Monday, September 5th, 2016 | T: lamono
Life goes by too fast to be hiding behind masks, filters or alterations. At least, that’s what the images of Londoner photographer, Bex Day, seem to convey. With just 23 years old, she has achieved to create a body of work based on film photographs without any digital retouch, pieces that manage to address exceptionally the reality that surrounds us. In order to attain this, she engages with unique scenarios and unusual characters; her goal is to capture thoroughly their essence. Because it is on what’s quotidian where originality lies, beauty and authenticity; it is there where the stories that are worth telling are found, stories that, surprisingly, in the hectic times of the XXI Century, differentiate themselves by being as real as life itself. T: Lorena Pedre
You started shooting just three years ago. What made you venture into this field? Did you have any experienced before in this area? My journey was stunted due to my teacher telling me I was not good enough to study art, when I was just 14. I then went on to study journalism, which allowed me to easily transition into documentary photography, which is similar to journalism in the sense that you are able to tell a story in a visual manner. I am self-taught. My father always took photographs at inappropriate moments, for instance after a car hit me at age 11; I returned from hospital and he flashed a camera in my scabby face. This uncomfortable crossing of boundaries has allowed me to use it in my own practice.
I suppose social networks, such as Instagram, helped you to publicize your work faster. What do you think about the rise of these platforms and the impact they have on the world of photography today? I would absolutely not be at the stage I am now without the help of social media platforms such as Instagram. Social media seems to me more like a temporary tool, which I think works extremely well alongside printed matter, but more as an enabler. I feel things can be so easily deleted and replaced, unlike a solid book, which can be used as a constant reference (unless you lose it). But perhaps this has to do with the year I was born; I enjoyed reading books a lot as a child, and was brought up during the transitional period when internet and computers were slowly transforming and smart phones were not around. Unfortunately, I do think the digital age encourages laziness. For instance, when referencing imagery, I favour Pinterest over my photo books, as it is far more instantaneous and to the point. On the other hand, I really do believe that without social media, particularly Instagram, I would have had a much harder time getting to where I am now. We have come to live in a world where everyone believes they are a photographer, where almost every household owns an intense hi-tech camera, and not to forget, the camera on the iPhone just keeps getting better! In such a competitive industry, it is important to stand out from the crowd, have a unique selling point and, most importantly, be able to promote yourself—which social media facilitates-. Social media has been a bittersweet dopamine high, with which I have an annoyingly temperamental relationship. In this current state, the number of followers and likes you receive seems to be more important than the work you actually put out sometimes. In that respect, I feel upcoming photographers are all forced to place a huge importance on Instagram, which doesn’t seem quite right. On the plus side, Instagram is like a portfolio for my work, and has allowed me to receive job proposals. It means I can connect and communicate with individuals all over the world that would have not been as accessible otherwise. Like when I messaged Nan Goldin and she started following me, that was probably one of the best moments of my Insta-time. What I find particularly interesting is the effect social media has on mental health. The anxiety it causes me, and probably so many others, is overwhelming. The constant comparison to other people’s work and how well they seem to be doing is not easy on the mind. Also, when you are scrolling through Instagram, how much are you genuinely taking in? How many images can you actually recall seeing? It seems technology has advanced, but our brains are lagging.
You shoot exclusively on film. How does this work in favour of honesty and the realness of your work? I prefer to shoot on film, because rather than taking 50,000 shots of the same thing on digital, you are more cautious with film and choose what you want to capture carefully, because ultimately, film is expensive. In terms of working in favour of honesty and realness, shooting on film creates a sense of deep paranoia that the shot hasn’t come out properly, because I am forced to be patient and am not able to see it instantly, which lowers my expectation which is most important of all. The space you have from the film allows you to also think about the imagery and how it relates in whatever the context may be.
It seems technology has advanced, but our brains are lagging
In your photographs you also highlight the locations and characters. How do both elements help you create unusual, challenging and provocative narratives? Location and casting are key to my work. I am drawn to a realistic portrayal of the human condition within my imagery – I strive to portray a sense of beauty that is found within the normality of everyday life-.
You have said on more than one occasion that you choose the subjects for your photos based on their unique appearance, his or her alternative personality and your emotional connection with them. Are these the three key points that you need to explore to discover the beauty and expose the vulnerability of the human emotions? No, not really, an alternative personality is not important to me, but someone I connect with is very important, otherwise I would not feel like we could create the strongest imagery possible. The aesthetic of the individual, plus the relationship I form with them, allows me to capture something I see within someone that is a major part of their personality, and this is only possible by getting to know someone and spending time with them.
Some of your series portray the transgender and transvestite community. Why did you put the spotlight on them? Was it accidental or was there something specific that attracted you directly? I am currently working towards my first solo exhibition and photo book on the trans community that are over 40 years old. It is an anthropological study on the fluidity of gender, and an exploration into the lasting impact societal restrictions concerning sexual identity and gender roles have upon us. With a focus on male to female transitions, I am looking at how gender stereotypes have affected the trans community, and questioning if the modern day feminist movement has had a resonating impact on how we define gender. When viewed in the context of the individual, the notion of gender becomes difficult to define, and it is through this ambiguity that my book essentially questions how, we as a society, define gender, sexuality, and the inherent problems in these alienating circumstances.
You have also photographed the famous motorists of The 59 Club in London in the series “Speed Ramp”. Was it difficult to portray in an intimate way these tough guys? The point of these photographs, and my recent series ‘Biker-Bred’, is to eliminate these preconceptions and judgments, as they are wholly archaic and wrong. Again, I was just evoking the persona of these individuals – people aren’t always as they seem and should not be judged and pigeon holed just because of how they look-.
Most of your characters are not young anymore, regardless, in them we see certain characteristics that remind us about this time in life and the desire for living fast and having new experiences. Perhaps it is because in a way they still have that life-style and that spirit that characterizes this period in life? I have been asking myself the same question. I had to grow up very quickly, and I think this has transferred to my work. I am attracted to older people because I guess they have more life experience and help me to bring clarity into my life, by allowing me to understand situations and myself a bit better.
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