New York-based photographer Viktor Koen has already cemented his distinction and style in art photography, but his oeuvre might rattle the faintest hearts with the twisted beauty of his tintypes of beasts and creatures from Greek mythology, and photogravures of nightmarish children.
Majority of his works are often unsettling, unnerving, defiant of photography's rules of realism. Phantasmagorical they might all be, Koen addresses initial preconceptions with eye-opening surrealism as he blurs the line of his being as photographer and illustrator: a true painter with the camera.
Such prowess with the medium is evident in his "Bestiary", a product of his fascination with the Greek mythos and vintage photographs. The series of tintype images come from a long hunt of portraits in the US Library of Congress, deforming the fantasized ancient temple of heroes, beasts, tragic characters to obscurity.
Koen's "Bestiary" separates the single-dimensional character through religious iconography: such as one would see are his portrayals of the monstrous Medusa and Panoptes more humanized; the known ambitious-yet-careless Icarus was given dominance over his wings.
Another grim work from Koen is his series "Tasks & Games: Portraits of the Never Young". The collection consists of 24 photogravures of infants and children, with the original portraits dating from the 19th century. They are fused with contemporary objects, environments and technology that seem to consume them, resulting to horrific portraits.
Macabre fits the series perfectly. There is a prevailing notion of children to be innocent, pure and perfect, untainted by reality, but the series can be interpreted in several ways; a work of psychological fantasy, a Surrealist exercise; a warning about genetic inheritance and technology, two means of influence on people and development in today's culture.