Ahead of the opening of his exhibition, ‘140 Characters’, tonight we caught up with Chris Floyd to ask him a little about the project…
Hi Chris – thanks for taking a little time ahead of the opening of your exhibition to talk to us at Exposure Leeds about this work.
How did you get started – what first made you choose the ‘twitterverse’ as the subject pool for the project?
I was going through a quiet period of work, not much happening and I realised that I was spending a lot of time on Twitter. I was just arsing around on it really but I also began to notice how useful it was for discovering and finding out about new stuff and how great it was for crowd sourcing. I was curious about a lot of the people I was following or who were following me. I’m in my early forties, I’ve got two children, you know, I’ve made all the friends I’m going to make. There’s no spontaneity for me anymore, no mad nights of excess and adventure, no more leaving a strange house at seven in the morning and wondering where the hell the nearest tube station is. In short, there’s no action. Yet, here I was suddenly ‘meeting’ a lot of people that I was enjoying communicating with. It wasn’t much of a leap from that realisation to the stirrings of the project.
What criteria did you use for selecting candidates?
It was entirely intuitive. You either want to meet someone or you don’t. Do they make you laugh? Are they on there (Twitter) saying interesting things?
I’m assuming a good number of those who arrived for portraits you knew only as 140 character conversations and a thumbnail – how did this contrast with past experiences?
I knew that I was going to meet a lot of people who might not have stood out in a more conventional social situation, but who could shine on Twitter. The reason I knew this was because I think, in many ways, Twitter has been evolutionary for me, even at this age. I’m not the greatest person in social situations. I’m shy, awkward, incredibly self-conscious and lacking in confidence. It takes me a while to warm up in the flesh, like a valve radio. I might be almost silent on my first encounter with you but five years from now you won’t be able to shut me up. However, with the written word I feel more nimble, more dextrous. It’s divorced from my physical discomfort. So I had a big hunch that there might be a lot of other people like that too. It was true, quite a lot of awkward shoe gazers on arrival who, on Twitter, had been beautiful singing canraies. My job was to recognise this and use my experience as a photographer to get them to a place where they could become the physical embodiment of what they are on Twitter.
There’s some very interesting and expressive people in ‘140 Characters’ – can you tell us a little more about the approach?
I always had the camera on a tripod, in a fixed position at waist height, and I would just talk to them. Talk and talk and talk. I knew where they were in the frame without even looking through the viewfinder so I could concentrate on holding the conversation. With my finger on the shutter button I’d be watching the whole time for ‘the moment’ and hit the button whilst still standing. I wanted the pictures to be a visual depiction of what goes on in the window of a tweet.
We won’t ask you for a favourite – but can you tell us a little about two or three especially memorable images please?
Caitlin Moran & Alexis Petridis really stands out for me. That is an exact pictorial representation of how they are on Twitter, on an almost daily basis. That’s the truth right there.
There’s two of Matt Leys, who’s a writer. He’s about 6′ 7″ and there wasn’t the room to get him in the frame (see above). I couldn’t go back any further so the first one is of him from his toes to his neck. The second (see below) is of him straining his neck down to squeeze his head in. It makes me smile.
I also love the 3 fashion bloggers – Caroline Williams, Isabelle O’Carroll & Sarah Drinkwater. They are holding hands and are split across 2 frames. I just like the sincerity of their posture and the natural way they held hands. They all met via Twitter too, I think.
So, 140 Characters seems to be a success; where next for you?
I’m trying to do more film work. I’ve done a series for MrPorter.com of interesting men getting dressed that is accompanied by a voiceover of each man talking about how he approaches his day and how he does what he does. They’ve gone down well. I’d like to do more stuff like that, filmic portraiture I call it.
And finally – a top tip for portraiture?
Get your subject into a space where they’ve almost forgotten why they’re there. Only then will the curtains open and the light come in.
Thanks a lot – we look forward to seeing you at the exhibition!
Chris Floyd’s 140 Characters is showing at White Cloth Gallery, Aire Street, Leeds to 26th July. In addition to the exhibition you can have your own portrait taken by the photographer. To find out more visit the gallery website.
Images © Chris Floyd. All rights reserved.
Oh… and on Twitter he’s @chrisfloyduk