The New York-based photographer on why she chose to recreate a year in her life: from falling in love to becoming addicted to heroin
A decade from now, it will be a rare person who hasn’t had their lives chronicled in pictures – whose online archive of digital snapshots can’t take them on a chronological sojourn back in time. For many of us who came up before the advent of digital photography, whole swaths of our lives have gone relatively undocumented – leaving our memories vulnerable to revision and reconstruction. Photographer Skye Parrott’s exhibition First Love, Last Rites at Capricious Space in Brooklyn, deals with just these themes.
The show reconstructs the artist’s life at 16 – the year she first fell in love, then plunged headlong into an addiction to heroin that would land both her and her lover Alex in rehab. The photographs’ characters are cast from her memories and mementoes from that period. Her former lover Alex plays himself, and the role of Parrott is reprised by friend and sometime-collaborator Valentine Fillol-Cordier. Dazed caught up with the photographer, curator and creative director of Dossier Journal to find out more about her very intimate exhibition.
Dazed Digital: This exhibition is an intimate portrait of yourself as a teenager. What's the story behind it?
Skye Parrott: I photographed what seemed to be my key memories from that time. For some of the photos I just shot the places or objects that I remembered, but for others, I had a gesture, or a moment, that I wanted to include. For those Alex agreed to play himself, my friend Valentine Fillol-Cordier played me, and several other people helped as well. We went to the places we were, with them dressed in the clothes we wore, and enacted what I remembered.
DD: Why did you choose this part of your life to recreate?
Skye Parrott: I had gotten very used to people not seeing that part of me, even being slightly incredulous when I told them how I spent my teenage years. It made me curious to look at who I was then and try to connect it to who I am now. And as I started working on the project, and speaking with Alex, I found that his memories weren't the same as mine. I realised that these moments that were so clear in my mind might not actually be what had actually happened, and I found that to be so thrilling and worthy of further examination. In a broader sense, I thought it would be interesting to address the veracity of memory, of the narratives we create for ourselves on the way to becoming who we are, and what constitutes reality.
DD: Was it a difficult period to revisit?
Skye Parrott: It was challenging in that I felt a lot while doing it, but it wasn't exactly difficult. It was interesting. And on some levels, really unique. I got to recreate these moments that had occupied a lot of my mental landscape and briefly experience them again. There's a saying from the philosopher Heraclitus I thought about a lot while working on this project: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, because it is not the same river and he is not the same man." In a sense I did get to step into the same river twice, but it definitely highlighted for me that I am not the same person that I was the first time around.
DD: Were you concerned that these photographs might revise or replace your actual memories?
Skye Parrott: They sort of have. I think the memories of taking the photographs have merged with the original memories, so what I have now is a sort of amalgamation. And, on a personal level, the process of working on the project led to the memories feeling less powerful. I think seeing them again diluted them, and, given the subject matter, I wasn't entirely adverse to that. The project as a whole certainly had the effect of exorcising some ghosts.
Text: Julie Cirelli