– Brittney Roy (BR) interviewed by Connor Buchanan (CB)
CB: Can you talk briefly about the process for developing this work –a snap shot from conception to realization?
BR: I have always been interested in the human body and I wanted to capture something about the body that wasn’t so literal. When I first started brainstorming my idea I was interested in the clothing that I found randomly on the streets in Edmonton. Someone would leave behind a shoe or a thong. How did these get there? Is someone walking around with no underwear and only one shoe? I started documenting all the clothing that I found outside: socks, jackets, shirts, pants, whatever. To me I was interested in the narrative that I created for myself. It made we want to know who these people are and where their clothes first originated. This took me to the final edit of this documentation. Unfortunately all these images just became a source of research and none of my images were really that interesting. Most of the things just looked like blobs of fabric.
I was still interested in capturing other people’s clothing that they left behind. I went home and just started documenting my own clothing so that I could do some studies on what it was I wanted out of this idea. This made me think about how when you lay your clothes out for the next day you are preparing yourself to face the day. I took my clothing and literally started to build a person with the clothes. At first in my head I was kind of like ‘fuck it’, not thinking this would actually turn into something – I enjoyed the exploration.
CB: Why the title ‘Not My Clothing’ (laughs) I mean I get that they are literally not your clothes but was there another reasoning or meaning behind the title?
BR: After “playing” with my own clothes, I came back to the idea of other people and began documenting their clothing, not my own. I guess that’s where the name developed – the description just stuck for me.
CB: What was your favourite thing about being in other people’s bedrooms and closets?
BR: I actually found it quite uncomfortable and at times had to force myself to do it. This surprised me since I was the one requesting to invade these spaces and handle these items. I did like it… I mean of course I liked it. I was fascinated by how each person organized or didn’t organize their closet, dressers, etc. Some people stuffed their closets with clothes that have fallen off hangers, some organized their clothing into nice neat rolls, and others colour coordinated their closets. I found myself becoming immersed in the process so much so that it felt performative with the photographs being the result.
CB: For me the size of these photographs is really important, will you speak a little bit about your decision to print them so large.
BR: I wanted the viewer to enter the space in the photograph, to feel voyeuristic and experience what I experienced while documenting. I wanted to put these private spaces on display for the public’s eye.
CB: I really enjoy the playfulness of showing portraits without people, and without titles that indicate who’s spaces are represented – but having those present at the opening – how do you think this anonymity will play out? Was it important to you in the conceptualization of the work that the final products would have this anonymous position?
BR: I’m interested to see how this might play out. I know for a fact that everyone in these images is going to be present at the opening reception. I think depending on the persons personality they will either laugh awkwardly because it is them being represented or stand back and listen to what other people have to say. I am putting these people on display and only they and their close friends are going to know who’s who.
I never really considered the importance of these portraits remaining anonymous. I know I didn’t want to advertise who is in the photo but if people ask me I will tell them. Personally I don’t think it is important to know who it is in the image. The idea is that the subject and space feel familiar and alien at the same time. It’s interesting to me that people really want to know who it is.
CB: Its like a little puzzle or mystery for us. What I find really interesting is how you referred to the subjects as being in the photographs so often. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears to me that these portraits are of your peer group – having been a subject myself I’m wondering if the subjects were all your peers? And if so was this intentional – to stay within your own generation and peer group?
BR: I felt like this project could become so vast very quickly so my intention was to give myself some restrictions. I started out with people I know because it was where I was most comfortable. With this I reached out to my friend’s friends, and some acquaintances. I considered documenting strangers to add another layer to the project so I put out kijiji ads to try and find people who were interested in participating but no one got back to me. I realize it is a weird request and I didn’t expect to get a flood of people but having a few responses would have been neat.
CB: Would you like to expand this project into different demographics/ages/places?
BR: I think this would be interesting to experiment with and I thought about it, but I have a short attention span so I’m not sure if I will. I have some other ideas that I am more interested in expanding on.
CB: Is there a feeling or reaction you are hoping to elicit in the viewer?
BR: I don’t expect a specific feeling or a reaction but rather a thought process. I want people to look at the photographs as if they are looking at a crowd of people. Maybe they will judge the clothing or the room or maybe they will think about themselves in relation to this person.
CB: What part of this project has affected you the most personally or your practice – your call on how to respond.
BR: Printmaking is all about process, that’s what I love and appreciate about it. I think this project allowed me to observe and experience my own process with less emphasis on the technical aspects. It gave me a chance to put myself in an uncomfortable position and to see how I would react to it.