PHOTO ARTIST JULIA CALFEE
Julia Calfee "I would like to be remembered as someone who took risks, made decisions based on only her own love and passion, and who had a vision that is particularly personal."
From time to time classicists like to remind us of the etymology of the word ‘author’: in Latin, it means ‘one who pushes forward borders’. The most famous Roman ‘authors’ were the generals who pushed forward the borders of the Empire, until it covered an area that today is home to around thirty different countries. The photographer Julia Calfee conquers new artistic territories, pushes forward the borders of her medium. Her most famous book, ‘Inside, The Chelsea Hotel’ tells about the New York hotel that was a breeding ground for the bohemians of the twentieth century. I use the word ‘tells’ on purpose. Julia Calfee lived over four years in this hotel. Her photographs bare comparison with the best American prose. They capture the heroes of Fitzgerald, Salinger, Capote. The Americans are the finest at writing about hotels. They made hotels and motels stopping places on the road between life and death. The heroes of American novels die, kill themselves and others in hotels. It’s the end of the American journey. The hero checks into a hotel and picks up the bill for his whole life. The American phrase to ‘check out’ is often used to mean ‘to die’.
Julia Calfee’s book is a rare example of a photographer successfully emigrating to Literature. Another of Julia’s books is the result of many years works in Mongolia. Her heroes are women-shamans, prisoners, wardens, deer-herders, trappers. In its spirit and love of detail, this book is closer to ethnography than photography. I would name the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss as one of the influences behind the book. Incidentally, he grew up in a family of portrait painters. Julia Calfee’s latest obsession is the melting glaciers of the Vals valley in Switzerland. In this project, the photographer has again broken through the borders of visual art. She has not only made over a thousand photographs but has also written an essay, The 'Honeycomb Glacier'.
Fearless and daring is the work of general Julia Calfee.
Making Of A Glaciers Requiem by Julia Calfee
Thank you for your insights, Julia. Photo: Julia Calfee: Milena Findeis, Igor Pomerantsev at the opening of the Prague Writers' Festival - 2009