Colin Pantall

© Colin Pantall

I promised to write about Colin Pantall's work, and I have to say I'm drawn to so many of his images that it was difficult to choose which to include as examples in this post. I decided to go for one from each of his series: Flora, Life on Mars, and Sofa Portraits. If you haven't already, I hope you'll visit his website and spend time with his photographs; additionally his statements for each series are wonderfully well-written and add even more to his work.

I've enjoyed seeing his recent images from Life on Mars, and feel that his bodies of work inform each other and bring out new ways of interpreting each. Throughout all of them what strikes me is his daughter Isabel's expression, which moves between being strong and ethereal--in some images she seems wise beyond her years, in others she's more vulnerable and innocent. As Pantall writes: "Isabel is conscious and unconscious, here but not here." Further, the interaction between Isabel and the spaces she inhabits--be they interiors or the world at large--feels both timeless and contemporary, and I think all of his photographs come across as being deeply allegorical.

What I also find powerful about the Sofa Portraits in particular is that the camera isn't fixed: Pantall moves around the space, sometimes going in for a more intimate look, sometimes pulling back as an observer. What I find so compelling is the play between this subtle movement within the room (in a few of the images the couch is in a different place, perhaps even another house), along with Isabel's movement as she stands, sits, and lies on the sofa. Then there is a shifting in the background of the everyday objects behind the couch--we become privy to the quotidian beauty of the messes, and Isabel herself represents this too, with her typical childhood scrapes and stained clothing. The sofa itself is also well-worn and becomes a character in its own right.

Overall the quiet complexity of Pantall's images is remarkable. I find myself returning to his site often, and each time I discover new layers. This is what the best photography provides: multiple readings and a depth in things that at first can appear to be as simple as a young girl on a sofa. He also maintains a great blog that you can see here.


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