Kerstin zu Pan's Strange Beauty Wishful Dreaming Strange Beauty Inspiration

In Islamic mysticism, Alam Al-Mithral, describes a place where images are real. It is the same place idealized by Plato and by so many other ancient cultures before him. While the ancient world left behind several artifacts (some of them monumental) of this image-world, our modern world doesn't seem much interested with the image world when there is so much to be exploited in our material one.

Enter Kerstin zu Pan, a Berlin photographer whose images of the body belong in that space between reality and surreality. You can't walk outside and find her forms standing around idyll on a street corner, and yet one look at her images and its difficult to shake the feeling that, yes, they are real. Or, at least, they should be real. In fact, wishful thinking and wishful dreaming both seem to be central to Pan's work.

Like angels, nymphs and other life beings from the world of metaphors; Kerstin's ivory figures seem to walk right out of the secret wish-world promised by ancient myths. In fact, it might be fair to say that, with her camera, that is exactly what Kerstin is creating: wish-images that are made real by either the wish or the mind or both.

Supervision is the name of her poetic series that features these wish-images in a variety of dream poses. Poet Maya Angelou once described a woman's hair as her crown. This anecdote takes on a strange and beautiful new meaning when we are looking at the rainbow crowns in all of the myth-women in Supervision. Every woman in the series is ivory white, as if carved from the soft material of their backdrops. The only hues are to be found in their hair, including the full spectrum of hue-hairs between their legs. It's almost impossible not to stare, and as you continue staring the reasons for doing so continue to change.

One outlier stands out among Kerstin's rainbow visions, not because the image is her strongest, but because it stands closer to the shared reality of our material world and body. "In Rainbows" captures an ecstatic moment of a naturally flesh-toned woman inhaling the airs of a real and natural background. It all seems real enough, until we realize that the rainbow, which is image only, is refracting against her skin. Maybe we are being told that this woman is an image that has only temporarily stepped into our real world.

"the world I create is surreal, so I guess that a person who looks at my work and gets into it can drift away from reality"

- from her interview with

Kerstin's choice of rainbows is a fitting metaphor since rainbows themselves are not fully committed to the reality they exist in. They live in a platonic space where "images are real". We all know that rainbows are optic in nature: an atmospheric prism that converts sunlight into its various wavelengths. We also know that any attempt to chase after them is a futile one. They are there only for our eyes and nothing more. This seems to be the relationship of Kerstin's Supervisions. They belong to a super-sensory world that has been captured by her camera, so that they can be recaptured by our eyes and mind. However, like all images and wishes, these Supervisions can never be permanently trapped in the dogmatic spaces of the body.