Valerie Phillips has a new book: You Left Your Ring on the Floor of My Bedroom, depicting a model called Sara during a 12-hour stay in London.
The photographer (a New Yorker based in London) discovered Sara (from Los Angeles) through Instagram. She invited Sara to visit her and to create a photo project during 10 days, but on arrival at Heathrow Airport immigration services considered that the reason for the visit was not plausible.
Why would an American citizen be visiting the UK to work as model without receiving any money for it? It could not be true. The book was made all the same, as Valerie describes in this short interview.
5 questions to Valerie Phillips
When did you start as a photographer?
I started to work on my first book I Want To Be An Astronaut at the end of 1999 (released in 2001). That’s when I began the body of work I’m still continuing today: my ongoing series of self-published books and zines. That’s what I think of as my starting point, though technically I was shooting CD covers and stuff before that to earn a living.
Why are your books always devoted to female characters?
I find women more visually interesting than men. I’m curious about what’s going on in their head and intrigued by their stories and individual quirks and mannerisms. It’s also an experience I can relate to, which immediately makes it more fun and engaging for me when I’m taking pictures of girls/women. I think woman are more brave and fierce and less afraid to make mistakes in front of the camera – which is exciting and unlimited.
Would you say your work has a queer language?
I don’t really categorise my pictures in any kind of sexual framework. My work is organic and instinctive – a celebration of the intangible things I love about tiny moments that pass quickly. I’m happy if it appeals to people of all sexual preferences. My projects evolve from a curiosity about people and the way they wander through their world and how those worlds unfold in such completely different ways.
Could you please describe the aesthetics of You Left Your Ring on the Floor of My Bedroom?
A crazy manic night of running around and living for the moment. Making something magic out of an impossible situation.
Is that true all photos were made during one single night in London because British authorities didn’t give your model the permission to stay in the UK?
Yes, the book was shot in one night at my house in London. Sara was released into my custody for about 12 hours, then I had to take her back to the airport early the next morning for her flight back to Los Angeles. In retrospect, I’m glad it happened this way because the book is more focussed, with a drama and urgency that might not have been present if it was shot over a longer period, as planned. I like weird boundaries that send projects in unexpected directions.