Come, step into the world of Valerie Phillips. We promise you; it’s filled with everything nice. Along the way, take a moment to celebrate youth and all the things that keep you young.
Your photographs have a fun and nostalgic quality to them. We see your characters enjoying themselves, confronting us, being free… Where does your creative drive come from?
It’s funny you see a nostalgic quality in my pictures. I see them as very contemporary. Maybe it’s because the things I like now are the exact same things I’ve always been into…horses, outer space, skateboarding, stickers, outsider art, music, sportswear/denim/band t-shirts, urban environments, old toys & books, hanging out with friends, eating breakfast cereal for dinner. I haven’t changed much since I was a teenager. The things that have made up my life and interests are what informs my work. And obviously the girls I cast play a very major part.
Would you say that your goal in taking photographs is to tell stories?
I’m not really interested in telling stories. I don’t like linear narratives or dictating what people read into my photographs. I’m more interested in showing a slice of life viewed through my eyes, somewhat subjectively, but hopefully without deviating too far from that person’s own real-life experience.
What is it about girlhood are you interested in showing in your works?
It’s not so much about “girlhood” as it is the youthful spirit in real life adventures. And yes, I like photographing teens and twenty somethings mainly, because they are the age group I relate to the most in the way I make work… running around, making it all up as we go along, making a mess, making whatever we want.
We are obsessed with your latest monographs Another Girl, Another Planet! Tell us, who are these girls? What are they celebrating?
The girls in ‘Another Girl Another Planet’ are both famous and un-famous. Some are models, some are musicians, some are girls I’ve met on airplanes, in cafes, or just walking down the street. I guess they are all celebrating different aspects of their life and character. And occasionally they are just celebrating being tired and grumpy.
How do you exude rawness in your photographs?
My pictures are not raw for the sake of it. I just make pictures I want to look at and that’s how they come out. I hate super polished photography. Or imagery that tries to be ‘grown-up’ and ‘sophisticated’ – where you can see the photographer positioning every head movement. I’m so bored by that kind of work. I’m constantly in disbelief at the sanitization process that runs through so much fashion editorial and advertising. Like every ounce of humanity and chance and magic and beauty has been drained out those pictures without anyone questioning why.
Born in New York, living in London… What made you choose London over New York?
I’ve always disliked the ultra conservative and money driven priorities of the advertising/photo industry in NY. It makes for very bland work. Those were never my priorities, so I started my career in a city (London) that was more interested (at the time) in making new, exciting, individual work that didn’t require a mile long CV and a pedigree.
A favorite zine you picked up lately?
A bootleg of my work called: ‘i wish i could be bootlegged by Valerie Phillips’ by Bootleg Boy.
What gives you the urge to pick up a camera and start shooting, unless it’s for a client and you kind of have to?
I know instantly when I want to photograph someone. I guess the urge is innate and unexplainable. I hope it’s always like that.