by JC Gonzo
Aiming to “dehumanize the subject,” Ema Discordant cloaks the faces of his subjects digitally or otherwise for mannequin-like disembodiment. “They’re not humans anymore,” says Ema, an unconventional portrait photographer currently based in Berlin. “I like to hide their faces… it does not matter if they’re male or female, sexuality isn’t involved much I would say.” Ema prefers to keep interpretation open, offering visuals cues for unknown post-apocalyptic landscapes of urban decay and disintegration. Amongst the rubble, sometimes nude, occasionally faceless forms disengage from their environment. While nature often finds a way into his images, it somehow seems unnatural or altered in some industrial fashion. Most of Ema’s photography is on-site, though any city signifiers remain largely absent.
“In Berlin, even as it constantly changes with construction, you can find huge, abandoned spots. I’m interested in a ‘no-man’s land,’ which can be anywhere, not just in Berlin. In Greece, Portugal, Italy…” Ema’s been a Berlin transplant since 2007, originally from La Spezia, Italy. What first brought him to Berlin was an exhibition at a now-defunct kunst house in Mitte, leading to further opportunities to showcase and develop his work. Ema continued his involvement with underground rave scenes upon relocation, “I started to with this queer techno party called Sabotage—from the ashes of which Gegen was born—and the people I met helped me make the decision to stay. At 22, I experienced something I hadn’t had before; the freedom to express and be myself, completely, for the first time.” Beyond the attractive pull of drugs, sex, and music, Ema was drawn to the physical space of the parties. “I started to attend free techno parties because of the locations, huge abandoned factories. But now, I feel like all this rave culture doesn’t exist very much anymore. There’s still parties, but it’s different.”
As a child of the 90’s, the Ema’s aesthetic background originates in the videos clips of his formative years. “I was a Manson fan when I was 14, Smashing Pumpkins, and so on…” Fittingly, Ema recently photographed Hanin Elias (first pictured below), ex-frontwoman of Atari Teenage Riot and currently in Fantôme with Marcel Zürcher of Die Krupps. “We did the photoshoot in an abandoned water park. She’s a nice person, I am a fan of hers so I was a bit nervous.” Today, Ema works as a party photographer, a prime spot to find models for his own practice. “I just offer them some alcohol and a good mood. They completely trust me. I relax them first, and then we shoot,” explains Ema. “The post-processing is decided afterwards and depends on the mood I’m in, whatever the picture needs…” He frequently collaborates with fashion designers, DJs, bands, and models. “I collect the people, clothes, and locations I like and place them all together.”
You can follow Ema Discordant on tumblr.