the photographer using softness to challenge hatred
After hearing of multiple homophobic attacks occurring in Arles, France, where she was studying, young German photographer Celine Yasemin began ‘21 Gram’, a series rooted in softness, love and compassion.
Photography Celine Yasemin
Love, intimacy, gender, identity… all concepts well-explored in our proverbial bank of photography at i-D. Yet despite the ubiquity of these words, and their omnipresence across the art world and Instagram, there will always be a space for photography that uses these touchpoints in engaging ways. With her new project 21 Gram, Celine Yasemin -- a 24-year-old currently studying photography in Dortmund -- has accomplished this with charm and ease.
Celine first began taking photographs as a teenager growing up in a small town outside of Cologne, Germany. “During these years I often felt uncomfortable in my own skin,” she explains. “Photography made me feel more at ease with my body. Using an old camera of my parents, I experimented with self-portraits. Every time I felt sad, I took pictures. It became this ritualistic form of therapy for me.”
21 Gram is built out of this idea of finding confidence through representation, this time applied to friends and strangers she met in Arles. "The title 21 Gram came from an article I read about a research scientist who did experiments on the weight of the soul in 1902. He wanted to prove that the soul was material and measurable and he came to the conclusion that our soul weighs 21 grams.
“I have been working on the project since December, but I feel like I am only just getting started,” she says. “There had been homophobic attacks in Arles, France [where Celine was studying for two semesters at the Ecole Nationale Superièure de la Photographie] the summer before, and the discussion of LGBT+ rights growing in the city. I began developing a project around the question of how people feel inside and outside from their own bodies.
“Some are very good friends, some are people that I had met just once, but became close to me and inspired me to take this project in a certain direction. When taking images for this, I tried to give little direction to the models and instead let them act the way they feel comfortable. I like to be there and just observe them, in a way. Often things happened spontaneously and I rarely need to create an atmosphere.”
The result is a beautiful series about LGBT+ couples and individuals, and one that spotlights a remarkable ability to translate intimacy even when the subject has no prior relationship with the photographer. “It is always hard for me to explain what I’m trying to say with my work. Sometimes I need months and even years to understand what I have created and why. When I am thinking about 21 Gram, all I can currently think of is that the images are very soft and intimate, and that is a feeling I am looking to explore.
"I like to create closeness. I just haven’t figured out why."
Photography Celine Yasemin