promotion for the band Tennis. We are enthusiastically pursuing video as another outlet for creativity. We have a few music videos and fashion films coming up in the next several months.”