Born in France and growing up in different cities around Europe, photographer Elsa Bleda definitely has had a life of constant motion. She ended up being captured by the cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa and could not get herself to leave. What better place to settle, with one of the most beautiful landscapes and palpable history present in the architecture so beautifully captured at night, away from the hustle and bustle of daytime clutter.
Elsa Bleda brings a fresh approach to photography through her pronounced distant angles of the buildings against the backdrop of the night. The photographs are both elusive and familiar and the mood of dystopia is apparent through the neon lights, giving a dream-like state to the realities of the streets. The complexities of the human experience through visibly desolate areas creates a new cinematic aesthetic where the only life form visible is through the lights turned on to attract approaching passersby...if there are any!
In her series for Public House of Art, Elsa portrays Johannesburg’s Chinese community which dates back to the 1660’s, but it wasn’t until the 1870’s that Chinese immigrants began to arrive in large numbers. Her photographs are telling a part of the history through the undeveloped architecture rendered modern through the use of neon lights set aglow that suggest ‘don’t let the cover fool you, what you’re looking for is inside’. The fluorescent lights create a buzz of wonderment and brings life back to a part of history while the city sleeps.