• Dana Toerien


"Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself." - Mohsin Hamid

I've always been fascinated by the concept of fractals (self-replicating geometric patterns seen throughout nature - think of rivers, the veins of a leaf, snowflakes, the iris of your eye, etc.).

I love the idea that we are all part of a fractal, an infinite spiral, each of us going through similar emotional experiences in different ways.

This photo series was about Rozanne's emotional journey through different experiences in her life. Every few weeks, we'd meet up at a forest near my house and spend the afternoon taking photos. I arrived a few hours before each shoot to lay out the leaves and stones and other natural materials in patterns on the floor (she was such a good sport, lying for hours on the forest floor haha).

For each scene, I asked Rozanne to close her eyes, and think about a very specific experience, tied to a specific emotion in her life. She meditated for a while, and then spoke about the experience, taking me through the emotional journey. I would take photographs during the process, tracking the peaks of emotion throughout her experience.

Even though every photo is very personal to her, there is are emotions we can all recognise and relate to in each photo. We all have, or will have, some sort of experience that will take us through these emotions at some point. Even though the framing of some experiences may seem incomparable, the emotional core may, in fact, be very similar. In this way, it is possible to cultivate a deep sense of empathy that can extend to every single being on earth.

This was one of my very first portrait series, and is still my favourite. It was a such a special, intimate, cathartic experience for both of us, and I really love the images that were created.

Rozanne used these photos to get back into the modelling industry after 50 years. She is now living in London, working as a model and following her passion. It was an honour to collaborate with her.

Rozanne Sharpe

Johannesburg, South Africa

August 2018

Dana Toerien Photography

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Johannesburg, South Africa

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