Kyle Sven presents ‘Altered States’, a provocative exaggeration of beauty and a celebration of human existence within an unknown world. Using various subjects and techniques, Kyle’s dramatic new body of work alters and obscures each subject to reveal a new, unseen perspective. Kaltblut chats to the queer, fine art photographer to learn more about his creative process, subverting gender roles and finding visual contentment in expression.
Altered States x @hensteethstudio

KALTBLUT: Hi Kyle, thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.

Kyle: Hello, I’m Kyle Sven,  I’m a South African-born fine art photographer currently living in Dublin Ireland. I’m entirely self-taught, it now feels like a bit of a cliché but I am actually a high school dropout. Creativity has always been part of my life but I only started taking photos and seeing it as a potential career 3 years ago. In fact, this is my first year as a working photographer. I was always dismissive of photography as an art form. I thought it was too easy. All you have to do is push the button. Obviously, this was a very limited view of the practice and since developing my craft I have found such deep love in the ability to bring the ideas in my head to life.

KALTBLUT: Congratulations on your recent exhibition Altered States, Tell me more about the themes and subjects presented and how you explored them in this series?

Kyle: Originally, I wanted the series to explore distortion and the various techniques I had developed to achieve these effects. I wrote the manifesto and gave it the title, Altered States. I then let myself sit with this for a while and soon realised that an altered state can be represented in so many different forms. The project then became an exploration into all the various ways I can alter the state of the subject. Makeup can alter the state of the subject, as well as fashion. Death is also an altered state, something you see in the piece titled ‘Fragility’. A poppy, seems to be opening and dying at the same time.

KALTBLUT: How did you start working with these ideas and transforming them into a fully realised project?

Kyle:  I had to just commit to it. Do not dwell too much and just trust the process. There was an agreed launch date, so I had a limited time frame to produce the work which really helped keep me on my toes and move swiftly with the project. I shot the entire thing in 5 weeks. During the process, there were a lot of happy accents. Images I intended to shoot became something else. For instance, in the image titled ‘Soiled Earth’, I knew that I wanted to alter the skin colour to turn the model pink. The idea to use the black fabric around her body was totally a last-minute thing and ended up being the final image. There was also a lot I shot that was not part of the final exhibition. It was all a bit of creative exploration for me. I absolutely loved the process. Being able to create freely like this is honestly a gift and a blessing.

KALTBLUT: What was your main objective in creating AS?

Kyle: I really wanted to challenge myself to develop a body of work around a singular idea. A single narrative that flows through multiple images. They all work together but can stand individually as well.

KALTBLUT: What do you enjoy the most about making an image series?

Kyle: I think one of the most exciting things about art and creativity is the ability to create fantasy worlds. I love to challenge the status quo. Push boundaries and flip things on their heads. To make the viewer question their own ideals.

KALTBLUT: Your work has a lot of fashion references and beauty elements. Why is this?

Kyle: Ever since I was a little boy I have been obsessed with images in fashion magazines. I was usually drawn to the more provocative ones. Haha. I also started my career working as a graphics designer in fashion retail. I think that fashion gives us the ability to shape-shift. It’s an important tool in bringing a concept to life and telling a story.

KALTBLUT: Do you have a favourite image from AS and what is the meaning behind this image for you?

Kyle: Wow, it’s so hard to choose. It would be like choosing a favourite child.

KALTBLUT: Describe your work in your own words.

Kyle: I would say bold, provocative, high concept and very queer.

KALTBLUT: What makes an image beautiful to you personally?

Kyle: I always say that an image should make you feel something. There are so many beautiful images and all are beautiful for different reasons but one thing they should all do is make you feel something inside when you look at them.

KALTBLUT: How do you stay motivated and creative?

Kyle: Motivation is a difficult one. It’s really hard balancing all the demands in your life without neglecting something. I guess I am still in the honeymoon phase of my career so absolutely obsessed. I have a deep hunger to do more, learn more, progress and work on bigger projects. Creativity, luckily, is more often than not a free-flowing stream for me. The moments when I do have a bit of a creative block I tend to sit with it and allow myself time to open up my art and photography books. This really helps to reignite that flame for me.

KALTBLUT: How do your own personal experiences and your individual identity translate into your work?

Kyle: My own experience is the easiest thing to pull inspiration from. I suppose a recurring theme in my personal work is gender and masculinity. I have always felt that my feminine disposition drew unwanted attention. Everyone at school was able to identify that I was ‘different’ even before I knew my own sexuality. Generally, we don’t see feminine men in modern media and it’s something I think is really important. I love to subvert gender roles in my own work.

KALTBLUT: How do you find being a photographer in Dublin?

Kyle: Honestly, it is a bit difficult. I don’t really see work that looks anything like my own from brands or in local magazines. It’s actually made me doubt myself at times. I have wondered whether I need to maybe change my style to get the work. I love what I do so much so it kind of breaks my heart a bit. I might have to focus on international clients instead.

KALTBLUT: If your work could hang in any place/country/building/home in the world where would it be and why?

Kyle: Wow, what a great question. How about we put a beautiful penis in Buckingham palace?

KALTBLUT: We love that for you and for Buckingham palace. Finally, tell our readers any words you tend to live by or any words of wisdom you wish to impart. 

Kyle: Being scared is okay. Embrace it. These fearful feelings are a sign that change is happening. We are shifting, we are learning and if you push past the fear the next time won’t be scary at all.

Altered States launched on August 11th at Hen’s Teeth Studio in Dublin with limited edition, signed prints available worldwide at

Photography by Kyle Sven

Words by Lewis Robert Cameron

All images in this article are copyrighted to Kyle Sven. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owner.