The exhibition „somata“ combines two photographic themes Swiss-Greek artist Stephan Brauchli has been working on for more than 15 years: fine art nude and abstract smoke photography.
Definition of soma
plural somata; Sanskrit: सोम Greek: σώμα
1. The body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.
2. An intoxicating drink prepared from a plant and used in Vedic ritual, believed to be the drink of the gods.
1 – body. The physical structure, including the bones, flesh, and organs, of a person or an animal. A material object.
It is the reflection of light on a body that makes it visible. Photography literally means “drawing with light”, but this is only possible by introducing one or more bodies. For instance, as tiny smoke particles (σωματίδια) cross the light’s path, they reflect it thereby making the smoke plume visible to our eyes. A closer look also reveals colors which result from the incoming light being refracted at different angles. The iridescence is especially strong with soap bubbles due to very thin layers of soap and water particles or with silk due to its triangular prism-like fiber structure.
2 – an intoxicating drink prepared from a plant and used in Vedic ritual, believed to be the drink of the gods.
Soma was a Vedic ritual drink of great importance among the early Indians. It was prepared from a plant (possibly fly amanita). While, according to Greek mythology, the similar ambrosia nectar could only be consumed by the gods, soma could also be consumed by humans to bring them closer to the realm of the gods. Next to hallucinogenic qualities, soma was also said to be a delicious aphrodisiac and supposedly gave courage to warriors before battle. It is said to be the lifeblood of all creatures, the juice in plants, the blood of gods, humans and animals.
The works shown in somata relate to at least one of the definitions above. The taunting erotic visions blend with the surreal smoke apparitions combining aphrodisiacal with hallucinatory imagery as though the viewers of the exhibition themselves were under the influence of soma.
Side note: Stephan’s great great uncle, the Corfiot novelist Konstantínos Theotókis (1872-1923), translated “Nala and Damayanti” an episode from the Mahabharata from Sanskrit (Νάλας και Νταμαγιάντη, Μαχαμπχαράτα) into Greek. The famous Sanskrit epic is said to also have Vedic origins, so it is not unlikely that Konstantínos was also aware of the qualities of soma.
Stephan Brauchli is half Greek and half Swiss. On the Greek side he is a descendant of the Theotókis family from Corfu and on the Swiss side from the Brauchli family from Bern. Stephan grew up in Zurich Switzerland and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. After obtaining his masters, he worked as an IT consultant on various projects throughout the USA. Stephan is a self-taught photographer and believes in unaltered photographs. He had his first exhibition of infrared nude works at the Pro-jex gallery in Austin, Texas in 2001. The dream-like quality of infrared light fascinated him and soon after he started experimenting with abstract smoke photography. In 2006 Stephan moved back to Switzerland where he started working at Bank Vontobel AG. Despite his full time job at Vontobel, Stephan still manages to follow his passion by traveling to remote destinations to photograph wildlife, landscapes and people.