By Lore Deuninck
Manuel Estheim – better known as Esthaem – is an Austria-based photographer, born in 1992. He holds a BA in Graphic-Design and Photography from the University of Art and Design Linz and is currently working on obtaining his MA in Visual Communications. The artist has been featured in numerous group exhibitions in cities like London, Berlin, and Vienna, and has won multiple online awards for his work.
Esthaem is said to be a quiet and thoughtful person, which often leads to complex knots of thought, that then need to be let out through photography. Aiming for mirror images of his analysis of the world, he tries to portray subject matters that are difficult to grasp, as aesthetically pleasing imagery full of fragility, sensuality, and symbolism.
Topics such as identity, intimacy, (de-)construction of sexuality, gender and the ‘self’ connect with being drawn to nature, life itself and the human body – which is treated as a sculptural object – are held by strictly theoretical principles as well as photography seen as an artistical, expressive, personal media. What we get to see are nude subjects in serene, natural settings or in soft rooms with carefully positioned light. All of this creates fragile but strong work, often referred to as “visual poetry”.
The idea of going back to your roots is a well-incorporated concept in Esthaem’s work; for Manuel, the line between being human, animal, or even object in this world is very thin. He says that after all, no matter how smart we are, we’ll always be animals. Nature is our real root of existence, and we are all of the same kind. The subjects seem to easily lose all of their identity being put in these natural settings / sterile and soft rooms. Existing in a time and space of their own, Esthaem’s forms dare to explore the personal relation of the subject with the Self, their body and the discovery of the different, but very similar, other.