Since 2009, photographer Laurence Von Thomas has been running his blog ‘If You Leave’ as a place for contemporary photographers to submit their work. With photographs of a wide variety of subjects and landscapes, the focus is more on the impact of a single image rather than a body of work from those submitting. As a result what’s achieved are beautiful single snapshots many of which explore peace, solitude, and loneliness, with little information given about the specific image, a sense of ambiguity is also created, providing further intrigue.
‘If You Leave’ now has over 3000 followers and in 2010 a book was released of selected images. This level of success has continued as this month sees Laurence now ready to launch his second book featuring the work of over 250 photographers from around the world that have been exhibited on the site since 2011. Dazed Digital speaks to Laurence about his original inspiration for the project and how he’s selected the photographs this second time around.
Dazed Digital: Why did you start the ‘If You Leave’ project? What was the inspiration for it?
Laurence Von Thomas: Inspiration is the right word to explain how 'If You Leave' came to life... about two years ago, I set up a blog as I felt it was a more dynamic outlet for my work than a static website... this was at a time when tumblr blogs started booming, which brought a whole new generation to blogging. I called it 'If You Leave' after a note I had scribbled on a napkin after working on an exhausting shoot. I wanted it to be anonymous with the focus on the image rather than on the person behind it... an online logbook to archive my work, but also post images that influenced me. Soon people started to comment on pictures as if the where only mine and I felt I had to split the blog up. 'If You Leave' became inspiration only. I thought it would run out of content, but instead people started submitting more work and I soon realised something had to be done with this growing archive. A book seemed the perfect medium for this.
DD: In effect you could say the project is like a large-scale collaboration, how have you taken to the role of curator over the last couple of years? Is the fact anyone can subscribe and submit work to the project something that appeals to you?
Laurence Von Thomas: I guess you could call the project a large-scale collaboration if you see that there are over 20 nationalities involved, yet a lot of people that pick up the book without prior information actually think its the works of one person. My role as a curator exists in making sure that I give it the right momentum for the viewer to capture it as a whole... the most interesting thing about projects like these is how they re-define the term 'niche'.. through the internet and the power of social media niche doesn't necessarily mean small or obscure anymore. 'If You Leave' is one of those projects that would have been impossible to do 10 or even 5 years ago.
DD: What’s been your selection process for the second book in the series? What sort of images have you been looking for?
Laurence Von Thomas: Because the blog carried on after the first book was published, I didn't think there would be a big difference in imagery, though because the selection in itself is an intuitive process which I refuse to analyse, I've come to realise that there is a difference. I did actually try to make this second book not an annex to the first one.. for example there are much more landscapes than last year, and I think there are more colours in this one.
DD: How did you first get involved in photography?
Laurence Von Thomas: My biggest pasion has always been film, it's also my background and I think it shows in my work. I try to work to the same dynamics as a scene, but submit it to the laws of a single image rather than 24 frames per second. I take a camera with me everywhere I go, chasing a momentum which I rarely catch on film, but the few occasions that I do are the ones that make it worthwhile. It's like a little bit of magic..
DD: What’s next for you after the release of this second book?
Laurence Von Thomas: With [arthur-frank] first editions, we will keep on looking for interesting screen-to-book projects. There are so many great blogs, websites, curators, concepts, etc. out there and I can't wait to have the next book in my hands. A more personal project is a film project which involves me traveling a lot to shoot a series of short (fictional) films about universal morals and emotions vs. those cultivated as part of a society model. It will have a similar aesthetics as the imagery as the book.
'If You Leave' launches Thursday, 3rd November at Radio London, 93-97 Rechurch St, London E2 7DJ.