INTERVIEW: KOURTNEY ROY
FRAMING KOURTNEY ROY
Kourtney Roy’s photography intentionally look like still frames from a film. Each photograph an enigma that triggers your imagination with visions of an untold story. Roy personifies a myriad of different characters in her work, each woman living a different life, lost in her own reality (or fantasy) and longing for a resolution.
You use yourself as the subject of all your work, and yet it doesn't come across as a self-portrait, mostly due to the fact that you embody a different character each time. That being said, why do you use yourself as a subject?
It is a manner to live out the parallel lives that exist in my imagination. All the stories and images inside my head are able to exist through the photograph. Not only do I want to create different universes with my images, but I want to exist as a character in them.
Thus by placing myself in them I not only project my vision onto the world but I get to be a part that world.
What is your process when creating a new character?
It’s quite a slow and instinctual process. It starts off with images and ideas of a personage that come to me. Slowly over time this character starts to develop through the storyboards I create and by inspiring myself through literature, cinema and the world around me.
Once I start working on the project and creating the images, the character takes on a life of her own. The places where I photograph, and the things I see and do while there, influence the character’s actions.
No matter the project, your subject always seems aloof and stoic, as though disconnected from the reality she’s in. How come?
I think it is because running parallel to the world we see in the photographs is an internal realm within her that is invisible to us but that exerts a strong influence on the subject. Hence the fact that she seems to be disengaged or absent because her attention has been turned towards the internal worlds of her imagination.
Your work has a vintage quality to it. Where does the nostalgia in your work come from?
Often in my images I try to capture a timeless feel, an extemporal atmosphere that does not allow one to specifically pinpoint the era/genre of the image. The “nostalgic feel” comes from what I like to think of as the giant cultural image reservoir in my brain, where all the images I have ever seen since I was a child are stored.
These images are sometimes memories from my own life and sometimes they are “cultural” memories; generic images seen and felt though mass media and culture that inform and cast a filter on certain moments of our lives. Often these are shared images which is why other people often experience feelings of recognition or disconnect when they see my images.
You’ve described your work as bordering reality and fantasy. As an artist, what is your process when combining both?
There is not a specific process for this type of imagery. I think it comes naturally to the images because of their photographic link with reality combined with the bizarre and ambiguous subject matter and setting of the images.
I am often looking to create strange and disconcerting contrasts in the image, whether it is through the character’s pose and expression or whether through the surroundings of the set being photographed.
When looking at your overall work, there’s a consistent sense of lonesomeness that oozes out of the settings that you use. How come?
It is not something I have done deliberately. I never think to myself that I am trying to convey a certain emotion or mood. It just develops that way naturally. I don’t think of myself as a lonely person!
You’ve described your photography as cinematic stills. If you could live in any film, which one would it be and why?
Don’t Look Know by Nicolas Roeg. I would be there to prevent Sutherland from being killed by the dwarf in red.
Who are the filmmakers out there that inspire your work the most?
Werner Herzog inspires me because he dares to dream the most outlandish dreams and make them come true. Andrea Arnold puts me in a space where I am extremely uncomfortable yet completely fascinated at the same time. Nicolas Winding Refn has pure and simple style of filmmaking, violent yet poetic.
David Lynch, for his gift of turning the ordinary into a mad whirlwind of beauty, insanity, humor and terror. Jane Campion, as The Piano is the first film I ever saw that blew me away. There are many, many others but that would take too long to enumerate.
Women filmmakers are finally on the rise. Have you ever thought of directing a narrative feature film?
Yes, of course I have. It’s a pretty big process to create a film and is quite different from photography so I have not yet done very much in filmmaking because I have been so busy with my photography.
If your life was a movie, what would be its title?
Get Used to Losing. Life is one big slide back to the big zero, one needs to acclimatize oneself to that, and of course, drink lots of wine along the way.
What’s next for Kourtney Roy?
I will be doing a personal project in Las Vegas very soon. Afterwards, an artist residency in Spain then Shanghai. It’s going to be a busy year.
INTERVIEWED BY RALPH ARIDA