Steven Beckly – Single Rooms
“Single Rooms is a series of images exploring the interdependent relationship between home and identity, stemming from my experiences of inhabiting separate spaces simultaneously. These disconnected environments influenced my emotions, thoughts, and behaviour differently, resulting in an awareness of divisions in my identity, and accompanying feelings of unease, instability, and impermanence. My homes were separate but equal extensions of my identity, and I began to think as much about their influence on me as my influence on them. These ideas inspired me to explore the home-identity relationship when a stable and permanent environment defined as ‘home’ is removed.
Rented rooms in motels, hotels, and inns were used as the settings for the photographs, as they function as temporary homes. Subjects were given a few hours to inhabit their rooms, and encouraged to draw inspiration from their environments for a character to depict. From these new relationships they established with their surroundings, transitory characters were created from these transitory spaces. The ambiguous identities formed from the negotiations between the subjects and their environments form both the content of and context for the images.
The construct of ‘home’ emerges from the assertion of our identity into physical space. This series explores the degree to which our identities are influenced by the environments we choose to inhabit, and emphasizes the interdependent nature of this relationship.”
How were the models chosen? Did you have a casting or they are your friends?
I have a relationship with each of the models in some way or another. Some are close friends, others are friends of friends, family members, etc. It’s always surprising to me how open people are to be photographed.
How were the rooms chosen? The models chose them or did you?
I spent some time scouting for motels around Toronto. If they looked interesting from the outside, I asked the front desk if I could take a look at their rooms. You can tell immediately if a space has an interesting history, so it was really easy to decide whether or not a room was good to photograph in.
How did the matching of the rooms with the people happen?
It was sort of half spontaneous and half pre-meditated. I had ideas of what I wanted from each subject, but those frameworks had to be flexible, because the series, at the heart of it, is about how our identities are shaped by the spaces we choose to inhabit.
You let the subjects inhabit the rooms for a few hours and come up with a character before you took the pictures. Do these images represent what the people were actually doing or felt like when you came to take the photographs, or did you set them as they are?
It was a collaborative effort. I tried to keep my input as minimal as possible, stepping in only when my models needed me to. It wasn’t a surprise that the more time they spent in their respective spaces, the more comfortable they were with taking control and making decisions. When it got to the point when all I had to do was click the shutter, then I knew we made some good photographs.
interviewed by Andreea Cioran