Light From Within

Melisa Teo’s photography is the result of a journey of initiation. Having left behind a career in book publishing, the artist wandered the globe with only her camera (or, as she nicknames it, her “Pandora’s Box”) for company. The journey led her to explore the sacred realms of religion and witchcraft. She found herself at the very heart of a vortex whose energy resonated in the most sublime places: cities of the dead, monasteries, places of pilgrimage and religious ritual.

For Melisa Teo, who introduces a spiritual dimension to her work, her camera is like a “third eye”. This eye detects what is felt by the heart. In allowing herself to be carried along by her own intuition and emotions, the artist considers photography to be a doorway bordering the visible and invisible worlds. Through this art, she hopes to capture the intrinsic and transcendent beauty which beats like a pulse underneath reality. Who, or what, has she chosen as her guide? Light.

Light is vital in Melisa Teo’s work. Whether in dealing with a natural or an artificial source, it is through the idea of the eye fixing its gaze on this luminous beacon that Melisa hopes to encourage a state of awakening. It is this state which gives birth to the perfect moment; the moment when the artist, her subject and the surrounding world come together to unite as one. It is in this moment of “synchronicity” that things come to light, and that the present moment reveals itself: an unexpected ring of smoke transforms itself into a thousand spirals; people appear enshrouded in a mysterious ray of light, through “tongues” of flames or veiled by the tears of rain.

Now fuzzy and glowing with mystical colours, the pattern is transformed. Here, we see the influence of natural elements which swirl around and vibrate as if to the rhythm of a shaman’s chants. In that moment, it is the figures, both real and sculpted, which take the form of strange shapes or sacred incarnations: a visibly serene, white Madonna, or a messenger with blue lips who heralds peace.

Thus, for Melisa Teo, photography captures a reality which is invisible to the naked eye. This art reveals an internal glow. It encourages the eye to embrace light, so that the two are as one. It bewitches the heart, which suddenly ceases to beat and surrenders itself to a feeling of inner peace. A moment of grace and eternity, similar to that in the story of Buddha’s enlightenment, which reminds us to have a greater appreciation for the present.

– Amélie Adamo, Art Critic and Historian

W198mm x H270mm | Hardback | 136 Pages | English / French. Photographs from Melisa Teo’s four-year photographic pilgrimage through the spiritual worlds of Buddhism, Hinduism and Shamanism. The Afterword by the veteran Magnum photographer Abbas includes his poignant, black-and-white portraits of Melisa at various stages of her life-changing journey.