the shape shifter

The Shape Shifter is an intriguing exhibition by New York based photographer John Klukas, showcasing 10 images, the series of photographs aim to explore the realm of surrealism and the dynamic nature of the human form. Klukas’ background in psychology means a lot of his work surrounds the human subconscious and the ways in which it manifests, creating striking images to portray this. In this interview Schön! finds out a bit more about the elusive photographer.

Photography by John Klukas

You initially studied Psychology at university, how do you think that impacts your photography?

It’s difficult to tease apart any one influence or specific contributor to my work. At some level, psychology tries to understand what lies below our conscious experience. It looks at how the behaviours we exhibit are influenced by conscious and unconscious factors. I think with photography I am continuing to explore facets of the unconscious mind but in a very different manner.

What does photography express for you that you couldn’t find within psychology?

Psychology is primarily involved with studying others. My art is almost completely focused on investigating myself. I get the chance to express myself in a more visceral and plenary manner through my art than I could through psychology. Whereas psychology is very atomistic and focused on isolating things with the hope of understanding them, art can address the whole of something and how it fits into everything. I feel that art also has the opportunity to relate to people on multiple levels, whereas research based disciplines focus on communicating more cerebrally.

You used to do a lot of architectural photography. What made you go for a shift towards very sensual portrait photography?

I actually started out shooting fine art nudes with film. The shift towards architecture happened at the same time that I decided to pursue Photography as a career. This shift coincided with moving to Bangkok, Thailand. I wanted to pursue Fashion, but became aware that I did not have the resources or skills at that point, to really get much traction with Fashion. Buildings, unlike models, did not require working with agencies and tremendous amounts of production just in order to shoot. So I worked on trying to get Architecture work while I was doing Fashion tests and assisting. Long story short, I’ve always been a “very sensual portrait” photographer.

Where did you get your inspiration from for your exhibition ‘The Shape Shifters’?

That was actually a dream that I had one night. The dream was about a shape-shifter that would morph between human and raven form. I woke up and sketched the dream down, and then over the ensuing weeks filled out the story a bit and started to tie in pagan mythology and symbology to bring greater depth and breadth to the story.

Photography by John Klukas

Your online presence pretty much comes down to your work only. What is John Klukas really like? How do you spend your time if not behind the lens?

I feel I have a terrible vantage point for judging this so I decided to ask several friends what I am really like. There was a range of answers but “deliberate” and “ambitious” were two of the more frequent adjectives. When I am not working on a project I have a great deal of other interests. I travel pretty frequently, make music, cook, skateboard and snowboard, and spend time with the people who matter to me.

If you could photograph any character (fictional or real), who would that be and why?

It’s difficult for me to think of whom I would want to photograph because I usually come up with an idea or story that I want create and then cast it accordingly. If I had to choose someone to be a collaborator though I guess it would be Bjork because she is very inspirational as an artist and has created so much remarkable work with so many visual artists.

Photography by John Klukas

What projects are you planning to do next?

I take a lot of inspiration from paintings and illustrations and I have some projects in the works that blur the boundaries of how photography is usually used.

The images displayed in your exhibition are quite bold, what do you hope viewers will take away from Shape Shifters?

The Shape Shifter series of photographs are all the same person, though she shifts from one form to the next while maintaining an essential core to her being. I think this speaks to how dynamic we are. I certainly see a part of myself in these images and I hope that others are able to see a bit of themselves reflected in the images as well.

Photography by John Klukas

‘The Shape Shifter’ exhibits at 511 Gallery in NYC until 8th June 2013. For more info please visit:

To view more of Johns’ work please visit:

Words / Caroline Schmitt
Follow her on Twitter @caro_schmitt

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