Esther's further education in photography began in Fine Art Practice at Central Saint Martins from which she went on to London College of Printing to gain a first class honors degree in photographic practice. During her final year Esther was mentored by curator Val Williams and her installation "Shrine" was first exhibited at the "Processed 03" degree show at LCP Back Hill. Esther was part of the final BA photography class to graduate from the original "London College of Printing" in Clerkenwell, London.
Self-portraiture, memory and identity have been the central themes in Esther's work for over a decade. Photography and performance are her core medium. The artist is of mixed cultural heritage, Iranian/British and began taking self-portrait in 1997. In 2003 Esther first visited Iran to learn about the culture, document her experiences and take self-portraits.
Esther's most recent project emerged from a traumatic yet profound accident suffered by the artist on 23rd of August 2010. It left 45% of her body badly scarred, scattered with 3rd to 4th degree burns, 5 fractures and a brain injury resulting in amnesia. Esther began by documenting her experience of recovery. This therapeutic journey began in isolation within a hospital burns unit and continued until the end of summer 2010 - the outcome was her most compelling self-portraits to date.
The artist's vision of powerful landscapes and backdrops for this work led her to explore dramatic locations, which reflected her mental and physical condition, such as the abandoned Hellingly Mental Asylum in East Sussex and the harsh desert (Kavir) of Iran. The placement of the body in these settings (which Esther has a specific connection to) resonate an eerie connection to (and also distance from) the disturbing event. Each location is an expression of an emotional landscape where the artist is in contemplation of self and body image.
This body of work was made for a personal purpose, without an audience in mind. It is a communication with the artist's innermost self and physical body, her method of working is innate and intuitive. These photographs urge the viewer to question their understanding of beauty through a personal response to the artists' body, presented by the images. They unveil courage, beauty and vulnerability; a visual dialogue between destruction and construction.
"I live with a deep desire to push my own personal boundaries regarding relationship to self and my body. This relationship became increasingly more complicated and profound due to the circumstances surrounding the accident. Finding myself in such an unfamiliar place, photography was a tool to help me explore further. I believe the photographic process enabled me to begin loving my body and to nurture it.
I see self-portraiture, as an expression of our hidden or less interpreted unconscious and it is often a very honest moment, alone with self. The therapeutic element is in making the portrait for one's self, with a concept of self in mind. Through intuitive performance and being in a particular space and mood I developed an innate, inward channel of communication, which unfolds within the work. Photography can be a vehicle for change." Esther Sabetpour 2011