Six months after she experienced a painful breakup, Laura Stevens, who describes herself as a romantic and emotionally driven person, decided to work through those emotions by using her friends and a few strangers to pose for staged portraits that represented her grief.
“What was important for me was to try to represent the different phases of emotions one goes through when experiencing loss, as they can each feel so disparate and acute,” she wrote via email. “You long for the next stage to occur, because it means there is a change and the pain an confusion might sometime cease.”
During the period in which she worked on “Another November,” Stevens produced images quickly and obsessively. (The title of the series refers not only to the month in which she and her partner separated, but also the idea of looking into winter with the summer light far in the distance.) The scenes were created in her friends’ apartments, but she also included a few women she approached on the street because she “felt a natural attraction toward them and perceived a sensibility in them which could work for the series.”
Stevens deliberately wanted to create a feeling of nostalgia since the work is about looking back at the past and yearning for things to be as they once were. Although Stevens was directing the women, she said they each came into the project with their own stories of loss and heartbreak they were able to process during shooting. She titled each image after the first name of the woman posing to help create greater intimacy.
Directing and staging the images also allowed Stevens to be in control, something one rarely feels during a time of loss.
“It is a way for me to look at and express emotions where words often fail, creating a distance and, hence, being able to understand them more clearly,” she wrote. “I work alone, directing and lighting the scene myself. I believe it helps create a certain intimacy, intensity, and control.”
A further romantic element to the series: The images were shot in Paris.
“Paris is a nostalgic and melancholy city, so this did add to the mood. It was also deeply tied up with my relationship … the buildings with their romantic appearance were like another character in the scene.”
Stevens wasn’t thinking about showing the work while she was making it and said once it was finished she quickly put it aside and moved forward, noting that “time acquires a different meaning and pace when feeling loss.” Last year, she won the LensCulture Emerging Talent Award and said it gave the series greater visibility, something she has embraced since she feels it is good to share experiences with other people to show we aren’t all alone. The recognition also helped her as an artist.
“To have validation from others does have its importance, it can show you if you are on the right track. It can be hard to keep going and believing in what you do without it. If other people cannot identify with it, if the work doesn’t move anyone, then what is the point? If you are only talking to yourself it is a pretty boring conversation.”