Sam Taylor-Johnson shows herself in photographic self-portraits suspended in the air, explaining her inner conflict and exploring the vulnerability shared by the humans condition. 

Sam Taylor-Johnson has been experimenting and working in photography and video since the early 1990s. Her images and films often examine the social and psychological conditions of contemporary human beings. The British artist shows through her shots her inner reflections and conflicts: the main subjects of her works are in fact often the contrast between being and appearing and the discordance between inner and outer worlds. The characters become part of conflicting scenarios where the sense of interiority becomes fragile and blurred with objective reality. Sam in many of her projects offers an alternative point of view, filming the protagonist in an unusual way, often capturing intimate moments. In the video-portrait to David Beckham, the world’s most photographed celebrity is portrayed serenely asleep, highlighting a personal moment of him that the viewer is not used to seeing, while “Crying Men” is a series of photographic portraits depicting the tears and twisted expressions of male celebrities in moments of despondency. In some works the British artist also creates disturbing images, as in “A Little Death”, which shows the decomposition process of a dead hare. 

SAM TAYLOR-JOHNSON Wired (DeLorean), 2020 Archival print on Hahnemuhle Paper 53 x 40 in / 134.6 x 101.6 cm

“I feel I make suspended self-portraits at junctures in my life where I am looking around and assessing where I am – not just geographically, but emotionally and spiritually. Moments where I feel I’ve got my feet in this world, but at the same time I’m reaching out my arms to try and understand another dimension.”

– Sam Taylor-Johnson

SAM TAYLOR-JOHNSON Wired (Pink Mercedes Vertical), 2020 Archival print on Hahnemuhle Paper 53 x 40 in / 134.6 x 101.6 cm
SAM TAYLOR-JOHNSON Wired (Hare), 2020 Archival print on Hahnemuhle Paper 53 x 40 in / 134.6 x 101.6 cm

The artist’s life has always been divided between Los Angeles and the United Kingdom, her being in the balance between two worlds does not derive only between constantly being on the move between two continents, but also from her physical self and her intangible thinking. The large-scale photographs in her new exhibition, titled Wired, at the Lorcan O’Neill Gallery in Rome represent her inner search for balance. The exhibition, open to the public from December 16th until March 25th, features photographic self-portraits of the artist suspended in the air of the Joshua Tree National Park, California’s rocky desert, tied to cables and construction tools. The photographs explore the vulnerability of the human condition and the precariousness of life amid all its apparent successes. The scorching sun dazzles the atmosphere, and at the center of the rocky landscape dotted with cactus and shrubs the suspended body of the artist appears, hanging in the balance physically and emotionally, embedded in a scenery that portrays her inner state of mind. Vintage American cars, cranes, balloons surrounding her lithe silhouette indicate aspirational dreams of success and abundance. The images immersed in the intense light blue sky portray her as strong, stable, and secure tied to her equipment, but in reality the position highlights her vulnerability, perfectly portraying her conflicted and precarious emotional state. 

“In this age where every image is re-touched, it felt truthful to show the machinery which supported me in the air and held me suspended between land and sky.”

– Sam Taylor-Johnson

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