Parade & Weary Traveler – Samuel Townsend

At the book launch for The Beach Volcano, the last novella in Nigel Featherstone’s trilogy, the author candidly confessed that an image I exhibited in 2008 had provided some inspiration for his first book, Fall on Me (Blemish Books, 2012).

I began to imagine a teenage boy who was creating deeply unsettling pictures of himself to get a reaction from his solo-parent, his father…”

The confession prompted me to look back at the work in question; a series created especially for an exhibition curated by Martyn Jolly, Parade: Manufacturing Selves in Photography. The images were staged and loosely constructed, a significant departure from my usual mode of image making; visceral responsiveness to space, subject, objects, light and relationships- intuitive environmental reaction. Jolly’s essay described the character in this series as having found herself “In a cheap motel room… The bright country sun coming in through the curtains substituted for a stage spotlight as she fell into a lonely reverie of misplaced glamour…”

The images are performance; an extension of the stage character I was busy developing at the time, Fannii Minogue. Six years later and speaking with Nigel about the image, To Bring You My Love, I found myself creating a new series that again explores ideas around performance using the self. London, Glasgow and Berlin (2014), are the beginnings of an ongoing series that marry physical performance with environmental responsiveness. The imagery is simple in its esthetic devices; faceless undressed man, foreign interior, sculptural posturing. Adjacent to this, the work asks questions about adaptability, tension and discomfort. The (sometimes) tenuous state induced by solo voyage and exploration. These notions again corroborate with Nigel’s initial reaction to the Minouge series, The seduction, the sensuality, the aestheticism; the sense of impending sex, or the sex that’s just not going to happen. There’s connection, but also disconnection. And the courage: the willingness to cross borders, in more ways than one.”

The works, then and now, have shifted in their stylistic approach and subject matter. A wig, makeup, lashes; the flimsy state of illusion, have all been replaced with a character that exists quietly, yet somehow still demands attention. Upon reflection, both characters, although on their respective solo journeys, seem to be navigating their way through parallel territories.

Samuel Townsend


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