Valerie Caesar: Magical realism [visual art feature]


"Self-Portrait" © Valerie Caesar

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(Valerie Caesar: Magical Realism | by Danielle Scruggs) Warmth. That’s what I think of when I look at the photos and videos of Brooklyn native and resident Valerie Caesar, who I had the pleasure of meeting back in April 2008 at a Live From Planet Earth session in Brooklyn. Her photos are literally warm---lots of saturated reds and oranges and golds ----but they also convey a sense of intimacy, as if you’re cracking open someone’s diary.

Caesar was kind enough to take the time and wax poetic on nature, writing, magic, and other inspirations for her art through an email interview with the Liberator:

LM: First, the basics: Name, age, occupation, any formal training in art?

VC: My name is Valerie Caesar, and I’m a photographer and visual artist. I graduated from law school a couple years ago. Big mistake. I'm not formally trained in art. I discovered photography trying to find another creative outlet during law school, and fell in love. I currently work as a youth educator in Harlem. I do freelance photography and graphic design. I love all my jobs.

LM: What sparked your interest in art? In photography and video specifically?
VC: I can't pinpoint the exact moment in time that I became interested in art. But I have always believed in and been intrigued by magic. All forms of art are an expression of magic; that nameless and invisible ether that flows in between and through everyone and everything, and that artists seek to bring out. Photography intrigues me because a photo is reality and fantasy simultaneously: everything included in the frame actually exists in the world, but the exclusion of the rest of the world creates a new world. It's an amazing and fulfilling revelation.

LM: Why did you name your portfolio site Black Seed Photography?

VC: Black is infinitely meaningful to me. It is the best absorber of light; the hue of melanin; the color of my true love's hair; black seeds have long been regarded as a cure all, and an amazing source of energy. The definition of a seed is “that from which anything springs.” My site is called black seed photography because each image represents the ever-realized potential of human experience: like a seed, we possess, inertly, all of the components necessary for life. And like life, the expression is varied, and infinite.

LM: I like that you have two poems on your site where the "Artist Bio" would normally be. How long have you been writing poetry? Does your writing inspire your photography and video? And vice versa?

VC: I'm originally a poet. I've been writing for as far back as I can remember, but I've used photography as an artistic medium for the past ten years. I am really struck by the kinship between photography and poetry - both photo and poem utilize a particular immediacy and brevity of impact; and they both can express and provoke a multitude of emotions, and are often including one particularly interesting to me: “memory yet to be experienced.” Sometimes the idea is loosely referred to as déjà vu, but I have coined the phenomenon “metamemory,” because it includes recollection of experiences that are illogical to our sense of identity. This concept has come to be a motif throughout my work.

Visit Black Seed Photography to see more of Valerie Caesar's photos, videos, and design work.