This article was first published in the May 2020 issue of British Journal of Photography, The Modern Nude.
For the past four years, Kata Geibl has set about untangling the distinction between reality and myth in photography. Her latest work, There is Nothing New Under the Sun, grapples with the intense pressure and downfalls of capitalism. The project’s title is a nod to the Book of Ecclesiastes 1:11, which reads, “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever… What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun”.
The ways in which our capitalist structures systemically devalue community, instead pushing the plight of the individual, are of particular interest to Geibl. And in the bustle of everyday life and our impetus to survive, there’s an unwavering pressure to push forward and keep hustling with our blinkers on – but that doesn’t mean we don’t sense its weight around us. “I believe that we can all feel the rise of this era, even if we lack the words to describe it,” Geibl says. “The way we consume, enquire, vote, communicate and work is rapidly changing every day.”
When we put capitalism’s solitary subsistence into words, it sounds like the plot of a science-fiction novel: highly competitive daily life based on methods of extraction and exploitation, a sensational take on society’s victors and victims. But there is far more truth to these descriptions than frivolity, and Geibl steps in with metaphorical images to fill in the gaps where words fall short.
Her ethereal and poetic photographs at first feel like they’re documenting some sort of mythological tale — white, muscled bodies, industrialised, eerie cities lit in golden light, and constant references to man’s power over nature, all portrayed in soft, otherworldly pastels and natural lighting. But her photographs’ metaphors nod to the reality coursing through our global market reliance, and are charged with a relatability that holds our gaze. “I want to tell a story with the series, not necessarily lay out the facts about our society,” she says. “We all know these issues very well, but to access them is quite different.”
Geibl is one of the finalists at this year’s Hyères International Festival of Fashion, Photography and Fashion Accessories, and her long-standing interest in photography’s ambiguity — how we are trained to treat photographs as evidence while also approaching them with intense suspicion – is palpable in this new work. Harnessing this tension, she presents us with the implications of a very real phenomenon without adhering to straight documentary methods that habitually signal truth. Instead, she mixes genres to produce her own visual universe — a commentary on our relationship to photography as much as the implications of capitalism.