City of residence, Los Angeles, CA / London, UK
Amanda Charchian on her book “The Pheromone Hotbox”
It began in Costa Rica 2012. I found myself obsessively, manically photographing the two young women I was traveling with (both artists), as if each frame was a piece of evidence in an unsolved mystery.
That was the first time I had a conception of the metaphorical seesaw between sexuality and creativity, and how the balance can sway back and forth. By delving into this tension I began to understand that what I was experiencing was exclusive to one female artist photographing another, intimately.
For women, the energy of artistic production and sexuality is inextricably linked. This is what I call “The Pheromone Hotbox”, a space in which a biologically confounded process occurs, as our pheromones interact (in a nonsexual way) to generate creativity through both trust and mischievousness.
I discovered that through the camera I had unique access to the creative women around me. This newfound mode of intimate photographic investigation grew into a project in its own right. As the next three years took me around the world, I sculpted the dimensions of the Pheromone Hotbox.
The first precept was that I would find a surreal landscape in advance, but until I arrived, I didn’t know what I was going to do. My images became an imprint of discovery, a reaction to the time, space and subject.
The second construct was that the artist be foreign to the place- a Sri Lankan actress in Cuba, a Serbian furniture designer in Costa Rica, a Chilean painter in Corsica.
The act of undressing was a third integral variable in the process, heightened by adrenaline at the intersection of fear and excitement. In that elevated state, I used the camera to point to their elemental characteristics, and document the rawness of the moment.
By applying these formulas to my adventures, I have, many times, felt connected to something bigger than me, something conspiring towards magic; at least when I’ve been lucky enough to capture it on film.
Before going to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, I had been trying to scheme ways to shoot nudes in there, knowing that it was against the state park rules. I had the foresight, to ask for a female guard to take us underground. We even brought fabrics to drape around the subjects so they would “accidentally” drop when the time was right.
We arrived after public hours to avoid detection. The dark gradient of desert sky was Autumn clear. Struck by the full moon winking above, I gathered our group, and had everyone hold hands, look at the moon and visualize our guide allowing our nudity without incident.
Layer, when we entered the Tungsten-lit lobby, our guide turned to me and said: "I have seen your photography. I really like it.” Upon hearing the “ding” of the elevator reach the bottom after its hundred-story journey underground, I had a new sense of confidence.
We started the shoot without any of the premeditated cautionary robes, walking in the nude freely through the dwarfing stalactite caves.
The guide smiled knowingly, but she never said a word.
In moments like this - and so many others within the Pheromone Hotbox - I’ve realized that the vital connectivity amongst women is one of the most powerful forces in the world.
COL: What is your general vision as an artist?
AC: I am interested in intimacy. Possibilities of the unknown, the potential humour in everything, the perfect balance of nature.
COL: What motivates you (main inspiration/muse)?
AC: Women, particularly the connection and bond we have with each other and the creative collaboration it inspires.
COL: Why did you choose this particular artistic medium?
AC: I work across various disciplines - drawing, sculpture, film and photography. Photography satisfies the social and quick-natured aspects of my personality.
COL: What is your idea of the perfect piece of art?
AC: I don't think perfection exists in art. I am not even sure perfection exists as pure truth doesn't exist. Everyone and everything is in flux. Change is the only constant in this world.
COL: What - in your opinion - is the main difference between fashion and art?
AC: I think the lines between each have become more blurred. Often times I am in an art gallery and the work feels very much like a mass produced product that never touched the hands of an artist. Conversely, fashion can have a conceptual and immaterial approach which makes it more like fine art. Honestly, I am not interested in these sort of distinctions as they seem archaic in a post - post modern context. Intentions shift and uses vary, as with labels.
COL: What is your definition of beautiful?
AC: The uninhibited combined with grace.
COL: How do you choose to interact with/ ignore or use commerce in your work?
AC: In my personal work, I make it for the experience of creating - to live, create and connect adventurously. I really love fashion and I am interested in contributing to the advancement of advertising. To subtly and slowly show a raw and real sensibility of femininity from the perspective of a female. I don’t think there is enough of that in advertising.
COL: Is there a message to be read from your work, politically or otherwise?
AC: That vulnerability is strength.
COL: How has digital media opened up creative possibilities for you as an artist?
AC: I have never had life without the internet so my artistic process has always been filtered through digital media. I still shoot a lot of analog film, but in stills and motion yet it always gets edited or scanned at some point digitally. I do like the way 3D motion pictures have created a surreal
COL: What is your greatest extravagance?
AC: Travel. I am always moving and exploring. My savings account is in my experiences.
COL: How would you describe your signature style?
AC: Raw, slightly surreal and feminine.
COL: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
AC: Being someone that 29 females trusted to take nude photographs in exotic, often illegal international locations! My book is a source of pride for me at the moment.
COL: Where do you pull your references?
AC: Dada, surrealism, conceptual art movements, pre-Raphaelite painting.
COL: What is uncontaminated to you?
AC: For me, contamination connotes negative consequences as a result of intrusive and unwanted forces. So with this definition I would say the earth has been contaminated by its own inhabitants. Which is very sad.