Sunday, February 18, 2018


By Stephanie Amata.

It’s an unsurprisingly dull day in London, Briggs and I sit in a dark room in the tower block of London College of Communication (LCC), the only light source is from the grey sky through the wall-wide windows of the room. It sets a melancholy tone.

I start off quite conventionally asking Briggs to introduce herself, her response is humorous yet telling, “Have you seen that meme where its like ‘when someone asks you who you are but then you don’t know who you really are’. That's how I feel right now.” we laugh but in hindsight, I find it interesting since the strongest theme in her work is herself. She goes on, “But I’m Moyosore Iyanalu-Briggs and I’m a first-year photography student at the London College of Communication and I’m also mainly a portrait photographer”.

We begin to discuss her work, I hint at the style of it: the world of her photographs exist almost solely at night with whatever light source brightly shining through contrasting with the enveloping darkness. Her subjects are awash with light, be it deep reds, warm yellows or pale whites while a darker, both in tone and luminance, soft-focus world looms behind them. She disagrees, she doesn’t think she has a style yet, “Its weird because to me, I don’t have a photographic style when I look at my work, I don’t see it.”

Naran, 2018.

She does though, agree with the darkness in her work citing an introduction to Japanese documentary photography in her early years as the root of this. “In regards to Tokyo, for me, because I’ve never been there but I’ve seen so much of the documentary photography especially, I try to create my own Japan wherever I am.” She talks about documentary photography in particular because of its truthfulness to realism and the darker side of reality. She cites Daido Moriyama as a key influencer. “In the images, it’s all so dark but it is reality but then it’s their style. So its strange to explain but for me it’s taking from that and mixing it with what I see using that because the darkness is more part of my personality than it is part of the world around me because everything around me is full of colour and full of life but the darkness itself is part of my ideals and my ideas so I just take from that and try to express that in my work.”

Daido Moriyama, provoke no.2, 1969 / 2014

This springs an interest in me as to why she has such an affinity to the darkness, it is apparent in her work and even to a degree her personality, I push to find out why. “I'm really pessimistic. I’ve only just started embracing optimism. It’s so difficult. But one of the main reasons why I first started photography, which I don’t really talk about is that I was heavily depressed especially in secondary school in Nigeria and photography was like the only way I could sort of express my feelings and approach the world around me, because while suffering from depression you don’t want to talk to anybody and you don’t want to see anybody. Then, I had school five days a week, I had to be with people that I didn’t want to be with and for exactly a year I didn’t speak to anybody in my school. I didn’t talk to any of my friends. It was just me, teachers and home that was it.”  As she speaks, it almost seems as if she’s reaching into the back of her mind to pull out these memories with momentary pauses as she searches her cache.

“The year after that I got into documentary photography and I used that to photograph the people around me who I refused to speak to. The more I shot them I was getting into their personal spaces and forcing them to acknowledge me and I was acknowledging them and striking up conversations with them. I used photography to open up and try to escape the depression, which, I don’t know as an artist your art sometimes doesn’t really help you, it also makes you feel worse. But it did help me to create relationships with the people I was so cut off from, but then at the same time, the camera worked as a wall, I was still using the camera to keep myself at a distance from them but I was finally acknowledging them and acknowledging my feelings through self-portraiture.”

I found it quite unique that her first thought while discovering photography was to photograph herself, as someone who as well dabbled in photography, I know while I was finding it, I captured more still life or nature as did a lot of people so for Briggs to say her first subject was herself along with the people around her is fascinating. This still reflects in her work. Her oeuvre consists of a wide array of self-portraits each one embodying its own persona, I ask her about this, “The thing is I only ever shoot self-portraits in my bedroom, it's the place where I’m most comfortable. Once I step out I just unconsciously put up a wall so that's the only place where I can really actually take my self-portraits and be myself.”

Self, 2017.

“I usually only ever shoot self-portraits when I feel a certain emotion or sometimes I can’t explain how I’m feeling and that pushes me towards my camera and I’m trying to force myself to sort of either leave the emotion I’m feeling or acknowledge it or understand what exactly I’m feeling. So sometimes I may feel hysterical or I might feel insanely depressed and when I begin to take a self-portrait the emotion I’m feeling almost becomes a character. Then when I photograph it and I see it after, it’s almost like a different facet of me, the different emotions are almost like different people.”

Self, 2017.

While we discuss her self-portraits, I point out one in particular that struck something in me. Her Dissociation Series from 2017. The emotion that I got from that set had reminded me of what I felt the first time I saw Francesca Woodman’s work, also self-portraits. I point this out to her. “For Dissociation, I did for my foundation course, I think that was the most emotional project I’ve had to do. For that one I had originally started a series where I was taking pictures of strangers and they were also supposed to be people of colour but in the middle of that, beginning of 2017 April or January technically but April I got tuberculosis and I had slowly started to deteriorate, so I was slowly dying and every time I went to the hospital they misdiagnosed me at least three times before I finally saw a doctor and he was  like “oh shit you’re dying” ”, at this point she let’s out a sardonic huff of laughter.

Dissociation, 2017.

“After I got diagnosed properly my life just went downhill from there and I’m still recovering till now but more emotionally and mentally. I spent maybe about 5 months in isolation and while I was in the hospital, I spent a month in isolation, they wouldn’t let me leave my hospital room so I couldn’t step outside the door. After a while being away from people for so long I couldn’t go on social media cause it was so weird, seeing healthy people just made me really upset cause it was like I’m here, dying and everybody else is just so healthy and the things they were talking about, none of it was important to me. After a while, apart from the physical deterioration cause I had lost like 20kg in a month, my not being with people, being stuck in that room I could just feel myself almost, pretty much dissociating. From the medication I was on to the way I felt, it was like I was having out of body experiences throughout and I tried to express that in the series, Dissociation. So I used a long exposure to almost represent how my soul was sort of leaving my body but going back in at the same time constantly and I was in that constant motion and my senses and being and everything just not being in one place and just moving around over and over.” There’s a brief moment of silence while I stumble for words to say, we both laugh easing the tension from the weighted story behind the series. The whole time I had searched for something in her voice to discern what recounting this story was making her feel but she had said it in the same way she’d said everything else. I sit quite simply terrified more so because I had sensed it comparing her work to Woodman’s, a troubled woman who had taken her own life at the young age of 23, she had also used long exposure times in her self-portraits trying to convey her own emotions. It easily haunted me, that I had made that link without even knowing. I tell Briggs this and she just simply agrees, we press on with the interview nonetheless.

Francesca Woodman. Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italy, 1978.

I talk about her portraits and the vague but ironically precise aura that emanates from the images she takes of people, “I try to shoot only strangers so the people I shoot, I meet them on the day of the shoot. When I shoot strangers, I’m trying to portray them how I see them so if you saw them you would just see a normal person but then I don’t look for any specific things about them. I just see someone and there might just be something about them, their face or… it’s usually based on how they look but not in a materialistic way, kind of just maybe their features and they are really just normal people but I try to show that less, almost in an ethereal sense, I try to show what I see when I take portraits.”

Jordan, 2017.

Briggs’ photography in a sense, is a memoir of herself, an exploration of her expressions. Her camera acts as a mirror, be it in the literal sense where she takes self-portraits or more abstractly where she shows herself through the subjects in her portraits. She moves to her camera, using it as a form of articulation of some of the darkest moments in her life and it is the honesty and bravery in the way she uses it that makes her work all so compelling and noteworthy.

You can discover and follow more of Briggs' work through her Instagram. Thank you for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Good artcile, but it would be better if in future you can share more about this subject. Keep posting.
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