“Supreme Vice is my contemplation on death,” explains Czech born photographer Tereza Zelenkova of her latest work, a series of haunting black and white images inspired by the 19th century occult and its revival in the western world. The photos are currently being exhibited in East London’s Oblong Gallery but have already been published by Mörel Books as well as being featured in exhibitions and photography magazines across the world.
After reading French novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans’s book The Damned, Zelenkova became interested in the underground occult in 19th century France and its influence on the surrealist art movement. This fascination with the human susceptibility to irrational beliefs started a journey on the exploration of religion and our need as human beings to believe in something at a time when, as Zelenkova puts it, “God is dead and science is unable to provide satisfactory answers.”
The photographs that constitute Supreme Vice invoke death in the bleak deserts and bleached out skeleton, while offering some kind of mysticism in the hooded figures and black ravens.
“Whilst working on the Supreme Vice series I became very interested in western mysticism and occultism and it occurred to me that the ultimate mystical and occult experience is perhaps death itself,” the photographer explains. “I am not very concerned with theories about reincarnation or any form of afterlife, but rather with death’s totality that reveals the discontinuity of all living things. I like the omnipresent aura of disaster hovering about one’s life.”
For her next project she will be traveling to the Czech Republic to photograph a cave where the remains of around forty human sacrifices from 700 BC have been discovered. “The cave had a sacred significance for people until the Middle Ages,” she explains. “And then during the World War II, the Nazis built a factory within the cave walls for manufacturing weapons, which is strangely significant giving its past function.”
Catch Supreme Vice until March 23rd, Oblong Gallery, 69a Southgate Road, London N1 3JS