The final instalment of Laurence Von Thomas' curatorial project If You Leave, showcasing emerging photographers around the world, opens this Thursday. Initially starting out as a humble blog when Dazed first covered the venture, change is now a-foot for Von Thomas. Four published volumes later and the collective, which now features over 600 photographers is soon to transform into a photography prize following this final release.
With exclusive images from Book IV, Dazed speaks to Laurence ahead of Thursday's launch at 71a Gallery.
DD: What has the curation process been like for book IV? How hard has it been to select from such a huge range of photographers?
Laurence Von Thomas: The selection process in itself hasn't really changed much throughout the four volumes, but the challenging part is to keep it fresh. The nature of a good image is that it taps into a shared consciousness, but at a risk of saturation and losing its effect and intensity. A lot of submissions come in based on this "borrowed inspiration", so the most difficult task is to try and keep it original.
DD: As the fourth and final release in the If You Leave series is there an overarching theme to the collection? Is it an amalgamation of past themes etc?
Laurence Von Thomas: There's no actual conscious theme to IYL in general as far as my input is concerned, but I guess what makes each volume different is that it expresses a reflection of a set of views by many different artists which maybe stands for a certain zeitgeist.
“I've never been a fan of the classic photography prize that deals with entry fees, but I'd like to experiment with the format.”
DD: Nature seems to be quite dominant in this selection to me?
Laurence Von Thomas: Desolate wide open spaces seem to work well with the "explorer photographer" I guess in that sense the imagery on IYL ties in with some themes and moods of the romantic age of the late 18th century which puts man out there as a wanderer, looking inwards and outwards at the same time. I think nature has this overwhelming power which seems to put things in perspective, it's a clear soundboard for our thoughts!
DD: IYL transitions into a photography prize next year - was this always a goal of yours? Why do you think it will work better as a contest?
Laurence Von Thomas: For me personally last year would have been the final book in the series, but it seems IYL has only really reached to a much wider audience within the past few months. creating a wider platform seems like a good idea to make IYL more democratic. I'm really looking forward to bringing in other people's views while still maintaining the original spirit of the project. I've never been a fan of the classic photography prize that deals with entry fees, but I'd like to experiment with the format. Currently we have 400k followers, if only a quarter donated £1 we could do amazing things and support the artists. I believe we can build a business model that works in a different way.
DD: Do you have a favourite photographer from this latest series?
Laurence Von Thomas: Every year there's a few artists that seem to emerge and be omnipresent - this year Reuben Wu seems to be one of these unstoppable creative forces. Another personal favourite is Rafael Milani, his work feels like stepping into a different world. There's also always few that seem to return every year like Cody Cobb, Margaret Durow, Lukasz Wierzbowski, Robert Moses Joyce, Alison Scarpulla and even then I'm probably forgetting quite a few!
DD: Your following has grown enormously since we last spoke - what do you think keeps bringing people back to IYL? What makes you different to other curators in your approach?
Laurence Von Thomas: I guess in a time where we are literally bombarded with information every waking hour of the day, it's nice if someone puts a selection out there. On the other hand, I won't deny that there is a certain vision and strategy behind it, but the how and why is entirely submissive to its actual effect.
Follow Sian Dolding on Twitter here @SianDolding