We’ve all heard of the suffering artist, but photographer Kerry Skarbakka is taking the idea of suffering for one’s craft to a whole new level. In his death-defying series The Struggle to Right Oneself the 42-year-old visual artist acts as his own model, falling from buildings, bridges, trees, mountains, and more — all while capturing each fall with his lens.
Granted, Skarbakka can’t be two places at once, so after setting the lighting and the shot just so, he enlists the help of an assistant to release the shutter. Drawing upon a background in martial arts, rock climbing, and even a bit of acting, the artist hooks himself with ropes, mountain-climbing gear, and harnesses (all obscured or removed in post-production, of course).
The result is a jarringly real finished product, where Skarbakka seems to have literally lost his footing on a flight of stairs, out a window, or even in the shower.
Part of the statement this performance-based photographer is seeking to make involves “the responsibility of each individual to catch ourselves from our own uncertainty.” And to send this philosophical message, Skarbakka has come away with a few fractured ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and a myriad of bumps and bruises. While it may seem perilous, this artistic daredevil doesn’t mind, as he sees it as a way to personally connect with his audience.
It is the ambiguity of the body’s position in space that allows and requires the viewer to resolve the full meaning of the photograph. Do we fall? Can we fly? If we fly then loss of control facilitates supreme control. — Kerry Skarbakka
Regardless of whether or not you choose to see a message in Skarbakka’s series, the images still speak for themselves. If nothing else, these gravity-defying shots remind us that for the true creative, virtually nothing is off limits in the quest for envelope-pushing art — not even a few broken bones.
Which of Kerry Skarbakka’s shots do you think was most difficult to capture? Which one is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.