Exploring and glorifying the human body

The collaboration between photographer Kurt Paris and illustrator Moira Scicluna Zahra immerses the human body in design.
Moira Scicluna Zahra’s illustrations projected onto model Saskia and photographed by Kurt Paris.

A colourful and joyful reinvention of the human figure, a new collection of artistic works called Fjura elevate the individual arts of photography and illustration into an entirely new medium.

The works are a collaboration between photographer Kurt Paris and illustrator Moira Scicluna Zahra, and present a glorious mixed media collection that paints an entirely different perspective of the human body. Fjura was recently on show at the Malta Institute of Professional Photography. I caught up with the artists to learn more.

Fjura is the second collaboration between myself and Moira – with the first one being Il-fuq mill-Għatba, which was also a mixed media photography/digital illustration body of work that took the previous shot series of photos and added an element of the surreal. In that exhibition we saw the world transitioning into an increasingly dark and Covidesque narrative,” Kurt starts off.

Before Fjura, Kurt was experimenting with projecting images, lines and patterns onto the human body and photographing the result. What impressed him the most was that the effect was very similar to body paint and that the human becomes truly immersed into the design. 

“It seemed like an obvious next step at that point to collaborate with Moira, since she’s a lovely human and super-talented. The idea was to go for a colourful and surreal world, or pattern that the human could then be a part of,” he says.

Moira, meantime, was doing intricate floral illustrations for a project that celebrated nurses doing work at a Detroit hospital during Covid. 

“It was a non-profit project, but I really loved the kind of work that I was doing here. So when Kurt showed interest to project these patterns on Saskia, the model, I immediately said yes. It’s actually very difficult to collaborate with photographers, as an illustrator,” Moira says, adding that finding a balance between the two media, without one stealing the other’s limelight, is tricky.

“However, so far whenever I’ve worked with Kurt we have managed to generate a harmonious result each time. And, most importantly, we did it effortlessly – without forcing both mediums to work together,” she continues.

Kurt describes how the process required a bit of back and forth on the designs. The two did a couple of shoots to see how they would look projected. This back and forth required an adaptation of the illustration, both in terms of composition and colour, so Moira took the original florals and set them up as patterns, where they could more easily cover the whole model when projected. 

“After seeing some initial photos, we decided to experiment with different colours. I also found that adding more black added more depth in the projection, so most of the original colours were scrapped and reworked,” she says.

Once the illustrations were finalised, the images were then projected onto Saksia, who experimented with various poses to fit into the pattern created by Moira. 

“While Il-Fuq Mill-Għatba had a deeper meaning, Fjura for me is more about exploring and glorifying the human body and creating something beautiful and colourful with it. As soon as we had some photos from the initial proof-of-concept shoot I sent these to Moira and we selected our favourites together. There was quite a variety of styles emerging, and in some the model is less immersed in the image,” Kurt continues.

Moira agrees that there is no deeper meaning to Fjura either. The concept is the method, and the process itself, she says.

“This exhibition and project was all about experimenting and merging styles and mediums to find out where it takes us. I think it was worth it and it paves the way for even more experimentation,” the illustrator concludes.

For other Sunday Circle features, check out this interview with content creator Raphael Vella or find out how artist Francesca Balzan spends her weekend.

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