Photo Essay: Justin Tyler Close Documents The Breakdown Of A Relationship
All the pieces, pieces, pieces of me.
LA-based photographer Justin Tyler Close recently went through a break-up, but instead of getting under the sheets and throwing chocolates at the TV (because who actually does that) he decided to document it. Gathering objects that reminded him of his ex-boo, Justin created diptychs on silk that capture the conflicting feelings that exist at every stage of a relationship. We hit up Justin to chat about ch-ch-ch-changes, romantic trauma and creating cathartic work.
Name: Justin Tyler Close
Star sign: Libra
Where did you grow up and where are you living now?
I grew up in a suburb outside of Toronto, Canada. I now live in Los Angeles, CA.
How did those places influence you/your work?
I'm not sure how my hometown has influenced my photo work, I don't think it has actually. Although I would love to go back and re-discover my birth place with a new lens. But when I'm writing poetry or short stories, the characters and the people I used to know always find their way into the story somehow; how they talk or what we used to get into as kids, etc… I think it's subtle but still exists.
LA is really inspiring right now. I think we're going through a time of new beginnings and a lot or artists feel it. Aside from the obvious, I pull a lot from nature and the atmosphere around me in LA cause it's a wild jungle of concrete and cactus.
What were you like in high school?
I was much different back then, as we all were. I've gone through very strong transitions in my life, as if I played these different characters. In high school I was a little gangster, bald head and hoop earrings, all I did was smoke weed and play basketball… that's all I cared about. I was an athlete and didn't do much of art but always was intrigued by the artist's life. School just wasn't for me in general though, I need to be out in the world learning on my own — that's when I either truly fall in love or realise it's not for me. My kids will have a much different education then I did.
In what ways have you changed since then?
I grew up! I realised a truer meaning of life and have been chasing that feeling ever since.
Who was your first crush?
What's been your most traumatic romantic experience?
All love and romance that ends is traumatic. At least for me.
Can you tell us how the 'Relationship' series came about?
I recently had a break-up and for therapeutic reasons I started collecting all the items that reminded me of her and photographing them. I didn't have any plan to showcase the images anywhere and was shooting purely for distraction. Really it's just about turning an internal pain or feeling into a physical object. I was chasing some kind of redemption I think, not sure if I got it?
Did you find the process of creating this work cathartic?
I really did; I cried; I laughed; I got mad. I don't think it's my most brilliant work to date but I like how each person makes up their own meanings behind each pairing. That's a good story. For me it's something to look back on and enjoy, like a diary entry.
Are all the objects deeply personal to you or were you also thinking about what would work on a more universal level?
To be honest… I didn't really think that much about it. I bought some stuff and collected items from my storage locker that made me think of her and just started experimenting with how two images together could mean one thing, like a diptych. The items themselves aren't that personal to me but the stories behind them are. I had no idea what would come of it and actually just wanted to feel better about myself. Doing this type of work always feels like a form of therapy because when I look back at the process of actually shooting it, I really don't remember much — almost like I blacked out and woke up again.
Well if it's a dream, I think if you could breathe under water, that'd be a cool date.
If people were to take one thing away from this work, what would you want it to be?
I think people should create their own meanings. Maybe it will inspire others to look at the items in their own relationships differently?
What's your idea of utopia?
The feeling of freedom.
Words to live by:
"You are the sky, everything else — it's just the weather" — Pema Chödrön
Photography: Justin Tyler Close