PHOTOS BY RYAN WALSH
STORY BY BRITTANY HODGES
ANNIKA'S SHOP IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE. PLEASE SEE SAMPLES OF HER WORK BELOW.
At heart, Annika Klein will always be a theater kid. She first got on stage when she was eight, went on to perform in middle school and high school plays, and even took a theater class her freshman year at Brown. As a lover of “pretty things,” and “ridiculous sparkly outfits,” the sets, costumes, and bright lights were a natural fit. But something wasn’t right. When acting in a play, Annika couldn’t see what it looked like from the outside. In search of a more objective perspective, she pursued new creative outlets. That’s when she picked up a camera.
Describing the switch to visual arts, Annika reflects: “I wanted to do something different. [Theater] didn’t feel as fulfilling as it had been.” When the curtain closes, the show is over. When creating art, however, a physical object is left somewhere in the world. As an actress, Annika performed for an audience and followed the instruction of a director. As a photographer, Annika is her own audience and her own director. She sets the stage, calls the shots, and enjoys the result.
Annika went on to investigate photography by taking courses at both Brown and RISD. One summer she interned with the New York Magazine Photo Department, where she learned about the multifaceted nature of the industry. She dealt with the numerous individuals and artists involved in the creation of a photo and experienced the editing process necessary to bring a shot to completion. It was her studies in Paris, though, that truly inspired her current artistic practice.
While abroad, one of Annika’s assignments was to capture the essence of the historical sculptures at the Louvre. The beauty of the form of the figures, “the curve of the knee, arm, torso, back” intrigued her. The sculptures were her stage. The play of light across the contorting marble was her subject. The results of her exploration are decontextualized, intimate and elegant.
Back at Brown, Annika interrogates the feminine figure. She applies the methodology of the Louvre sculptures to small, cheap plastic dolls- many spraypainted white. Through this high-low culture mashup, she examines issues of representation. Her fascination is evident in the photographs- mostly black and white- which capture a sense of sincerity, sorrow and nostalgia. And don’t be fooled by the emphasis on vanity- the sophistication of her work belies the slightly sinister, psychological current that runs through it. She also turns the camera on her private life, documenting herself in a series of intimate bathtub portraits.
Annika hopes that her photographs start a conversation about body image and the media’s portrayal of women, but this is not her sole ambition, and she has no interest in being preachy. She explains, “I am not boisterously waving my feminist flag, but it is neatly tucked away in my back pocket.” Instead, she sets up dialogue with pop culture and materialism while creating a visual that is up to the viewer to consume and digest. “I’d like to think in a lot of my pictures it’s asking as many questions as its answering.” Annika challenges us, with poised honesty, to look inward as we examine the world around us. Her photographs give us space to reflect on what we find.