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Ones to Watch: Renee Parkhurst

LA-based photographer Renee Parkhurst is back at with her second solo exhibition: “HIDE”. This time around she is serving us with some intimate images illustrating her interpretation of moments of intimacy, vulnerability, intensity, reflection, and secrecy in our current culture. The 10 selected images strategically incorporate a contrast of light and color, and are extremely powerful and moving. We had a chance to get an exclusive first look at the exhibition and chat with Parkhurst about her creative process. If you’re in LA, make sure to check out the exhibition this Friday at the Los Feliz Philosophical Research Society.

Congratulations on such a stunning collection!! Where did the inspiration of “HIDE” originate from?

The inspiration for “HIDE” originally grew from a vision from an existing piece of work from my last show in September, “PURE”. It was a blurred out tight portrait with black sprayed make up around the eyes that looked like a mask and I loved the mysteriousness of not being able to tell who is was exactly or why she is there in the first place, there’s a relationship you can create from the question. It still leaves me very intrigued when I look at it. It holds some sort of secret. From this thought my mind traveled into the thought of how our culture is typically comfortable with exploiting their life and almost expecting strangers to share their most intimate moments at ease. Sometimes it seems we leave nothing left for ourselves. I wanted to show frozen moment in time like this, vulnerable moments, intimate moments, passionate moments, dark moments, moments to be kept for oneself that may typically be exploited.

With this being your second solo exhibition, what was the process like? Were there things you learned previously that you incorporatedif so, what were they?

Only being my second, I’m surprised how much smoother and easier it has progressed into. I halved the time overall than I spent on “PURE”. Typically I spend a good amount of time sitting on the concept and writing about half of a notebook just on ideas, which I narrow down to ten final shoot ideas from about 30-40. Once I have the images in mind locked in, I shoot. Few back and forth’s with my printers, and then start the second half of it. The creative for the installation, the location, the music, the lighting of the space, the fit out of the space. I spend just as much time if not more on the logistics of what the evening of the viewing will hold. And because it is only one night, I make it count. I think that if you have a vision, it’s possible and go for something bigger and better every time. Just get a few credit cards and you can make anything happen. [Laughs]

Was it challenging just to pick ten photos to convey the same theme?

There was only one that I switched out at the end, and ended up shooting a different scene at the very last minute. That was the two girls kissing, I originally had a night scene with a car and man inside. I had a clear vision of what I wanted and shot all of the work with the concept in mind so it was quite easy in the selection process. And I typically work in that way, I know straight away if it’s the one. First answer is usually the right one, trust the instinctual vision.

Were the photos captured spontaneously or was each shot intentional?

The day I decided the direction of the exhibition I planted the seed and let it grow, each shot was intentional.

What is the most important message behind “HIDE” that you wanted to communicate to your viewers?

Message could be open for interpretation at their own accord, but I wanted to stir up some thought and emotion through the images.

How would you describe the overarching theme of the ten photos you have selected?

They carry a mysterious, but also exposed direction. Vulnerability. The flyer, for example was chosen because it is  the most vulnerable of them all. Representation of invasion amongst another. I chose to put myself in that image, as it is very personal. Are they friends ? Are they lovers ? Are they police ? Are they enemies ? Or maybe complete strangers who have access to look into one’s space. I wanted them to feel like they had their own personal story, but they were apart of the same larger story at the same time. They are related, but separated. If that makes sense.

You mention that “HIDE” is the “concept which is derived from the intensely invasive behavior [that you] see happening too common in our current culturewhether it’s coming directly from ourselves or others, we are constantly exploited and hung to dry.” How would you describe this correlation to your images?

All of the images tell a tale, they almost represent being caught red handed in what some may see as taboo or exposed. It’s as if one is being naked, in a room full of people wearing full clothing.

The Philosophical Research Society is no ordinary place. Why did you choose to host your exhibition here?

The library at the Philosophical Research Society is where I’m holding the show and it’s contents mostly consist of rare occult books. It’s one of the most tucked away, unique, and interesting places I’ve come across in LA. I try to choose obscure locations that suit the mood.

How does this relate to the theme of the exhibition?

Occult comes from the Latin word “Occultus” meaning clandestine, hidden, secret.

Talk to us about the curated playlist showcasing at the exhibition on Friday—who is the artist and what is your relationship to them? How does this play part in your greater image and intention for the vision behind the exhibition?

The music had to make sense to the show, it has such a strong role in the entirety of it all. It is like a score or a soundtrack to a film. I’ve worked with the same person, my partner, on this playlist and the last exhibition also. A DJ and record label owner from Paris with a wide musical intelligence and who has a clear understanding of my vision and my emotion attached to it, therefore we collaborate quite easily on this mood to bring forth.

You have truly mastered this concept with film…the way you combine the perfect amount of light and movement captures such a radiant image. Talk to us about this method.

I wanted to bring a lot of black into the images, reds, and yellows. With shooting at lower light and slow shutter gave me both of the contrasted intensity I needed the grain, and also the image blur.  

Your images have a lot of cinematic qualities, have you ever thought about experimenting with a different medium like video?

Yeah, that is the plan. I want to start directing. I think I would be great with music videos. Because of my relationship with music, and the importance it plays a roll in my inspiration and vision, I definitely will dive into that fieldand to see where it may grow from there. I also am very interested to get involved in creative direction for fashion shows, or larger exhibits not of my own. I love it so god damn much.

You illustrate a very consistent color palette featuring red hues and earth tones – talk to us about the inspiration behind this? Was it intentional?

Yes, 100 percent. I wanted to keep the pallet consistent. I’ve always been inspired by the colors in 80’s horror films so I wanted to taste that in these works especially.

Images courtesy of Renee Parkhurst

Stay tuned to Milk for more ones to watch. 

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