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Meet 'The Collective': Kate Phellini on Bringing Intimacy into Your Photography

By Ellen Clipson - 6 min read

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As part of 'The Collective', Kate Phellini stays true to her title as one of EyeEm's Premium photographers. The breathtaking images from her recent exhibition 'Subtle Eroticism' explore the everyday subtly of sensuality and sexuality. Here is her enriching reflection on chasing true vulnerability in portrait photography.

I always have very intimate conversations. I find it very interesting to listen about people’s concerns or sexual orientation. My personal shootings take up to six hours, because I need time. I try to bring the topic up, explore and maybe even help somehow. Sometimes I start to cry or the other person starts to cry. I really value those moments because it feels really unique and truthful.

I don’t have a system of discussing topics with specific people. If I see a person and we have an interesting conversation, I just I try to involve that person in my project and explore the topic more photographically, verbally or nonverbally, however, it’s possible.

Kate Phellini Is Using ‘the Collective’ Platform to Break Stereotypes with Her Work

one person, portrait, headshot, young adult, real people

During one shoot there was a really deep conversation involved which was very personal for both of us. I’m happy that the girl is now okay with all of the flaws that she used to cover up when she posted pictures on Instagram. That is a fantastic result for me. I’m happy that she’s not afraid of others seeing those ‘flaws’ which are not really flaws.

“Our exterior is connected to our interior. I’ve got no doubt about that.”

There is always some of me in my portraits of others. Those hesitations that people see in themselves, I think I also see in myself. When photographing, I will see what comes up. I will change everything in the flow of the shoot because it might actually look completely different. I don’t call it a female shooting, a male shooting, or a queer shooting, it’s just a shooting. It’s just a person in front of me.

portrait, headshot, one person, front view, real people

I love Viennese artists such as Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. They are huge inspirations for me and for a couple of months, I was showing paintings to the models and asking them to show me what they thought about them. They would show me poses or the emotions that they saw that I had never seen before. I think that our exterior is connected to our interior. I’ve got no doubt about that.

Although it might look unnatural, I love the ‘out of nowhere’ light which I get from using a reflector to reflect the sun onto the faces or the bodies of my models. It may be a different background but it’s always the same sun - my beloved.

“I want to show those beautiful moments that we don’t notice in regular life.”

studio shot, gray background, one person, indoors, copy space
orange color, food, human hand, food and drink, human body part

I love colors. The way they move closer or further from from you in the picture, just as yellow or blue do or how orange just strikes you and you feel this warmth of the body, the warmth of the shadow. I am fascinating with watching it in real life. But, what I see in reality, my camera doesn’t see, and, so I need to approach the initial picture with the post process in mind.

I look at the body as a sculpture. The more textures there are, the more interesting it is to observe. I love stretch marks, they look wild and there is something really sexy about that. I love those beauty spots in interesting places that create constellations. I adore those goosebumps, love handles, hair, lack of hair, and this project wasn’t meant to be shocking. It is called ‘Subtle Eroticism’ and it is subtle. The more body showing, the less sexy it is for me.

indoors, no people, studio shot, close-up, still life
 Checked Pattern,  Close-Up,  Flooring,  High Angle View,  Human Body Part

I am thinking of one particular image. The knees that are covered in goosebumps because the model was really cold being sat on the floor. That was amazingly beautiful, as it looks natural yet also not real. That was the first time I paid attention to the knees. I want to show those beautiful moments that we don’t notice in regular life. Those little parts of us that go unnoticed, those shoulders, those glances. That’s what I love and what I value.

At some point you see this consistency, a pattern or tints of color that appear everywhere, poses or emotions that appear in many images. That is when I feel that I should collect it in one piece and close the chapter.

 20-24 Years,  Casual Clothing,  Colored Background,  Friendship,  Full Length

Kate is part of ‘The Collective’ which showcases EyeEm’s most exciting and upcoming talent. Want a glimpse into their outstanding work? Take a look here

Why not check out more of Kate’s work on her EyeEm Profile or her brand new online portfolio?