Portrait, Projects

Charting the emotional journey of a young broken-hearted woman

All images from the series Another November © Laura Stevens

After Laura Stevens went through a break up, she visualised her emotions in a series of painterly portraits.

“There was this weight and urgency of needing to express what was happening,” says 37-year-old photographer Laura Stevens, recalling the familiar feelings of pain and confusion following the end of significant relationship two years ago, which inspired her series of portraits, titled Another November.

“I was paralysed with feelings of loss, and it was as if this project was my escape route, a way to navigate me back to myself,” she says.

“The series is a visual narrative on life after the end of a relationship, exploring how one copes with heartbreak and the loss of love.”

Rather than placing herself in the images, Stevens chose to cast other women – friends and occasionally people she’d met – and directed them to “portray the gradual emotional and circumstantial stages along the well-trodden track of the broken-hearted”.

She decided straightaway that she would only photograph women of a similar age to her who were living in Paris, her home city, “to create obvious parallels”; women who could ultimately be seen as just one woman, she says.

“With this being such a personal and melancholy subject, I felt it could be shared more easily by using multiple identities, dispersed gestures and making the images to have a more palatable visual form than the reality,” she says. “I approached women in the street when I perceived a sensibility in them that could work for the series.”

Inspired by what she calls the language of painting, English-born Stevens worked on the series over a period of six months. During this time, she photographed her subjects mainly in their apartments, drawing on the domesticity of these settings, which becomes a key component in the images.

The scenes are familiar – a woman holds a cigarette and stares out of a window, while another sits hopelessly at a table, a vacant expression on her face. But there is a quiet and slightly sinister melodrama to the images, which the photographer accentuates through the use of artificial lighting. This, she says, also helps to create a psychological tension within the photographs.

“I staged scenes using these women to enact the slow steps of adjustment towards acceptance and a renewed personal identity as a single person,” she says.

“It is a project about nostalgia and the passage of time; time acquires a different meaning and pace when one experiences loss… Each day you fight to acquire different habits for a new self.”

See more of Laura’s work here.

Stay up to date with stories such as this, delivered to your inbox every Friday.