Laura Thompson

Millennium Images Peaches and Cream Award Winner 2017

University: University of the Arts London & Glasgow School of Art

Graduation: 2012 & 2015

Websitewww.laura-thompson.net

Artist Statement

“There was a particular tribe which was able to see Venus in full daylight, something which to me would be utterly impossible and incredible…Later on I looked into old treatises on navigation belonging to our own civilisation and it seems that sailors of old were perfectly able to see the planet in full daylight. Probably we could still do so if we had a trained eye.”

- Claude Lévi-Strauss, Myth and Meaning.

 Image from the series  Senseless

Image from the series Senseless

Based on various anthropological and scientific studies, it has been observed that as people have become more dependent on modern technology and science, people’s senses have gradually dulled and become dislocated with our natural surroundings. Sociologist Richard Sennett states that urban sprawl and technological advances in transportation are some of the many ways in which our advances have made us more and more detached from nature and even other people, creating a passive culture that has led to the deprivation of our senses. As noted in the quote above, anthropologists such as Lévi-Strauss have also noticed the opposite occurring in cultures that are still living in nature and actively participating in it. The cultures with roots in mythology and animism, the belief of the connectedness of everything on earth, are especially in tune with their senses, which as a result, have heightened.

I began to look into various mythologies from around the world and the costumes associated with them and observed most involved the covering of the face and many times the entire body to transform the person into a mythical being. At the same time I was looking at urban legends and hoaxes such as Bigfoot and people’s obsessive fascination of these elusive beasts. What interested me most was that many seemed to be based on existing mythologies and the fact that many of these creatures seemed to be trapped between two worlds. Bigfoot being the prime example is not quite human or animal so wanders on the fringe of both, not really belonging to either. From these findings I began to create modern day mythological narratives in which I explore themes associated with the dislocation of our senses. It is centred on constructed “yeti-like” creatures made up of disposable manmade plastic forks, earplugs, vinyl gloves, car air fresheners or compact mirrors, each representing one of the senses. These creatures have been consumed by these modern, materialistic items and as such can no longer sense anything at all. Neither human nor animal, they wander between worlds fitting in nowhere, yearning to be part of a world they no longer belong to, and becoming a creature of myth.

Photographed using a large format 5x4 field camera.

 Image from the series  Senseless

Image from the series Senseless

What and where did you study? How did you discover an interest in photography? Near the end of high school I got my first digital camera, and it was eye opening to me the concept that I could essentially take as many photos as I wanted and see the results immediately, which opened up experimenting and not being worried if it didn’t come out properly. Even still when I photograph digitally, I usually end up taking hundreds of shots a session (this is one of the reasons I like film, too many opportunities can be overwhelming!). I ended up first getting degrees in international relations and business management at the University of St. Andrews as I wanted to be practical, but soon realised neither of those worlds were for me and that I wanted to do something more creative. I already had a portfolio of work I had made in my free time, so applied and got accepted to a postgraduate diploma photography course at the London College of Communication, and went on soon after that to get my full masters of design in communication design (with a focus in photography) at the Glasgow School of Art.

How would you describe the work you make? Where do your interests lay? I think my work and interests intersect a lot. I’m interested in juxtaposition, especially the clashing of nature and the manufactured. Also surreal and constructed work that makes you do a double take. I’m interested in learning and looking at a certain subject from various aspects, such as through science and mythology. Another interest is the environment, and how that affects us and how we affect it.

 Image from the series  Senseless

Image from the series Senseless

Tell us about your submissions to Millennium Images Peaches and Cream competition. Have you got any tips to share when it comes to gaining exposure? They’re images from my series Senseless, which is about how various anthropological and scientific studies have observed that as people have become dependent on modern technology and science, people’s senses have gradually dulled and become dislocated with our natural surroundings. Anthropologists have also noticed the opposite occurring in cultures that are living and actively participating in nature. From these findings I created modern day mythological narratives in which I explore themes associated with the dislocation of our senses. It's centred on creatures I have constructed made up of disposable manmade plastic forks, earplugs, vinyl gloves, car air fresheners or compact mirrors, each representing one of the senses. These creatures have been consumed by these modern, materialistic items and as such can no longer sense anything at all. Neither human nor animal, they wander between worlds fitting in nowhere, yearning to be part of a world they no longer belong to, becoming a creature of myth.

As for tips on gaining exposure, I’d say try to make something that stands out and makes the viewer want to see more. This is especially true for the first image in a series. I try to enter as many competitions as I can, as well as submitting images to art and photography magazines. Social media is an amazing thing for getting your work around, either by you or someone else who has a lot of followers! Basically, try and get your work out in as many ways to as many eyes as you can.

Where were these images made? Are the surroundings vital to the work? The images were made in Scotland and California. I wanted to have to creatures in various locations to show the universality of this mythology and sensory dislocation. I chose to have them all in natural surroundings so that the manmade materials the creatures are made out of would clash and show the disparity between the two. It also goes along with the background story I made for them that they’re trying to go back to nature and experience things like they used to, but failing miserably.

What do the manmade items tell your viewer about the dislocation of our senses? What would you like for your viewer to learn?It’s been scientifically shown that as technology has advanced and the mass production of manmade items has increased, it has insulated us more and more from the natural world. Because of that, our senses have dulled, as we no longer need to use them as we once did to survive. This makes sense as we’re not innately born with fully developed senses, and instead develop them at a very young age to adapt with our surrounding environment. I think we need to recognise that we are a part of nature rather than separate from it or else at some point we might figuratively become like these creatures. During the creation of this series I researched quite a few morality tales along with various mythologies with the hope that the viewer could interpret it as such.

 Image from the series  Senseless

Image from the series Senseless

What does the future hold for your 'creatures of myth'? I’m still trying to figure that out! I’ve created some new video work with one of the outfits that’s a bit different from the rest of the project, but came out really awesome. I also have been doing some still life work that is related to the themes in this project and feel would exist in the Senseless mythos. With these though I need to figure out how it actually fits with the rest of the project, or if it should be its own thing, just with similar themes. I also have some ideas for installations that would take some of the concepts in a different direction, but that would all be in the distant future if it ever happens!

Describe to us how you've created this neither human nor animal creature of myth. Who is the person in the costumes? One of the reasons I liked the idea of faceless, androgynous characters was that they could be representative of anyone. Everyone has the potential of becoming one of these creatures if we’re not careful. In my research, I found that many cultures use masks and costumes as a way to transform themselves into another character or creature and can commune on different planes. I like to think of these creatures as kind of going through a similar process, but taking it too far and being consumed by these items to the point that they have lost themselves. I also looked at Bigfoot and these urban legends that feel so creepy and mysterious because they’re not human or animal but instead stuck in between, not belonging to either. These creatures are definitely in this lonesome category. As for who’s actually in these costumes, it was whomever I could get at the time and would fit! It ranges from my mom to my husband to friends. Each creature is a different person, which I think helps propel this idea that it could be anybody. The actual making of the outfits involved lycra morph suits for the base, hot glue, thousands of disposable objects, and a whole lot of time!

 Image from the series  Senseless

Image from the series Senseless

How will winning Peaches and Cream benefit your career? What are you hoping to achieve? I’ve never had anyone represent my work before, so am excited to see how that goes! So far it’s already been great as I sold all the prints I showed at the exhibition plus a few more, and have been introduced to potential new clients. The award money is great as well since film and materials can get quite expensive!