Sometimes it takes an outsider to come in and see the true essence of a place. Many people will come to a city like Los Angeles and see the outer ugly; the smog, the traffic, the overly botoxed faces. They will see only the superficial and judge the city accordingly. Photographer Claire Mallett, who moved to Los Angeles from England, sees things differently. She sees the inner beauty and soul of a city with a rich history of glamour and fame that doesn’t shy away from what it once was and what it still hopes to be. Mallett’s feelings about Los Angeles guide her approach to her photography, looking beyond the surface and seeing what lies beneath. Her fine art nudes are powerful and vulnerable. For her subjects, it’s not about being perfect, but about being strong and maybe a little dangerous. Above all, they are honest. And with the bravery it takes to be completely naked for others to see, the images empower viewers to be a little more honest with themselves, and challenges them to look past the surface and see the truth.
Mallett is a member of Verge Photographers, a group of photographers in Los Angeles who are teaming up to take over the photography world. Each possess a point of view distinct from one another, but collectively they touch upon almost everything within photography’s vast breadth of subject matter and creative technique. Verge Photographers will be showing new work at their show on Thursday, May 30 at the Duncan Miller Projects Gallery.
What was the motivation for beginning a project like this?
I am a huge fan of classic Black and White movies. A few years ago I learnt about pre-code movies that were made between 1929 and 1934 that really pushed the envelope of social rules of that time and even today. The characters played by the female movie stars at that time I found particularly intriguing. Their roles were gutsy, full of depth and darn right scandalous. I wanted to pay homage to them and what they stood for.
What is the story you are trying to tell with these photographs? Why did you use the female form as the expression of your narrative?
The series is called “Shameless” and the story is about the outrageous behavior that these ladies got up to in this era. They ran companies, seduced men and took what they wanted from life with no excuses, which I find very empowering. The stills I have shot are my interpretations of iconic moments in these glorious movies. In 1934 when the strict list of rules, known as the Hayes Code, came into effect, it put an end to any nudity, seduction and female power being shown in film. But before then it was an open game, anything goes mentality. I have used the nude and semi-nude form to portray the beauty and allure of confidence in a woman.
How does this work reflect the struggles and hardships that you have gone through? How has this project helped you to get through the dark times you’ve experienced?
Being a woman in present day is not easy, from the constant pressure from unrealistic interpretations of our bodies in magazines, to the threats of losing our rights to make decisions about our own bodies from politicians. I feel like ‘feminism’ is considered a dirty word. When did we lose the right to be proud to be female? I am not saying that women didn’t have issues back then but when you see these starlets with all their confidence kicking ass, it’s inspiring.
What do you like about being a photographer and working in a city like Los Angeles? Do you think the environment of Los Angeles has an influence on you and your work?
I love Los Angeles and I love Hollywood; it is a huge influence on my work. From the environment to the ideology of what Hollywood stands for fascinates me. Even as a little girl I dreamed of living in LA and here I am, living the dream.
I feel like we have a really strong photography community here in Los Angeles, photographers support one another by attending each others shows, we help each other with photo shoots and we bounce ideas off of one another. It’s a truly wonderful thing and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it. The Verge Photographers group has been a really amazing opportunity for me, we are insanely supportive of one another. We are extremely lucky to have Daniel Miller of Duncan Miller Galleries working so hard for a group of emerging artists. There are so many amazing and unique things in the pipeline, I feel blessed.
What’s next for you? What other projects or exhibitions do you have coming up?
I am still working on this ” Shameless” series, it is very close to my heart and I plan on continuing shooting it for some time, ultimately it will hopefully become a book. I hope to bring this wonderful era of pre-code Hollywood into people consciousness that may not of heard about it before. We have another show going up on July 13th, I am planning on showing some alternative process work that I have been working on which I am very excited about. And as Verge continues to grow I am just enjoying the ride.
Verge Photographers at the Duncan Miller Projects Gallery
10959 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034
Thursday, May 30th. 7PM
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