A pair of Prada shoes peeking with intent over the edge of a bridge, contemplating the water below. That much is unambiguous; but where the path forks, where the result is unknown, is in the final moment. Does the bridge pull the wearer of the shoes back from the brink? Or does the water prevail?
Remi Rebillard‘s latest shoot Fragmentary Girl takes on the very serious subject matter of depression. In viewing it two things spring to my mind. One is the film Abbey Lee Kershaw starred in for Ryan Mcginley, and the fire she came under for partaking in something that glamorised suicide. The other is an article I read recently by Michael Paterniti about suicide in the Chinese city of Nanjing, and the story of Mr Chen the suicide catcher who patrols the bridge looking for jumpers. Chen is a kind of rough angel on a self-assigned mission; a mission of pulling people back from the brink.
The reality is that we all have those days when we’d rather curl up in a ball and hide from the world. Where gazing upon the most minute of tasks feels like we’re standing at the bottom of Mount Everest. When we might be more than usually inclined to heed that siren’s call of, what Paterniti in his article poetically yet chillingly terms, ‘the hungry ghost below’. Rebillard captures that sentiment well. But is it a glamorization of suicide?
I don’t think it is. Rebillard may reference Sylvia Plath but his inspirations are personal, and his penchant for putting emotion into his work makes it all the stronger. The mood of the shots is something we can likely all relate to, yet the photo series itself is something we can stand back from and view as an outsider… where we don’t want to be in the model’s shoes but rather want to watch the story unfold and have it end on a brighter note. Like Paterniti’s article, Rebillard’s shoot leaves me feeling like, as much as the battle exists, the choice is always ours to be beaten. And I think, sometimes, when we have that paradigm shift in viewing others from afar, in wanting to take them by the shoulders and shake them back to reality, to tell them it’s all OK, we can suddenly apply the same view to ourselves.
Rebillard leaves the outcome of the story up to the viewer, ending the shoot on the dizzying image of the Prada shoes. I’d like to think the open-ended nature of the shoot is a sign that there’s always hope. It’s the closing of one day; but there can always be a brighter day tomorrow.
Click on the gallery below for the full shoot. Visit http://www.remirebillard.com/ for more of Remi’s work.