Tim Richardson on the Futuristic Duality of 'Spiritual Machine'
Tonight marks the opening of Spiritual Machine, [Tim Richardson’s]( http://timrichardson.tv) latest exhibition at Milk Gallery featuring works from his new book of the same title. The photographer and director, but foremost image-maker, whose futurist-fashion films and prints can be seen across various major style publications takes content creation to an otherworldly level, by embracing technology as a means to express the body’s ability to move. Working with 3-D scanning, animation, and fierce subjects, Richardson produces images that are exciting and serve as technological triumphs. Focusing on clashing contemporary subculture with traditional couture aesthetics, the images you are about to see examine multiple dualities, while nurturing the emotive possibilities between humankind and the machine. Milk Made’s Karenna Insanally, popped into the gallery yesterday, mid-setup to chat with Richardson about the dream world he carefully produces, shooting [Brooke Candy]( http://www.milkmade.com/articles?utf8=✓&search=brooke+candy), and not getting lost in the technical.
Many photographers put out books, is there a certain point in a photographer’s career where they decide it’s time to publish?
Sometimes it becomes something you really need to do. I wouldn’t say there’s an age. Some people produce books every month –there’s a few photographers who produce books so regularly, it’s amazing. For me, the idea was so strong in my mind about what I wanted to do with the imagery that it became a book on its own. I think there’s a theme as a photographer that you pursue that is cinematic, or journalistic, with personal goals in the work. I think for me, the book is about how the figure in fashion and technology relate now. There are so many mediums you can work in and so many ways to express your vision technically, and I reached this point where I had this body of work that makes sense as a story. I wanted to put that in a context that people could understand and relate to, and a book was the best format.
The book is titled Spiritual Machine, can you tell us about it?
The title is a conscious hybrid of two very different things, a bit of a duality in a way. The spiritual side is the physical, the sensual, the emotional, and the machine is the technical, the visually expressive, the aesthetic. Those are the kinds of themes that really run through the book. Every image in the book is about the body, or about the face, or about humankind’s relationship to the way I see things. That’s where it all came from.
Your images are heavily manipulated, what do you like to explore via such distortion?
I like to call myself an image-maker more than a photographer. Only because I direct and bring some of my filming knowledge into my photography work, so there’s definitely interplay between emotion and stillness. There are so many technical advances on both of those sides, and they can start to bleed into each other as genres. That’s where I kind of go with it.
All of the women posed in your images look incredibly fierce, what is your relationship like with your subjects?
I develop characters with the models before I shoot them, and I talk a lot about what I want from that performance. So with Guinevere we were looking at [Alice Glass]( http://www.milkmade.com/articles?utf8=✓&search=alice+glass) from [Crystal Castles]( http://www.milkmade.com/articles?utf8=✓&search=crystal+castles), but then we also used Serge Lutens from the very high-end luxury side of things as an executional reference. I like to juxtapose subculture and beauty and I think in the middle there’s something new. When you mix them together a new language starts to evolve. For something like that I was quite specific, but for the shots with Tao Okamoto, she and I talked a little bit about this relationship between the Irving Penn period, kind of very couture and very haute attitude with women who are very arch-elegant and wanted to clash that with something very technical and computer based. Each time I do something I try and use a duality to make an interesting type of friction. That’s where the interesting stuff is.
Sci-fi seems to be a key interest of yours.
Definitely. Again, it’s an interesting place, you can travel through time, you can reference different periods, and in every movie we see that’s sci-fi they use costumes and makeup to create a context. Whether it’s referencing Elizabethan time and throwing in a flying car, it doesn’t really matter. You get this kind of relationship between history and the future that creates an interesting look, and that’s where sci-fi exists. That’s a very fashion and beauty driven concept. Editorial photography is always about creating these types of characters. They’re very momentary, but also high impact and very strong.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I see a lot of Alien in your work.
[Laughs] Geiger’s a bit of an influence for sure, there’s a film in the show that you haven’t seen yet where I use him as a reference. Everything he does is very inky, and black, and liquidy, and I’ve gone for something more glass and crystalline. There’s more of a transparency to it. I think there’s a sensuality related to technology, and the way we interact with it. We touch our phones all the time everyday, it’s very intimate, so I’m kind of interested in that aspect of technology and seeing what that means and how you experience that visually.
This must be an incredibly exciting time for you, as technology pretty much advances by the minute. Is there continuity between your work, and the constant access to ever-evolving mediums?
I think for me it’s more about how the concept of what you’re working on embraces the technology rather than the other way around. The technology is there to be part of the options you have. It does drive a lot of the things I do, because I really get invested in exploring its limitations and I like to use it incorrectly sometimes, because there’s also something really beautiful in the errors and the mistakes. There’s definitely a lot of power in that trend of moving with it, but it’s also great to use older technology and bring it into the now. People remember technology in a very interesting way. People put bad TV effects on imagery because they relate to that technology even though it’s old. Symbolically, people have a relationship with technology that is very visual. If you go too far with it, it’s easy to lose the relationship. It’s a real dance between what people understand and what is available.
Have you coined a term for the type of work you produce?
You know, I’ve been asked this question before and I’ve had to steal something from someone. There’s a skate movie called Future Primitive, and that’s exactly what my work is. It’s futuristic, but there’s an emotional side to it.
Your films and your work in general have been recognized for its dream-like and surreal qualities. Can you describe the Tim Richardson dream?
I’m obviously really interested in cinema and film and stuff. The most interesting marriage is between what’s emotional and what’s futuristic and what the balance is. I think that’s where I like to explore imagery and where my dream is, just sitting in that place constantly embracing the world in different ways and never staying still, while trying to retain an emotive call and a strong sense of yourself. Maybe that’s why the women in my pictures are more fierce than quiet. I like powerful women, there are men in the book, but for the exhibition I decided to focus on the women, Tao, Brooke Candy, Guinevere, they’re all very powerful and independent and that’s something I wanted to push.
What was it like working with Brooke Candy?
Brooke is awesome. She’s willing to go there with you, and if she trusts you she’ll let you take her image and really push it. I worked with [Nicola]( http://www.milkmade.com/articles?utf8=✓&search=nicola+formichetti) on these pictures and he’s also the kind of stylist who will have everything there and be ready to react to the moment, it’s a very spontaneous and energetic way to work. Brooke’s also willing to do anything as long as you’re strong about it, and if she believes in the idea. Absolutely.
So you worked with Nicola Formichetti as well?
Yes, I worked with Nicola on this series and on a few other projects as well. He’s been a big creative partner of mine for a while. He has a similar philosophy to me, we don’t want to stand still too much –we have respect for history and tradition but I think it’s about embracing that and the new technology, and how you bring them together. That’s where our visual truth is.
What do you hope people will take away from Spiritual Machine?
I want them to see the potential in technology beyond this kind of trick. Visually, I want people to be inspired by the show, I want them to feel motivated to go and make their own imagery, and see how open the process is. I’m always really happy to talk about stuff and get into it with people. Technology is not something to be feared, and when you’re making imagery like what I enjoy making that has all these dualities, it’s exciting. There’s and energy to it, and I think that’s something people forget. They get lost in the technical. I want people to be jamming, and walk away excited.
Spiritual Machine will be running at Milk Gallery from Thursday May 14th, at 7PM until May 31st
Purchase a copy of Tim Richardson’s Spiritual Machine book [here]( http://store.milkmade.com/collections/vendors?q=Tim%20Richardson)