Kelly Makropoulos Plays with Gender Norms

We are honoured to be graced by the contemporary photographic work of South African artist Kelly Makropoulos this week on SEMI ZINE. Her work identifies and plays with gender norms based around colour and youth in South Africa. Her pose, styling choices and framing create contemporary photographic work which invites you into the creative mind of a genderqueer feminist in Cape Town. 


Abstract: Photography has been a passion of Kelly Makropoulos’ since the age of twelve. They are a contradiction in themselves and in their work. For example, Kelly is outgoing and at the same time shy. They love simplicity and intricacy, and this love of contrasts filters through into their imagery as can be seen in their mixed use of cool and warm tones. Colours are very important to them. They find it extraordinary how character can be given to inanimate objects, and shown in portraits of living things too. Kelly likes to use vivid colours to highlight boldness, charm, or a feeling in their images. They believe through an art form like photography, people can see pieces of themselves. Characteristics not only like an expression, but colours too that emphasise the person's essence.

PW: How do you plan for a series?

KM: I’ll start with an ambiguous idea for colours or textures, for instance, “I want to do an all peach shoot. Cool, so, I’ve got a peach suit and a peach fan, let’s work with that, and shoot a cis-male to challenge the idea that males should not wear anything close to pink”.

PW: What work inspires or has inspired you?

KM: The unusual and vibrant work of Sanja Marusic! Most of it is quite minimal and incorporates a surrealism, which I like to do as well. I recently read in an interview that they like to use an androgynous look in the subjects most of the time, which resonates with me. A few days ago they followed me back on Instagram, so that inspired me. A lot of my friends are artists of various mediums such as musicians, writers, and illustrators. Being around them inspires me. And being in nature inspires me too.

PW: Are there any artistic movements you enjoy in particular and why?

KM: Minimalism inspires me as I feel the colours speak for themselves. In addition, surrealism inspires me as it comments on reality through warping it.

PW: Do you have any opinions or ideals underlying your art?

KM: I strive to create powerful feminine energy in my work. As a genderqueer feminist, I want that to show through.

PW: Colour and tone features so strongly in your work. What is your process for selecting a colour?

KM: It’s quite simple in my world, if a colour or colour combination makes my heart pound, then I go with that. I rely heavily on my somatic-response when taking photographs or editing.

PW: Any words for aspiring photographers wanting to create contemporary photographic artwork?

KM: I would say to never be afraid to capture a concept that’s in your mind, and follow your instinct. Even if there’s a doubt that no one will understand it, this is when you have to be most true to yourself and carry it out. So long as it is not harming an oppressed group in any way shape or form, and it’s a passionate idea, then it ought to be created.

I’m not very good at putting my emotions into words, so photography is a way for me to show them in a variety of ways.