For many of us who call ourselves “mother”, there are two types of children in our lives: those that are born to us and those that come into our lives and become “ours” for life. For me, this was the case with Agatha Whitechapel, daughter of my dear friend (who I commonly refer to as, simply, “Whitechapel.”) I think of her as a version of her collages, fully realized – a lifelike composition of images pasted together to create a portrait. Adopted daughter to me; young girl grown up; mother of Elijah; photographer; and, finally, friend. Agatha cut her teeth in Europe of the 1990s, traversing between London and Vienna. Agatha’s school was the keen eye of her mother, music video film-sets, and the world of skateboards. When I met her, she was a 12-year-old girl, fascinated with hearing and telling elaborate stories. According to Agatha, she has taken her “childhood obsessions with fantasy and storytelling and turned them into visual explosions with as much colour, pop and pomp” as she can possibly fit into one picture.
From Agatha, about her work:
My portraits are photographic commentaries or documentaries of my life and the people around me. My friends and family are my living canvasses and my personal problems tend to be my inspiration. Life´s incidents are the key and I find triggers everywhere. My subjects are predominantly women, reflecting feministic ideals or change, usually within an already established context. Regardless of how the story begins, it ultimately ends in a female triumph or revelation of some sort.
I spend a long time constructing the concept behind each piece, tailoring it to fit a specific person/ character. Then I begin sourcing particular styling pieces and designing the colour palettes for the picture. I shoot everything in miniscule detail so that I can capture every angle. My collages began as a sort of greediness because I wanted particular shadows and lights and positions that one single photograph could not give me. This way, I can have everything I want all together! Each collage is therefore constructed of between 300 and 2000* single photographs, using natural light and is created to be life-sized.
Agatha’s method of layering photos reminds me so much of the way we make clothes and although I have absolutely nothing to do with how she developed her technique, it does make a (pseudo-adoptive) mama proud.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms and sisters and friends out there this weekend.
Check out my sweet Agatha’s work here (but be warned that some pictures aren’t for the faint of heart).
*Agatha emailed me this morning that 2012 is her new record number of photos in one composition—having just completed the piece this week.