Published in Vogue Living
by Leah Twomey
SAMANTHA EVERTON ONCE guilelessly thought of photography as a form of documentation, a way to detail something that already exists, and not about creativity. So how was she to apply her natural talent and affinity for creation – costumes, hair, make-up? While working as a hairdresser in her twenties, Everton was called on to design, shave and colour some hair patterns, and she photographed them for fun. “I realised it could be a way of capturing what I create,” the Melbourne-based artist says. “I could make what’s in my imagination and then photograph it.”
A few years and a Bachelor of Aits in Photography from RMIT later, Everton now shoots her magic realist worlds while approaching her art as a director might visualise a theatrical film set. The images slide the viewer into a hyper-real colour-saturated world, where little girls play dress up and navigate the existence between being awake and dreaming, of being aware and yet clinging to childish resolutions to close your eyes and shut out the bad.
Everton’s 2007 series Childhood Fears explored the darker aspects of adolescence, of an imagination that hazes the boundary of reality. To hear Everton explain it, in her bubbly manner chatting spiritedly over a cup of tea, the poignancy of the subject matter is played down. Although perhaps she is just not fond of self-analysis. “I hold back from saying exactly what these images mean to a certain extent because it spoils the moment. You walk into a gallery, you see the image and it’s about what you bring to it.”
This year’s series Vintage Dolls is a colourful collection of girl portraits, more vibrant and fun than the silent sobriety of Childhood Fears, but still possessing a sense of vulnerability. The images are truly beautiful, but they have a sense of fun and childplay that hold them back from the dark side. “It’s like the children are in an attic and they’re play acting. I wanted to show how children innocently re-enact how adults act in front of other people – kids absorb that and act it out in play.”
Vintage Dolls was shot in a run-down house ready for demolition, rented by Everton for a month. She was free to create the mini-sets for her stills as she pleased – wallpaper, paint, lights, holes knocked into walls to let the light in, and that tree (seen in Nocturne, top left). “1 can feel the pain,” she laughs, “because that tree was brought into the house and we had to cut a hole in the floorboards and submerge it, and cut a hole in the wall.”
Although the images may be created from a set that has been imagined, sourced and styled by Everton – down to costumes, hair and make-up – unlike a film, her art has no beginning and no end. She keeps the shutter speed open on her camera for up to a minute to capture the movement of the models, shifting ever so slightly. “It feels like the image is continuing,” she says. “I like that feeling for the aesthetics. It’s a live moment.