There are 18 days to go until the Aesthetica Art Prize closes for entries. In our countdown to the 31 August, we highlight key works from this year’s competition across a dynamic range of mediums and interdisciplinary practices. Today, we catch up with Laura Stevens, who was longlisted in the Photographic & Digital Art category. Directing other women to portray the emotional and circumstantial stages along the track of the broken-hearted, the photographer’s series Another November focuses on a narrative based on the experience of losing love. Selected piece Sofia is situated in a deliberately nostalgic present where memories are constructed and irrevocably discoloured. We hear from Stevens about her artist development and exposure on CNN, LensCulture and in The British Journal of Photography since her appearance in the Aesthetica Art Prize.
A: Your series Another November comes from a personal moment in your life. Do you see these women in your work as manifestations of your own individual story, or do you see them as part of a narrative as an ‘everywoman’?
LS: The women in these photographs are embodiments of myself and represent my own particular experience of loss. I photographed a different woman for each emotional or situational stage of adjustment in an attempt to visualise and process my feelings. They each exist in their own right yet at the same time become one woman when viewed in their entirety.
A: Which artists would you say have most influenced your work, and do any of these cover similar themes of the domestic or the personal?
LS: Cindy Sherman’s Film Stills were the first photographs to make a deep impression on me. I was fascinated by her ability to convey emotion and story in her staged scenes and in her search for the female identity. I adore Philip Lorca diCorcia’s psychologically charged works and Larry Sultan’s very personal Pictures From Home is one of my favourite series. Then there is Bill Henson, Malerie Marder, Hannah Starkey, Lise Sarfati…too many to mention! I suppose the thing that predominantly links these artists is the blend of fact and fiction they employ. I was also looking at a lot of renaissance paintings when making Another November and watching Douglas Sirk films on repeat. They’re rich and complex melodramas with beautiful and uncanny use of colour and light. He so cleverly uses the domestic space around characters to project their psyche and heighten the tension.
A: Since being longlisted in the Aesthetica Art Prize, you have been featured by the likes of LensCulture and CNN. How do you feel that the Art Prize has benefitted your work and your exposure as a photographer?
LS: As a longtime fan of the magazine it was very exciting to be included in the Aesthetica Art Prize. It is an honour to be selected as one of the photographers amongst all these incredible artists. The Prize is very well-respected with a wide audience which can only have helped my work gain exposure. The series has since been published on CNN and in The British Journal of Photography, amongst others.
A: How have elements of your personal work influenced the work you have produced for the press and do you think there is space for a reconciliation of the two?
LS: There are definite threads of similarities between my personal and editorial work. Principally, there are obvious parallels with a formal concern of light, colour and composition, with a similarity in the mood and narrative quality to the images. I have also learnt particular methods of directing and gained confidence from my personal shoots which has influenced how I would approach a commissioned portrait. I like to keep a distance between the two worlds though. My personal work is where I often negotiate my inner world and the internal conflicts I might have to external situations. Editorial work allows me to escape that and create images for and about other people. It’s a healthy balance.
A: What direction do you see your work moving in from now on? Is there more to the narrative of loss from Another November, or will your images take a new direction?
LS: As much as I have finished with this particular narrative of loss from Another November, I am sure in some other form I will return to it. There are underlying cyclical themes and a constancy in obsessions which guide my path as an artist; such as romantic love, domesticity, intimacy and isolation. After working on a project which was so deeply personal, I am interested in how to create an emotionally charged image which draws on the same reserves of intensity when life is calmer. I have a couple of projects I am currently working on which are taking me in new directions, one based in Paris and the other in Los Angeles.
Entries are open until 31 August 2015. Register your artwork at www.aestheticamagazine.com/art-prize.
Find out more www.laurastevens.co.uk.
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1. Laura Stevens, Sofia, 2013. From the series Another November. Courtesy of the artist.