When Liat Aharoni is asked to recall her earliest memory of holding a camera, she laughs. “To be completely honest with you, I don’t remember,” she says. “But what I do remember is the first time I held a camera, and it actually meant something more than just taking pictures.”
The 22-year-old Toronto native was the typical kid with a camera in her hand, but it was only in April of 2012 when she developed a strong connection to photography as a medium for creative expression.
The young photographer admits that there is nothing particularly magical about how she began to relate to the craft in a more substantial and meaningful way. “You know the drill during exam period – the more you need to study, the less studying you actually want to do,” she jokes. “I decided I should experiment with photography – it’s probably the best move I’ve made because I haven’t been able to stop since.”
The experimental process, she says, triggered a passion for photography that wasn’t entirely apparent before. “Something just clicked,” she explains. Aharoni, who is self-taught, describes her own work as fine art photography, while her overarching style often bears a surreal aesthetic. In her work, she tends to lean towards situating a human subject in an environment that looks and seems familiar – yet there is always something vaguely chimerical about it. “The images present a world that is, sometimes, a step above reality,” she offers, “but they are still grounded in what we know and are familiar with.”
As the title suggests, Aharoni’s piece “Aphaea” takes on the theme of fertility. Taken in the township of Oro-Medonte, which lies on the shores of Lake Simcoe in Simcoe County, Aharoni actually posed for this photo herself. “Whether I’m organizing a shoot with myself [as the model] or somebody else, I always try to feature a female subject,” she says. “I hope that my photos really demonstrate an appreciation of beauty, and especially the beauty of the female form.”
Her newest piece, “Of Things Unborn,” is inspired by the sixth episode of the HBO television series Game of Thrones, where Viserys Targaryen attains the “Golden Crown” only to discover that the power he craves is actually a pot of molten gold. Viserys’s fate is sealed – and his demand for a crown, rewarded – as Khal Drogo upends the molten gold over his head. Aharoni’s own interpretation showcases what appears to be a woman seemingly immobilized by the fabric draped over her body. The lack of tenuousness that is typically characteristic of fabrics undeniably mimics the solid texture of gold. “For Viserys, the ‘Golden Crown’ was symbolic of the power he desperately desired,” says Aharoni. “But this obsession clouded his judgment, and he quickly became his own worst enemy – forever trapped in his own delusions of grandeur.”
When asked if she always arrives to photoshoots with elaborate and fully-formed creative visions in mind, she chuckles. “I come up with a basic concept before the shoot and then pray that it somehow makes sense,” she jokes. “The truth is, the shoot actually constitutes only a portion of what I do – I spend anywhere between two to ten hours editing my images in Photoshop… and that’s where the piece really comes to life for me.”
For the time being, Aharoni is focused on completing her degree in political science at the University of Toronto, but she’s confident that photography will play an important role in shaping her future career plans. On July 22, she led a workshop to help hone participants’ photography and editing skills through combining both the technical and analytic aspects of the craft. “I feel like photography has allowed me to just be myself,” she says.
Although Aharoni provides vivid details – some more extensive than others – on the rationale behind each of her pieces, she is hesitant to share too much of her artistic inspiration with others. “Overall, I think it’s better to leave the images open to interpretation,” she says. “Leave it to the viewers to decide what each piece means to them.”