Rule Breakers: Laura Stevens

“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break the rule in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule.

Rule Setter: Laura Moya, Director of Photolucida
Rule Breaker: Laura Stevens

I never want to see another picture of a broken-hearted person. I understand break-ups are a universal occurrence and indeed, one of great significance to most, be it one’s junior high school crush or partner of 30 years. Because of the personal nature of this experience, attempts at re-creating an emotive portrait usually falls into an awkward realm, with something lost in translation.

Laura Stevens’ series Another November breaks the mold in the most intimate, poignant, and pleasingly aesthetic way. Using her own separation experience to guide the arc of this series—with images showing initial shock to ones portraying reconstruction of identity—Stevens translates the emotional stages of this journey so evocatively, one is willingly whisked into her world of Parisian color palettes and heavy shadows.

I am currently reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Through writing about the deaths of her husband and daughter, Didion works to define the feeling of loss—how can a loved person be there one moment and gone the next? How does our psyche process the loss and subsequent feelings of grief? How do we navigate through the emotional stages and what does that look like?

The loss of a relationship is of course a death of sorts, and Stevens’ portraits capture the invisible tie between the head and the heart—the realization that something has died, and the reactive heaviness of one’s physical being. She gives remarkably effective illustration to the abstract, yet very real existence of what can only be described as a “broken heart.”

—Laura Moya