We’re featuring what our Issue 15 guest editors have been up to since the issue was released at Paris Photo in November 2022. Each of our 50 guest editors on the issue selected an image by an artist from our international open call to feature in a spread next to an image of their own in Issue 15. To see their work in the issue order your copy. Our guest editor Gabby Laurent’s personal photography practice sits at the intersection of photography and performance. We’re catching up with her in the form of a Q&A about her book Falling. Selected works from the series will be on display in Gabby Laurent’s first solo exhibition with Flowers Gallery in London, from 31 March to 29 April 2023.
Der Greif: Gabby, in your book Falling we encounter a performed choreography of falling. You allow your body to repeatedly give way to gravity and create a visual space to contemplate time, fate, and circumstance. What inspired your idea for this series?
Gabby: The work started very intuitively, initially I was just making and seeing where it went. Then through a time of grief, it became quite cathartic and important to me in a different way. It was still about a lack of control, but it became about giving way with more tragedy, and more sadness. Of course, there are slapstick connotations to falling - and this dichotomy of humor with intense sadness really felt like an accurate manifestation of my state at that time.
Der Greif: If Falling is a space for self-reflection, what role does your engagement with self-portraiture play in the series?
Gabby: I don’t think about myself as being part of the work when I look at the images. Of course, I know it’s me but it’s more general than a portrait, I’m a placeholder for the ideas in the work. Rather than self-portraiture, I am trying to speak about themes through the use of the body.
Der Greif: Your book concludes with Falling Pregnant: a striking sequence of photographs featuring yourself precariously rising from a set of starting blocks whilst heavily pregnant. After many captured moments of your body in pure free fall, to me, these last images seem to contemplate the idea of control rather than fate. How does that resonate with your own experience of becoming a mother?
Gabby: These pieces are much more in control. I think the pieces where I’m rising from a set of blocks were a moment of recovery, much more focused and in control than the Falling work. I actually didn’t mean for that series to be part of the book, it was made separately but upon compiling the book it made sense as a conclusion or maybe a continuation of life. The next chapter.
I don’t think I would use control as a word to describe my experience of becoming a mother. I think one of the first and most important things I realized is that you have to let go of any control you might want to have over these new people. I think you really lose control because you are suddenly sharing it with a baby who doesn't care about your plans or desires - it’s all about them and for me it was important to give in to that. I think motherhood became more enjoyable for me when I gave up trying to be in control.
Der Greif: Motherhood is also a central theme in your Wearables, which we could take a glimpse at during Paris Photo in November. The images are showing you dressed in suits made of carpet, tights, and upholstery stuffing, with only your eyes showing. Can you tell us more about the ideas behind these works?
Gabby: There are ideas of comfort, and domesticity in the materials I’m using, but also protection/aggression in the posing and characters I am portraying. I want to speak about ideas of safety and home through these objects and textures, but this can also be a site for danger. I think this feeling is in motherhood, but it’s also in childhood. Home being a place for both comfort and danger.
Der Greif: Thank you again for being one of our wonderful 50 guest editors for Issue 15. In the print magazine, you decided to include a photograph that you have created back in 2016. Apart from the fact that the image clearly speaks to the submitted work you selected from the Open Call on the theme “Collectivity” - do you see any parallels between this image and your series Falling?
Gabby: That’s interesting, they are both works made with performance and photography. There’s an element of gravity at play too so maybe there is something there. I’ve found that with work I made years ago, where perhaps I wasn't sure why I was making it, I gain more perspective to see it fit within a wider practice of my work once I revisit it.
Der Greif: Last but not least we like to ask our collaborating artists for advice to emerging photographers in our community. What do you think makes someone stand out?
Gabby: I think it’s really important to just make work. The more work you make the more you see central themes running through your practice. I think that’s integral to identifying who you are as an artist and why/how people can relate to you and what you’re trying to say.
Falling by Gabby Laurent is published by Loose Joints.