I wanted to share an interview that an online magazine published about one of my Master’s photo-shoots. I rarely do photography these days as it is not my true passion, however I thought I would share this with you all.
I love fitting heaps of clutter into a small environment and creating a very nearly claustrophobic space, to the point where the onlooker is horrified and disgusted by the sight and wants to look away but then immediately looks back because the space is so utterly intriguing. I just really love clutter, so to be able to follow my own ideas and brief and create something unique and original clutter is just a dream come true. For me, sourcing and then placing the props into the set then taking a step back and gazing at the foul-looking and cleverly placed tat is the best bit. Shuffling around the strange bits and bobs until they fit perfectly is fun for me. I like to create a place inspired by real life – somewhere relatable and believable, but where no one could really ever live, and yet we really can truly imagine the space being completely real. It’s a strange state of flux, somewhere in-between truth and fantasy – something I have made up and yet taken from something that really is.
Hoarders are like squirrels as they cannot let anything go for fear of needing it. I think we can all relate to that on some level – the amount of times we part with something and chuck it out and then later find we need it for something or our tastes change and we wish we never threw it away. The British are terrible at throwing things away which is why so many horrible and tacky things find themselves recycled in car boot sales and charity shops. I love that about us. However it can be taken to a sadder place, as hoarding is a psychological condition which can take over your entire home and it really takes away the quality of life.
I researched hoarders and their homes through television programmes about extreme hoarders and plucked inspiration for my own set. I wanted my space to have an element of structure, to still be aesthetically beautiful in some sense and to not go too over the top – I wanted to get to that point of a shocking space but without over doing it and spoiling the image with too much noise, distracting from the fact that it is a fashion image. I also used a lot of old unwanted videos which I picked up from a charity shop, as videos are no longer sold or purchased, so again this would emphasise how long the collection had been building itself.
Colour pallet was key for this shoot – actually my starting point was the colour green for this shoot. The location screamed dreary green at me as soon as I entered it and that became the inspiration for the props and styling. It was quite new and interesting to be so inspired by a hideous colour and base everything else around that one element. The location is actually a rundown British cottage in the countryside. We snuck into the property on the sly and shot everything in one afternoon. I don’t think this back-story comes across in the shoot itself, because I think the house looks lived in (because of the amount of inanimate homely objects) and although there is that cold tone to the images, it still has an element of warmth, for me anyway, perhaps because I connect with the character in the images and I feel for her, adding in that human element to the work.
What makes the images strong, for me, is the repetition. Ultimately, the story is about objects, so repeating these objects just the right amount was important. A repetition of lampshades, toilet rolls, animal statues, fishing nets, videos, paperwork and of course the colour green.
I wanted my images to be haunting and poignant – remember we are dealing with obsessive tendencies and hoarders can be very lonely people because of the shame of their problem. The model’s hair was about portraying the idea of time and implying a waiting, a collecting. It was the implication that this character had formed these piles of rubbish over a long period of time, hence the dust that can be clearly seen on the lampshade. It all tells the story about the woman not planning to change anytime soon, as she has clearly been hoarding this mess for years now. Styling wise, I wanted to create repetition and layers.
I took inspiration from the 1986 film ‘The Labyrinth’ where the junk lady becomes extremely emotionally attached to her materialistic items to the point where they become a part of her and she carries them around on her back. I represented this reference through the styling, where the character is hoarding her outfits. The styling was really fun, layering dresses upon dresses and pinning them at different angles. We also wanted to create shape, flattery and an element of glamour on the model so we used lots of brown belts and jewellery all at once and I remember the stylist shouting out “thirteen belts and counting!”
Words and Photography by Loo Loo Rose
Originally published in ‘Fashion Plus Magazine’