“The Pain Within” was awarded a Bronze at the PX3 awards this year and stands as a compelling example of representing pain through pictures. Alex was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the photographs and how the project came about.
BCR: From where did the idea for this series originate, what was your inspiration?
AT: I was approached by the pharmacutical agency, Ketchum Pleon, to photograph real sufferers of nueropathic pain for an ad campaign for their client Astellas. They gave me a very free reign to develop it as I wished and very much came to me for my ability to do that. It was then that I decided to shoot the portraits but also shoot a bespoke still life image that illustrated how each person felt due to their condition. They are a great client and the project has expanded considerably to exhibitions, a book, aswell as the print campaign that it was originally intended for. The exhibition opens in hamburg, germany on the 21st september and tours europe and usa thereafter. I have also art directed the layout for the ads and exhibition and I have also designed the exhibition programe.
I spent two days shooting people and two days designing and creating their still life shots.
It sounds like you had a lot to photograph in those two days. Did you need any additional crew to help, especially with the pyrotechnics and electricity?
I pre planned all of the effects but Ryan and I carried them out ourselves. Some of the methods we used were quite crude but look amazing when shot with the macro lens in close detail. Also the camera on which the still lives and the portraits were shot on was the phase one IQ180 which has 80 mega pixels!! I’ll keep the methods a secret as I think it’s all about the final effect. All of this goes to show though that being resourceful is exciting and gets right back to the basics of photography and simple composition combined with good old experimentation. We had a blast doing it…
How did you select your models ?
The client provided us with a shortlist of 30 sufferers from which I could select my favourite 8. My 8 were the ones with the most compelling stories to tell as well as looking the part. They were flown into London from all over Europe.
Which pain was the most challenging to photograph a visual for?
The ones showing burning and electricity were very challenging but very rewarding to get right. Apparently the people often cried when they were shown their portraits and still life shots for the first time.
Are you able to share with us any plans for the book? Do you know who you will be photographing next for that leg of the project?
The book will contain all 9 portraits and still lives but will also contain longer stories about the people. It will be stunningly produced and will be a very personal account of each individual and their suffering of neuropathic pain.
Do you have any advice for those similarly trying to visualize emotions?
Get to know the people and fully understand their suffering, as it is the only way to get it right. With this method you will give yourself the best chance of success. You know you’ve created some memorable work when the actual sufferers cry at first sight of their images.
Thank you again Alex!
For those interested, the exhibition will open to the public September 21st at CCH Hamburg, Marseiller Str., 20357 Hamburg, Germany