The South African photographer captures the relationship between the female form and the natural world.
Ever since she was a kid, Caroline Mackintosh has loved being outdoors. Growing up in Cape Town, she and her family would often go in search of adventure in the neighbouring countries. Borrowing her father’s camera to document each trip, Caroline experimented with the idea of being a wildlife photographer, but the older she got the more she began to question the natural world and her position in it. Taking this tension as her focal point, Caroline has been documenting the relationship between womankind and the outside world ever since.
For her most recent project, In the Murmur, Caroline delved into the watery depths to photograph her close female friends. Stripped of their clothes, these women are at one with nature. “It began with a conscious decision to make trips up into the mountains to photograph my friends underwater,” she explains, “after time more and more women wanted to join on these excursions and I also started to notice how the trips to this magical place affected the girls who took part in the series.” Spanning the realms of photography, film, a limited edition book and sound installations, In the Murmur is a totally immersive experience that will take aims to take the viewer on a transformative journey.
How would you describe your overall aesthetic?
My overall aesthetic shows a spontaneous need for the raw, wild and free in this world. It has a dreamscape quality that flits between nostalgic yearning and sensual playfulness.
Who or what inspires you? Why?
Nature and real people… People who are open and fearless, which is quite rare in this day and age.
What’s the story behind In the Murmur?
In the Murmur is my multidisciplinary solo show consisting of photography, a film, a limited edition book and sound installations. It’s a body of work that aims to take the viewer on an emotionally transportive journey. I started this body of work about four summers ago, so approximately three years. Everytime we went out to the river to shoot, the series evolved and progressed into something more.
It began with a conscious decision to make trips up into the mountains to photograph my friends underwater but over the years of shooting and through my own growth, the series took on a whole other meaning – developing organically, as I did. After time more and more women wanted to join on these excursions and I also started to notice how the trips to this magical place affected the girls who took part in the series. Many would contact me afterwards saying they felt such a release and a new sense of freedom within themselves, the key word being “renewal”. They felt more in tune with themselves, their bodies and nature. Almost like they felt a sense of liberation and re-wilding.
I wanted to create a place that hosts these feelings, a sensory experience that emulates the feeling of being submerged, a place that transports you and envelops you… In the Murmur is this magical place, suspended in time. Water and motion and allows the viewer to “let go”, to feel as though they’re submerged in wonder. It’s the ephemeral moment between the inhale and exhale.
What is the significance of nudity within it?
I believe that we are fully connected to ourselves and surroundings when we are nude. Uncomplicated and uninhabited, there are no barriers between us and our surroundings. I wanted to show these women in their purest, most natural form without it taking on a sexual nature so that they represent blissful purity and unselfconscious freedom. I wanted this work to hold a sense of otherworldliness and mystery, knowing that clothing would contextualise the women, and make them from this time and space. I wanted the viewer to be able to relate to them with emotion while not at the same time fully feel at one with them as beings.
What kind of connection are you trying to make between the naked female form and natural world they inhabit?
I wanted these women to seem as though they are not of this world. There is a level of uncertainty as they manoeuvre above the water but once submerged it is clear they are free in motion, at one with the world they inhabit. You feel this shift and a transition in their awareness. For a fleeting moment they are suspended, weightless and limitless.
Your work centres around the female form, where did this interest come from?
Being a woman myself I am naturally interested in how women are perceived and how they perceive themselves. I find that the female shape is one of the most beautiful forms, yet also one of the most scrutinised. I really enjoy capturing women in their true essence, showing their beauty in an uncomplicated authentic way, giving them a sense empowerment within their vulnerability.
What else are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on my second music orientated film, this one set in the Karoo Desert. I am working with musician Gerdus Oosthuizen on this project. The idea for this second film talks about our connectivity as people in relationships and the patterns we fall into, how we’re only able to really see each other through our own perceptions.