Julia Calfee


New Series: Messages from Another World

Messages From Another World by Julia Calfee This new series started in 2011 addresses aspects of the unseen and un-apparent world, and questions our perception of emptiness in space. Works from Message from Another World will be exhibited in a solo exhibition at the Art Plural Gallery in 2015.

Two thoughts underlie the project, Messages From Another World: on one hand, the realization that space is not empty, but a universe teeming with life that is invisible to ordinary sense perception and on the other, the realization that there are universals common to all humankind.

The Swiss are a pragmatic people who lived off the land for centuries, often in remote valleys enclosed by high mountains and accessible only on foot or by animal. In Vals, where I live in Switzerland, there were no paved roads until the late 1960s. The old shingled houses in the village have a small window in the facade about half-way up and too small for a child to crawl through. When I asked about this tiny window, the villagers told me that it was a special place for souls to leave through when somebody died.
It is unlikely that Swiss farmers living in a landlocked country had access to the ancient eastern philosophical texts, such as the Tibetan Book of The Dead or the Bhagavad Gita, but they share the same belief expressed in these ancient writings: when the body passes away, the soul does not disappear; it moves on to another life or another place.

Belief in an invisible world leads to respect and consideration for the real world in which we live. There are, for instance, peoples who believe that powerful spirits live in the highest of mountains. Wherever spirits live, the land is sacred and remains untouched: nothing is built there; no animals are hunted there. Similarly, spirits inhabit streams and sources of water, which must therefore be kept clean and unpolluted. When the water is used, it is fetched in buckets and taken away for bathing or washing utensils.

The age-old belief in a densely populated invisible world has become a matter of hard, scientific fact in modern physics. What we perceive as empty space is in fact populated with untold interacting particles invisible to human perception. Like the sciences, tribal beliefs and various forms of spiritual philosophy offer paths to a better understanding of the cosmos. Whether we seek to explain “empty space” through science or spiritual belief, its multidimensional, invisible worlds are clearly worthy of being respected and even revered. Link to Art Plural Gallery Singapore



India Now by Julia Calfee
 October 21st, 11.30am
India Now by Julia Calfee
 January 15th, 10.30pm
India Now by Julia Calfee
 August 18th, 4pm
India Now by Julia Calfee
 February 9th, 11.45pm India Now by Julia Calfee
 August 19th, 2.30pm


Inside Chelsea Hotel Singapore ArtPluralGallery

Inside the Chelsea Hotel

The series of photographs titled Inside the Chelsea Hotel reflects the energy of a place occupied by ghosts of past lives. More than portraying the residents of the legendary Chelsea Hotel, Julia Calfee’s photography is her personal concept of humanity; not only a quest for freedom of expression but also a search for the ultimate creative refuge.

"You got the vibration of the place and also captured the experience of these strange characters. There’s such feeling in these pictures. There’s love, there’s weirdness, there’s loneliness; the whole human experience plays out in this hotel, the whole spectrum of humanity, the highs and the lows. You don’t have to run around the world to capture humanity, you’ve captured it here and all you have to do is take the elevator. The people, they become art in your pictures. It not only presents a certain point of view, this certain time at the Chelsea Hotel, but also the immortality of the place. It’s like Bob Dylan is still living here" as eloquently expressed by photographer Antonin Kratochvil.

Julia Calfee’s photography celebrate the freedom of a place where excess is welcome, where the psyche can be annihilated or resurrected. Artists such as Andy Warhol, Jimi Hendrix, Stanley Kubrick, Mark Twain, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and countless others have been drawn Inside the Chelsea Hotel by a seemingly irresistible magnetic force.

Video - Interview with Julia Calfee at the Art Plural gallery in Singapore

Inside the Chelsea Hotel by Julia Calfee
Inside the Chelsea Hotel by Julia Calfee
Inside the Chelsea Hotel by Julia Calfee
Inside the Chelsea Hotel by Julia Calfee


Multimedia projections & Symposium by Julia Calfee on 'The Last Songs Of The Glaciers'. Bangalore, India has been chosen for this first presentation in Asia. This is the first in a series of moving multimedia shows in Asia.

The Last Songs of the Glaciers
Please scroll down for further information.

Vanishing Glaciers - An Artists View On Global Warming - Exhibition And Book

"The Last Songs of the Glaciers", her project on global warming consists of black and white photos and audio recordings of the glaciers as they melt away. Many of these photos and recordings were taken during her stay in a container (at around 6800 feet, 2090 meters) specially transported by helicopter underneath a glacier. This two year project on vanishing glaciers was was exhibited in Switzerland during the Art Basel Fair 2010. Two videos have been produced on this project, one by Swiss Television for swissinfo.ch in English and German and the other for the Copenhagen Summit by Radio Free Europe.

Julia has recorded over 200 sounds of ice and glaciers melting away and taken over 800 photographs. These recordings (songs) are sometimes astonishing with helicopter-like sound and rhythms reminiscent of beating drums. These photos are often abstract emphasizing the natural universal forms found in the nature of the high Alpine valleys and mountains. These elements have been combined with video for this presentation which includes a film about the process.

"Lying inside this glacier-cave, I heard many strange noises within the last rhythms of the melting ice, sounds like a heart beating very fast, beating desperately for its last oxygen. The ice continued to melt, and was transformed into the shape of dolphins playing. I took photos of all these attempts for survival which were at the same time all encompassing and pitful."

Vanishing Glaciers by Julia Calfee
Vanishing Glaciers by Julia Calfee
Vanishing Glaciers by Julia Calfee

Sculptural cube placed on the Jungfrau mountain at 2800 meters conceived for displaying the "Vanishing Glaciers" photographic artwork (during the summers 2009 & 2010)

Cube by Julia Calfee on Jungfau mountain

Vanishing Glaciers (How It All Came To Be)

In the beginning there were no glaciers. I found these majestic beings much later in my wanderings. I discovered the glacier songs as I walked the Alps in summer, stopping to listen to the smallest of underground streams, invisible, covered with thick grass and stones.

I became entranced with these water voices. Where did they come from, these voices - where do they originate? From way up there, the fingers pointed in the direction of the Lä:nta mountain. I followed the direction of the pointing fingers, each day walking further, my recorder in my pocket and my camera not far away. On the way I found many extensions of the glacier: ice caves, ice tunnels, avalanches, seracs. First I explored and discovered all the extreme points of the glacier, the fingers of these old icemen.

As I moved upwards, one day I found a brook. The water noises were particularly sad and lost sounding. This brook asked me to follow and as I followed the brook it widened and became a river running over a bed of strange shaped stones that were thrown around in a violent pattern. These stones then became enormous, much bigger than me and stretched out in front of me like a sloping vertical wall. This river still called me to follow. The river itself was transformed into a smaller and deeper form like the main artery of heart.And I stopped.

Then I saw the glacier clearly but I waited, watching closely in the full moonlight and in the heat of the day as the glacier changed colours from white-white into off-blue. I felt the strength of this embattled warrior. After waiting I felt the magnetic force of this now deep stream and I went on upwards recording the river songs. Finally I stood on that old ancient ice full of the wisest wisdom. I heard the sounds of water rushing away forever, not soft sounds, but the sounds of this glacier disappearing forever, the ominous and unpoetic ugly sound of a washing machine in full cycle. I slowly climbed down over these cyclopean stones watching the streams of glacier water becoming a river that sweeps forever down the valley.
Julia Calfee

Beyond The Last Barrier - Four years in Mongolia

Beyond The Last Barrier by Julia Calfee
Beyond The Last Barrier by Julia Calfee
Beyond The Last Barrier by Julia Calfee
Beyond The Last Barrier by Julia Calfee

About the Artist


Julia Calfee

Julia Calfee - artist using photography and writing as her medium - has spent most of her professional life living and working in Europe and Asia. She majored art history at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her first book on the subject of artists and their studios was published by Miro Foundation in 1995.

In 2003, the book Spirits and Ghosts: Journeys Through Mongolia was published by PowerHouse Books, New York. This book explores the transitions and changes in Mongolia since 1996, touching upon the obstinate ritual and beliefs of this country still steeped in the murkiness of the post-Communist era.

From 1996 to 2002, she focused on Mongolia, where she led a caravan to bring medicine to remote areas. During this time she also documented life in Mongolian prisons for a relief organization, and photographed the blight of poverty in Ulan Bator.

From 2003 until 2008 Julia Calfee has been living mainly in New York City's Hotel Chelsea, where she documented the state of mind that has existed in that unique place - the legendary residence for artists, writers and musicians. The years she spent in the Chelsea Hotel were a visual quest for the unifying elements of the people who chose to live in this place and the ghosts who still lurk in its shadows.

As she describes it: “When I photographed at the Chelsea Hotel, I would stay in a space or situation for hours. Time would pass and my presence would become less and less visible. Sometimes I would even disappear.” This long term project has become a well acclaimed book published by powerHouse Books New York in 2008. The Chelsea Hotel has now been sold and is no longer an aboad for artists or wanna-be artists. Julia Calfee’s book inside Inside the Chelsea Hotel is now to be considered the reference book. As she herself says: “The Chelsea Hotel is a place where excess is welcome, where the psyche can be annihilated or resurrected. It has a magical potential for transformation, whether it be rebirth or destruction. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix, William S. Burroughs, Stanley Kubrick, Mark Twain, Edith Piaf, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jasper Johns, Jack Kerouac, Willem de Kooning, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and countless others have been drawn Inside the Chelsea Hotel by a seemingly irresistible magnetic force.”

Julia Calfee’s book Inside the Chelsea Hotel consists of 81 black and white photos on double page as well as very short stories about the residents and athmosphere of the hotel. There’s also an introduction by Milos Forman, film director (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt).


"The Last Songs of the Glaciers", her project on global warming included audio-recordings and close-up photography of melting ice. Many of these black and white photos and recordings were taken during her stay in a container (6800 feet, 2090 meters) over a six months period. "Vanishing Glaciers" was exhibited during the Art Basel Fair 2010 at the Johanniterkapelle in Rheinfelden. Two significant film documentaries were produced on her project ‘Vanishing Glaciers’, the first by Swiss Television and the second for the Copenhagen Summit. ‘Vanishing Glaciers’ was presented in March 2012 at the Explorer‘s Club titled: The Last Songs of the Glaciers, where she is a fellow member.

Her exhibition titled INSIDE THE CHELSEA HOTEL runs at the Art Plural Gallery in Singapore with Large Format Photographs documenting the state of mind that has existed in that unique place in New York City - the legendary residence for artists, writers and musicians.

"Messages From Another World" started in 2011 will be exhibited at the
Art Plural Gallery / Singapore in 2015. A book on this subject will be published at the time of this solo-exhibition. This new series addresses aspects of the un-seen and un-apparent world and questions our perception of emptiness in space.

Media Talk

Julia Calfee's photographic work has been published in the following magazines, newspapers and television programs:

Inside The Chelsea Hotel - September 2012
Art Daily Read article
Asia Tatler Singapore Read article
The Honeycombers Read article
Channel News Asia - AM Live! (The television) - 11th of September 8.45 am Watch the interview
Plussixfive Read article
The Urban Wire Read article Today Newspaper Read article
Art in Asia
The Straits Times Newspaper
Singapore Art Gallery Guide
Find Your Way in Singapore Watch interview
Female Magazine Read article
August Woman
Time Out (Singapore)

Other recent articles from 2006-2012 on various subjects
The Last Songs of the Glaciers - Article by Peter Schneider
Article on Inside The Chelsea Hotel by Peter Schneider
New York Times Magazine
Business Week
The London Sunday Times
Paris Match,
Elle Italie
Marie Claire
Paris Photo
Digital Photography
Corriere della Sera
Photo Eight
Le figaro
Conde Nast traveler


Chelsea Hotel

Available now

"People are always asking me what it's like to live in the Chelsea
Hotel. Not always easy. There are times I felt like a fly caught in
a spider's web, at risk of being eaten alive if I made the wrong
move. ..."

Photographs and text by Julia Calfee
Preface by Milos Forman
Published by powerHouse Books
Designed by Pentagram Berlin: Justus Oehler
Edited by Antonin Kratochvil
81 large format photos, each with it's own inside story
Available on Amazon.com and bookstores worldwide.

Spirits and Ghosts

Spirits and Ghosts: Journeys Through Mongolia

Photographs by Julia Calfee
Published by powerHouse Books New York
76 large format photos, format 12" x 9"

"These journeys in Mongolia took me 9,000 miles over five years. The common element in all these voyages, even stronger that the ghosts, were the spirits who live high and free with this land where nature still brings mortals to their knees."
- Julia Calfee

"Julia Calfee reveals the supernatural and Shamans who bridge the void between the worlds of the living and that of the spirits...These landscapes move you to imagine this, and that the Monkh Khoh Tenger (Eternal Blue Heaven), which once reigned over earth protecting the Mongol people, is hearing their wishes and receiving their communions"
- Antonin Kratochvil

Spirits And Ghosts: Journeys Through Mongolia
delves into the transitions and changes in Mongolia since 1996, addressing the issues and problems of this country still steeped in the murkiness of the post-Communist era, and awkwardly adapting to a new democratic system.

Calfee documented the role of shamanism and ritual in this mysterious land, participating in the winter migration of a female shaman and her family over the mountains, sleeping on ice-covered fields at -40 degrees C, and taking photographs of her private seances, rarely seen by anyone outside of this exclusive nomadic culture.

Calfee also spent years documenting the social ills of this little-understood East-Central Asian republic, spending days and nights in different prisons with adolescents, women, alcoholics, murderers, and many innocent people.

Whether exploring the work camps that have not changed since Stalin's time, makeshift strip-mining conditions, rampant alcoholism, or the general hopelessness of urban life in the capital, Calfee's unflinching and haunting images leave a strong sense of correspondence between social problems and the dark spirituality of this troubled land.

"Although spirits and ghost are reality in Mongolia, they are nevertheless the object of a wealth of speculation and open to differing interpretations - a fact that makes the title of Julia Calfee's book on Mongolia particularly appropriate"
- Dr. Sendenjav Dulam, National University of Mongolia

The book is available at fine booksellers and cultural centers worldwide, including

The Rubin Museum New York City
ICP International Center of Photography New York
Barnes & Noble
Spirits and Ghosts

Honeycomb Glacier

Publication of recent works includes photos and essay titled Honeycomb Glacier in Stone and Water series published by Hotel Therme, Vals Switzerland.

This publication is part of an ongoing multimedia project titled Songs of the Glaciers which includes a sound library of over five hundreds recordings and more than a thousand photos.

"All this summer and fall 2008 I walked up and down and up again the valley of Vals. I followed the trails of the universe as I followed also the mountain ranges experiencing the strings of the cold winds, and the softness of the first falling snow, a complete metamorphosis of nature, ever-changing like the trillions of atoms which make up our atmosphere…"
Mountain Spirits of Mongolia

Mountain Spirits of Mongolia

Journey with a Shaman
Julia Calfee

This book illustrates the annual transhumance of a family of reindeer herders including a woman Shaman from where the borders of Siberia touch the northernmost tip of Mongolia to their summer grazing grounds further south, near Lake Hovsgol ("Dark Blue Pearl"). This three-week journey over rugged, isolated mountains with summits above 3,000 meters (9,000 feet), without the maps or compass, takes place in February and March, the coldest months of the year, when the average temperature drops to a chilling -40°. This small caravan comprise 29 reindeer, 35 horses, 3 dogs, an extended family of eight and myself, as a photographer and only person not living the life of a traditional reindeer herder.
Inside China

Inside China

Published by National Geographic in 2007
A collective body of work featuring a selection of Julia Calfee photos in China
The Scavengers

The Scavengers

We are all scavengers shifting through the garbage dump, waiting for the trucks to empty the leftovers of the world, hunting for some forgotten treasure we can call our own. Our garbage dumps are disguised, but in the municipal dump of Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia it is all out in the open. Accumulating in the 105 degrees humid heat are hills and hills of trash. This mass of rejects ferments and strange gases bubble up, mixing with the juices of discarded meant and rotten tropical fruit. These gently shaped hills, covering perhaps 10 square miles, are inhabited by people from faraway places. Illegal refugees in Malaysia who have made this dump their home. Furnished on the spot – a sofa with the springs popping up, a radio which doesn’t work, a bent parasol, a folding chair, some kid’s leftover- stuffed pink elephant. Sunday they go fishing on a huge chunk of Styrofoam in a lake, filled constantly by the sewers of Kuala Lumpur. Sometimes they wash themselves and their clothes in the sewer lake as well. On a bad day the police come and they flee their shelters deep into the highest hills of garbage where the stench is over whelming, the flies thick and the ooze up to their thighs.

Day after day I come back sliding around in this sea of debris with my camera. I am greeted with smiles, asked to sit down on a folding chair and shown the finds of the day. A small ring with no stone left, an imitation Chanel bag, shoes, even a watch, newspapers, wrapping paper, piles of paper of all sorts, piously washed sheet by sheet to be ‘recycled’ elsewhere. Meanwhile the skyscrapers under construction grow taller. Under these growing shadows they explain: “We are the saviors of the world. We are the finders of what is precious before all is buried. We are the ultimate archivists.”

On my last evening there the lights were already on in the city, everything else was white and grey in the evening mist. The excitement of finding treasures had died down as the garbage trucks headed slowly down the hill. The foreman came up to me. “Thank you. For you have given these people importance. No one has ever come here before to photograph them. Now they are proud.” Shortly afterwards the police came. The scavengers fled silently into the grey mist; I also fled.

The dump is no longer there I have heard, the hills are now flattened by expensive apartment buildings and grass covered courtyards. Mercedes drive up the asphalt roads.

The scavengers have been replaced.

- Julia Calfee
Mountain Spirits of Mongolia

Photogeneses, Tetes

Photos by Julia Calfee

Published by Pilar i Joan Miro Foundation

Palma de Mallorca, 1995

Format: 25' x 16'5"

A deluxe portfolio in a limited edition of only 25 copies, signed and numbered by the artist, containing 7 color plates printed in cibachrome on aluminum, presented in its hand bound clamshell box.

With an introduction from Spanish writer Jose Carlos Llop and Spanish painter Antonio Saura.


2009 - 2013 Copyright © Julia Calfee