“I Love the Way She Thinks”: Claire Rosen at Williston

"Up and Away," Courtesy of Claire Rosen

“I really love the way that she thinks” was the way that Fine and Performing Arts teacher Ed Hing introduced photographer Claire Rosen on March 28 for the latest in the Photographers’ Lecture Series.

As Ms. Rosen flipped through slides of her work—moving from self-portraits based on fairy tales, to antique dolls and taxidermy, to dioramas of objects around her home—what became clear was that her particular way of thinking was unlike any other.

Ms. Rosen, who is based in New York, has worked with companies such as Neiman Marcus, Nike Global Football, and Random House Publishing, and has exhibited in galleries that include Asymmetrick Arts, Gallery 51, and Verve Gallery.

Her commercial work often came about, she told the audience at the Williston Northampton School, when spontaneous ideas evolved into personal projects that caught the attention of potential clients.

“Fairy Tales and other Stories,” was one such project. The portraits of Ms. Rosen, wearing diaphanous gowns and striking such enigmatic poses as walking into a lake, reclining in a roofless chapel, or sporting a ship in place of her head, caught the eye of Alex Randall Bespoke Lighting. The company then commissioned her to do a series of photo shoots with their chandeliers—lights made out of such materials as taxidermied squirrels, toy ponies, and pipe organs.

What Ms. Rosen created was a series of images that were less about directly selling the object than they were about creating a story. The squirrels, for example, were arranged around a moss-covered tree with a small chalkboard sign reading “Beware the Squirrels” and two children playing underneath.

“I’m not really a technical person. For me, it’s all about the image and I MacGyver my way through,” Ms. Rosen said. “It’s amazing the things that find you.”

What Ms. Rosen wanted her photos to do, though, was seamlessly combine reality and a dark fantasy world to create something entirely new. After Ms. Rosen did what she described as a “really bad job” on a fashion shoot, she had a dream about girls with bird heads roaming the grocery store. The result was a series of award winning compositions where the head of the model in the shoot had been superimposed with various skulls and taxidermied birds.

“You’re trying to create a dream,” Ms. Rosen said. “Sometimes you get no photos at all. Sometimes something completely changes the context of a shoot.”

Ms. Rosen urged the students in the audience to continue pursuing their own personal projects and feeding their curiosities. She noted that a recent project called “Nostalgia: A Study in Color,” which layered together personally significant objects into vivid collages, had recently turned into a commission for a store in New York.

“It’s important to always be doing your personal work,” she said. “You never know what it will turn into.”

Sports photographer Ron Wyatt will present the next in Williston Northampton School’s ongoing lecture series on Thursday, April 11, at 6:30 p.m. in the Dodge Room, Reed Campus Center. The event is free and open to the public. Read more.

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