Mark Harless (also known as “Bleeblu”) is a conceptual photographer who creates worlds of magic and astounding beauty. Death, mystery, and ritual seem to be recurring motifs in his work; from bodies in bags deserted in the forest, to flowers sprouting from a young woman’s shadowy skin, to hands placed ceremoniously on a bare, narrow chest, each image is an emotional event. Like the calm before and after a storm, there is a sense that something powerful has happened, or is about to happen.
What intrigues me most about his work is the brave and neutral portrayal of death, loss, and transformation. In his Fertilizer series, for example — the images depicting the bagged, naked bodies — Harless explores the erratic cycle of life and death, and how we, and our material forms, are an inevitable part of it. As Harless explained in an interview with Phlearn:
“[D]eath isn’t just the end. It’s not the beginning either. It’s just part of the life cycle. Show me the beginning and end of a circle. After we die our bodies will decompose and the plants and animals will feed off of us in the same fashion a bag of fertilizer would.” (Source)
While the above statement refers specifically to Fertilizer, this theme of death, decomposition, and renewal reverberates throughout Harless’ other works. In La Faune et la Flore, for example — a collaboration between Harless and the French illustrator Moon — a woman (Molly Strohl) wanders naked around the dark shoreline of a secluded lake. Like a wayward revenant, there is something sad, powerful, and lonely about her, but the illustrated flowers sprouting from her face, arms, and torso offer a glimmer of life and rebirth. The image of the dead bird also connects with this theme, for while lying on its flowery funeral bed, the small creature seems on the verge of resurrection as it returns to the earth. In short, Harless’ photographs have an uncanny ability to confront us with the beauty, sadness, and magic that permeates our earthly lives.