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G2: Arts: My best shot: Clare Strand: 'Pictures of levitation tend to show people floating elegantly on their backs. I prefer the forward flop'

June 19, 2014

Interview by Karin Andreasson

When I was young, I was enthralled by the idea of young women being able to sense the paranormal - like in the movies Poltergeist and Carrie. I used to watch Paul Daniels on TV and when I asked my parents how he did his magic, they'd say trick photography.

The notion of photography as a form of trickery stuck with me. After all, when it was invented, people thought photography was amazing and magical. Things could now be recorded that had never been seen before. It must have been an exciting if slightly confusing time, with lots of people believing that all those shots of paranormal and spiritual goings-on were real.

In my work, I examine photography as a medium in itself, investigating its origins, uses - and limitations. This picture is part of a series called Conjurations, inspired by early paranormal imagery. I have been collecting pictures of levitation for years, and they tend to show people floating elegantly on their backs. I prefer the awkward forward flop.

I made it in 2009 when I was heavily pregnant with my second daughter. I was running behind on the project, so one day my husband just shoved me into the car and told me to go and get the right outfit for my sister-in-law to wear for the shoot. I didn't want her wearing clothes associated with a specific time. I wanted them to be drab and odd - and I found them at Matalan. I am particularly pleased with the shoes because they're so nondescript. Afterwards, I took everything back and got my money refunded.

I never reveal how I took this picture. In fact, I've never told anyone - not even the people who have bought the shot. They are happy to be left none the wiser. I've almost obliterated it from my own memory, actually, because I like to look at it and enjoy the mystery, too. I like the idea that an image can be simultaneously believed and disbelieved. Sometimes you can explain things away and then the power of an image is lost. It's a throwback to the early days of photography, when the medium was really exciting.

I started using black and white in 2000 because it was so unpopular, particularly when it came to contemporary exhibition. I'd been working in colour like everyone else, but I felt I needed to make my own space. Black and white works for me aesthetically - and psychologically, since it cuts down the need for decision-making. The visual world is really busy, so stripping it down to the basics makes a lot of sense.

I also like black and white because of its place in the photographic canon, from Cartier-Bresson and the perfect moment, to Ansel Adams and the fine art print. I use black and white to question ingrained ideas about photography from the inside. What I do might sometimes seem off-tangent, but preconceptions can be a problem. They're often what stops people appreciating what's on the wall.



Brighton, 1973.


University of Brighton and the Royal College of Art, London.


"My friend Chris Mullen."

High point

"Getting to travel."

Low point

"Having to travel."

Top tip

"Never buy cheap bin-liners and don't take the labels off clothes if you're only going to use them once."

Interview by Karin Andreasson. Clare Strand features in Architectural Landscape at Camilla Grimaldi, London W1, until 18 July.

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Guardian (UK)

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