The work of photographer Antonella Arismendi has appeared in Rolling Stone, British FHM, Vnfold, and DMag, among others. She’s also photographed for a range of clients, including Loreal France, Nike, and Docomo Japan. But, with pentagrams, the Cabalistic Tree of Life, pyramids and other symbols appearing in her photo shoots, Antonella’s work is infused with the spiritual and the esoteric. Going beyond both convention and cliches, Antonella’s photography is spiritual and haunting, enigmatic and esoteric, and always beautiful. She recently told People of Shambhala more about her work and interests, and kindly allowed us to reproduce some of her photographs. We think you’ll like what you see.
People of Shambhala: How did you become involved in photography, rather than maybe painting or writing?
Antonella Arismendi: It happened accidently… I never imagined that I would dedicate myself to photography. It was simply a tool that was within my reach since my childhood.
PoS: You say you “grew up with Barbies, Twin Peaks and the ghosts of Pedro Raota.” This is an interesting mix. With Barbie dolls you have the idea of the perfect female body (or, at least, that seems to be an assumption about them), and with the TV show Twin Peaks you have the influence of astrology and the occult in the apparently ordinary world, and with Raota you have a very haunting and atmospheric photographer, whose theme is the human condition. This mix of the body and beauty, the esoteric, the haunting, seems to be present in your work to a large extent.
AA: All these experiences, that I’ve lived through, are subconsciously stored and it’s inevitable not to express them in an artistic sense. They simply awaken [through me].
PoS: They seem to hint at spirituality. Is that important to you, personally, I mean?
AA: Yes, my profession is essentially a way to communicate this [spiritual] search.
PoS: You’ve photographed for major name brands including Loreal France, Rolling Stone, British FHM, Canon, and Nike. What are some of the challenges of commercial photography, as opposed to art photography? Or is there really such a distinction?
AA: Commercially, the challenge is to negotiate the creativity with the client, and not simply with myself… Fashion photography is a mainstream medium, and it’s permitted me to expand globally and to exploit my interest in esthetics to the maximum. But, at the same time, I think it may have removed some of my credibility as an artist.
PoS: Well, we love your art, and I’m sure that readers of People of Shambhala will too, so I don’t think it’s removed any of your credibility. Far from it. But, please tell us, esthetically, who or what influences you today?
AA: I don’t usually look for esthetic influence when creating. What inspires me the most is to isolate myself from everything that has already been done visually and create something new. It’s an intense process to convert ideas from the ethereal to the tangible plane — it’s when the alchemical act happens.
PoS: Are you inspired at all by the 1960s Hippie era, with its mix of “Peace and Love” with Eastern and esoteric spirituality? Or do you think that this is a fusion that we can find in all times, perhaps to differing degrees?
AA: I find more of interest in Hermetic and ancient astrological knowledge. I believe that the spiritual movements that have occurred in different times arise from the same origin and have simply reinterpreted it.
PoS: Symbols of the occult, esotericism, Cabala, etc., appear in some of your photo shoots. In “Gnosis” we see a young man with a Cabalistic Tree of Life painted on his back, and an Eye of Horus and a cross elsewhere on his body. In “Merkabah” a blonde woman appears as a Vitruvian figure inside a circle and triangle, and, again, sitting inside a circle and hexagram on the floor. In the “Universe is Mental” shoot we see a pentagram and astrological charts superimposed on a female model. It seems to me that there is something both very serious and yet playful here. Can you tell us a bit about your use of symbolism? Are you telling us to look beyond he world of appearances, perhaps through it – - through the beauty of the model, for example, to a kind of transcendental, spiritual beauty?
AA: One of my greatest motivations is based in astrology and spiritual knowledge. Photography is simply the tool to express them.
PoS: Okay, so what photo shoot do you look back on most fondly?
AA: Merkabah. Because it’s devoted to my spiritual awakening… “Merkabah” means vehicle of light. Through a series of respirations — breathing… inhaling and exhaling — our electromagnetic field can be activated — and formed into two dodecahedron — and, through this, we can achieve a state of superior consciousness.
PoS: Where are some of the most interesting places you’ve been to photograph? And where was “Magna” shot? I love those strange statues.
AA: One of my best experiences with photography was photographing the northern lights in Tromso, Norway… Magna was photographed in Argentina, it belongs to the work of the great architect Francisco Salamone.
PoS: Lastly, what do you want us to take away from seeing your work? And what are you planning for the future of your photography?
AA: I am in constant state of transformation, so the message goes beyond the medium… and that, in fact, is my goal.