an exhibition by Photographer Victoria Zschommler
TEXT Josh Gardiner
Portrait by Jo Duck
All other images by Victoria Zschommler
Photographer Victoria Zschommler, whose work has graced the digital pages of Doingbird will be exhibiting a new series of work, About a Day (Diurnal Rhythms), at Melbourne gallery space At The Above, opening November 22 until 29.
Zschommler’s new series, About a Day (Diurnal Rhythms), is a playful meditation on changing states, aesthetics and emotions. A time-lapsing triptych, with her vivid, visceral works presented as documents tracking the journey of organic matter and moments, the show is created in partnership with florist Lottie Phillips’s minimal and hauntingly supernatural arrangements. Phillips will also evolve the subject matter beyond the frame, with glowing floral arrangements throughout the space.
Here Josh Gardiner talks to Victoria about the work:
THE NEW SERIES IS GREAT, VICTORIA, WITH AN INTERESTING NARRATIVE. WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM? Thanks, Josh! Excuse the pun, but the story fell into place quite organically. Having said that, I’ve had the idea for my second show rattling around in my head for quite some time. I know what I like to shoot, and know how I like to show it - but a bit like a writer, sometimes putting pen to paper can be difficult because of my stupidly high expectations on myself. Not much time for trial and error, so I will want to know I have all the elements right before diving in. For this body of work, the ideas came to life over a year in a natural progression of events - the time spent on it, and within the series itself.
IT’S YOUR SECOND SHOWING CENTRED ON FLOWERS, WHAT IS IT ABOUT THEM THAT DRAWS YOU IN? To me flowers have their own personality. You can’t deny their natural beauty, but I also love that they’re seriously funny and weird objects; sometimes hairy, or crooked - it’s just like photographing a bunch of beautiful misfits.
HOW HAVE YOU EVOLVED YOUR WORK WITH THE SUBJECT MATTER? This body of work is quite different to the last floral-focused series I showed. This time the flowers are an element in the story, not the main subject. There are quite a few more components to take in - the organic matters, sunrise over water, landscapes, decaying elements, along with some human-made objects and the colour-centric set; stripes, checks, patterns and prints. These parts play an equal role in the pictures, in my eyes.
YOU’VE COLLABORATED WITH FLORAL STYLIST LOTTIE PHILLIPS, HOW DID YOU MEET, AND WORK TOGETHER? Lottie is a close friend and fantastic florist whom I love and trust. As I mentioned, all the elements need to be in place before I act on my ideas. With Lottie, this process felt effortless. Our creative opinions were aligned and collaborative. When it’s such a personal practice, this is so important.
WHAT OTHER SUBJECTS DO YOU FIND COMPELLING, AND WHY? I like to find the ugly in something beautiful, and vice versa. I love photographing the human body and finding its oddities. I particularly like hands - I can get pretty fixated on hands. I watched a great film last night, Charlie’s Country. I couldn’t stop admiring the actor David Gulpilil’s hands. They had so much storytelling behind them. One thumb nail was gone, as well as half his pointer finger. They blew me away. Similarly, another subject I like to photograph is rocks. Who knows what the next obsession will be!
THERE’S A LOT OF JUXTAPOSITION HAPPENING IN THE SERIES, THE COLOUR PALETTES, THE LIGHT, THE LOCATIONS AND SETTINGS. TALK US THROUGH IT? A lot! We start with misplaced flowers in the ocean sitting pretty in a pink washed out sunrise, then harshly lit rock landscapes, to a stark contrast with overly styled colourful scenarios playing with shadows, specific objects and draped fabrics, finishing on dried and subdued decayed elements in a paired back setting. This might seem confused, but it makes perfect scenes in my mind.
SPEAKING OF BEING INSIDE THE MIND OF AN ARTIST, THE SHOW ALSO SPEAKS TO THE PASSING OF TIME AND THE CHANGING STATE OF ORGANIC MATTER - ARE YOU EXPLORING EXISTENTIALISM, IS IT MORE ABOUT AESTHETICS - OR BOTH? I think it’s about highlighting something simple and/or taken for granted and drawing our attention to it. We can appreciate it more when it’s aesthetically pleasing, and use that moment of pause to reflect on it. I would love the viewer to take this to a deeper place if they choose to. The sun rises and sets, and we don’t think twice (or even once) about it in our day. Life around us blossoms, feeds, grows, and dies. We eat and consume and don’t think about how or where that originated. If I can adore and magnify these lost normalities, that makes me happy.
YOU MIGHT SEE THIS IDEA OF CHANGE AND INERTIA PARALLEL IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY TOO? TRENDS, PRODUCT, PEOPLE… 100%. I love that parallel you’ve made. It all feeds into the same story really.
LIGHT IS EVERYTHING TO A PHOTOGRAPHER; BUT THIS SERIES REALLY EXAMINES THE DIFFERENT PROPERTIES OF A DAY, ACROSS DAWN, MIDDAY AND DUSK. Yes, absolutely. Light might play into some photographer’s work more than others, and it definitely does in mine. Even on a commercial job, I’ll have a story behind my lighting setup so I know why I’ve set up the light in that way. I might tell myself “that light source is coming from a window and that shard of light is hitting a car outside and bouncing around the room.” None of it is true, but it helps me make sense of why I use light the way I do. The light plays a big role in this series, and just like the story telling in my mind, I did the same here - naturally and artificially lighting the scenes, talking to the passing of time.
YOU’VE TRAVELLED SO MUCH, WHERE HAVE YOU FOUND THE BEST LIGHT? It’s been said one hundred times, but the light in California, and especially LA, is pretty magical. Something about the pink desert dust that sits in the air (or pollution from all the cars) that creates a dusty soft yet harsh light. You’ll find something similar in Morocco, in all that dusty, dirty light. Give me a sunrise anywhere in the world, and I’ll be happy though.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO NEXT TO FIND IT? Oh that’s a never ending question. The idea of what’s next, is always ripe on the mind. I was just shooting in Milan a month or so ago and would be very happy to go back, Italy inspires me so much. I’ll also be back in Paris soon. I find it’s not the perfect light I’m looking for, it’s the mood which the light creates and the feeling it gives me that gets me excited to shoot.
Zschommler is an international photographer whose fashion editorial and commercial practice has featured in AnOther magazine, Vogue Australia & Italia, Vogue Living, INPRINT, Vanity Fair and many more. She has also collaborated with Burberry, Swarovski, Lucy Folk, and the National Gallery of Victoria.