Chloe Lelliott is a British photographer based in the south east she is a founding member of the photography collective MAP6 (2012) who collaborate on projects and have exhibited widely throughout the UK and abroad.
Chloe’s work revolves around our experience of place, how we both navigate and construct spaces physically and psychologically. Her interests lie in the imaginative potential of spaces and the ways in which our personal and collective histories help us to construct narratives around them.
Map 6 Collective
Chloe Lelliott – A Poetics of Place
The literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin suggested that there were certain places in the world in which time and space were entangled and enmeshed in a particularly intense way. In these places, he suggested, time thickened and became palpable. Such places, appearing often in fiction and film, could provide us with an intensity of experience that opened up the world of metaphor and suggested reverie – he talked for instance about roads as sites of pilgrimage and surprise encounters, of castles as sites of history and fortification, and of the nineteenth century salon as a site for the production of internal subjectivity. He called such sites ‘chronotopes’ – places that held time and space in suspension and where stories and narratives were knotted together with a sharpened intensity. Perhaps one such place that we might recognise is the hotel lobby. This place became a key figure in the writings of the German philosopher Siegried Kracauer who saw it as a brilliant symbol for modernity – a heterotopic space in which different interests and economies would collide, and through which innumerable different types of people would pass, wait, briefly encounter each other. This, for Kracauer, was a space that characterised both the values of consumption and exchange, and celebration, but also of alienation and anonymity and transience. And we can see how, as a defined space, it operates a little like a chronotope: each of the people who pass through the hotel lobby trails with them their own story, briefly and intricately threading their way through the loose web of other people’s stories, all held together by the specific architecture of the building.
In Halcion Lounge Chloe Lelliott managed to capture exactly this sense of a bounded, intense, suspended reality. In her photographs the marbled floors, rising staircases, suffocating carpets, radiating corridors of the modern hotel with its faux pillars and chandeliers have a theatrical presence; the hotel provides us with a stage across which we briefly wander- whether as businessmen, tourists, lovers, or as waitresses, chambermaids and doormen. Her photographs document the mysterious beauty of these places, both when they are empty, full of suspended meaning, and when people actually inhabit them, by sitting on sofas, disappearing through doors, or lingering in the penumbra of designer lamps. Her subtle pictures point to a truth that only photography can really communicate – that in these moments of encounter people and places are as one. We only really understand the essence of the sofa in the hotel lobby when we see the visitor lying listlessly on it waiting for his appointment, and he, conversely, can only be understood as a figure who gives the space meaning and brings it into a sharpened focus. This kind of image-making can be seen as a kind of poetics of place, the close observation of a few moments of encounter between people and places that reveal the submerged shape of a collective experience that is otherwise unarticulated, lost to silence.
The Moscow Metro can be seen as another such intense site or chronotope. It was built in the 1930s by Stalin as a kind of peoples’ palace that would represent a utopian vision of a new modern urban cityscape, and also all the splendours of the arts that had previously been known only by the aristocracy. The underground stations that he constructed were unparalleled in their splendour and grandeur – they were graced by huge archways, grand pillars, ornate decorative friezes and opulent gilt. They were splendid in every sense of the term. The underground station, like the hotel lobby, is a site that is dense with complexity and riven by contradiction: millions of people stream down these corridors every day, but each of them is strangely solitary; they are driven by their own destinies and their own timetables, focusing on the world without, yet they are simultaneously locked into this subterranean network of hallways and tunnels. The station provides architecture that structures who they are and completely enfolds them for this short period of time.
In her series Subterranean Lelliott has chosen to photograph the Metro when it is relatively empty, exposing the lavish hubris of the decorations in this extraordinary theatre of subterranean life. The people who pass through these stations every day each awaken it in their own way, whether staring though the window of a train, clinging to a pillar, making a picture in a photobooth, or passing up an escalator or under a light. These small events are pictures that tell us about the way we engage with place and are made by it. They have a poetic force that reminds us that the everyday is both beautiful and mysterious. They remind us that the most ephemeral of observations or transient encounters can suggest some truth about the mystery of how we are fundamentally and intricately entangled in the complexity of space and time. This is a form of photography that is gentle in its understatement, and wedded to ideas of beauty and transfiguration, but it also reminds us, that such moments, in their beauty, are also profound.
Anne Braybon ( Photography Commissioner for The National Portrait Gallery)
Halcion Lounge – For Source 2012_
”Lelliott uses precisely selected locations, careful crafting and the cumulative strength of the series to make a potent and allusive body of work. I love the framing – corners, doors, a slightly off kilter viewpoint, the threatening intersection of a staircase, the aggressive angle of a floor tile – that opens up many potential narratives.”