Elsa Bleda was born into movement, crossing continents in the turning tides of her mother, the artist. What does it mean to form connections through the heightened beauty of transience? To be half-way down the mercurial street before the light can gather to hold you? Some things may get left behind, remain as spectral after-effects of a vital acceleration into the world, but other things congregate and move with you at your pace; sights and sounds and textures, multiple influences to draw upon in self-definition. Perhaps these rhythms are why she is so drawn to the spaces of Johannesburg’s night- the way they hold the traces of encounters in their quietening reverberations; speak to the tensions of leaving and arriving, and to all the different ways that a life can be lived.
Elsa’s photography began as personal documentation, in the ardour of the individual archival. However, in more recent years, her work has become an artistic interface between her internal and external worlds, a compelling voice without words, an additional language within her multiple grammars; a tributary that begins and returns to the heart, like blood. A photo can hold an open-secreting, contain the double-turn of having to forget in order to remember, and this ambiguity is folded within her visions through the disquieting relationship between the opaque and the revealed.
There is a haunting quality to Elsa’s work, a kind of dystopian, digital emulsion, pronounced through distant angles, the buzz of neon-nowhere, and what remains after the long-exposure. When I spoke with her, she told me about the intensity of her dreams, how they find her in the deep clutch of night and extend into her waking hours. The impossible things that are nonetheless known through the complexities of human experience; mysterious realities conjured against the florescent-glare of the world as it pretends to be. Elsa weaves this elusive imagery into her cinematic aesthetic, blurs the divisions between different worlds, and evokes the imagination of her viewer; more than you can gather to fathom through the strict breath of glass and a billow of curtains.
Her commercial portfolio is increasingly impressive; having recently represented the Adidas Originals #NMD Campaign in Johannesburg, but it is perhaps her unique artistic vision that is emerging most powerfully. Elsa was recently chosen as one of Trevor Beattie’s ‘Famous Five’ and was interviewed by him for The Drum magazine in the UK, featuring on its cover; she has also just completed exhibiting work in London and Berlin, for the If You Leave showcase, as one of only 20 finalists selected, who were called ‘rising photography Stars’ by Dazed Magazine and ‘the best in contemporary photography’ by Huck Magazine.
You can envision her through her photographs, a living chimera of heterogeneous influences, shaking-off her dream-head, thinking through her lens, plunging through the cities she traverses in evasive lines of flight, beckoning you to follow…