On Rhythms. Mel Bles
In unmediated movement, Mel Bles sees freedom, simplicity and universality. The artist has created a series of short films and risograph prints which seek to document exactly this; women, who are not dancers, using their bodies to express joy, magic and meaning. “Over the last ten years of working as a photographer I’ve found my best work often comes from the bravery of just initiating something unplanned and seeing where it takes me.”
Photography and Film
Beauty Papers: What was the last beautiful thing you saw?
Mel Bles: The Atlantic Ocean at the start of Autumn, from the water, having a surf. All grey and brooding and old, with my wild, brave daughter by my side.
BP: Tell us about the On Rhythms project – where did the idea come from?
MB: It was really just the desire to explore movement in a simple, joyful and direct way. Moving the body without choreography, without training, or practice. But looking for personal expression in that moment. Over the last ten years of working as a photographer I’ve found my best work often comes from the bravery of just initiating something unplanned and seeing where it takes me. Just being brave enough to rely on instinct and a little experience, and sharing positive energy with my collaborators.
BP: Has movement always been important to you?
MB: Never important, but always interesting. As a photographer it’s incredible working with a subject that can move in a way that seduces. And I don’t mean that in a sexual way. It’s the attitude someone brings, the ability to move and communicate through their body in unique ways. A glance, a gesture, the way they sit in a chair. It’s definitely something that can’t really be learnt. It can be bold, it can be quiet, it can be elegant but it always has to be confident. The best models have it, but then it’s just so wonderful when someone comes from nowhere – a street cast model, an actor, a friend, and they bring something special like that. Their own untouched personal attitude and movement. It’s mysterious and inspiring
BP: Did you dance as a child?
MB: I did 3 ballet classes and hated it! Clubs suited me better…
BP: What music gets you moving?
MB: Beats. 4-on-the-floor or nothing.
BP: And where do you think is the best place to go dancing?
MB: Just about anywhere that’s taking you places around 2am.
BP: You chose to document On Rhythms with short films and risograph prints…
MB: As a photographer moving image is a challenge and a completely new medium to explore. I love it and it’s been amazing to take time and have the opportunities to experiment. The process and work flow is so different to stills. The set of Risographs work like a series of sketches, and I started producing them after the film had been completed. I started pulling stills from the digital files and playing with them as prints. I love working through multiple processes of print. Re-photographing and exploring surface. I had never worked with Riso before but it seemed like a good opportunity and felt right for these images.
BP: Have you always worked in a muti-media, multidisciplinary way?
MB: Yes. I love layers and process and texture. I did a degree in Graphic Design at St Martins. Mainly because I was a bit too scared to admit I wanted to be a photographer at that stage… But also because I have always been drawn to image and type and print. Basically magazine culture.
BP: What did you learn at St Martins?
MB: It was very open and all about experimenting. No one left that course with serious graphic design skill sets, but they did leave with ideas, and the knowledge that ideas, unique ideas, are what change the world and get people excited. Students graduated and became designers, film directors, stylists, artists, photographers, entrepreneurs, journalists and writers… It was pretty fantastic looking back.
BP: There is such a sense of freedom in this project. How do you navigate a sense of freedom and expression in your fashion work?
MB: It’s all about collaboration and communication. For me, a great subject isn’t afraid to look the fool or do the unexpected in front of the camera. Actually the initial inspiration came from a funny video I did of my daughter Goldie. She was just dancing like any crazy 8 year old who doesn’t give a shit, but I was filming it in slow motion, and it just looked so sculptural and beautiful. I just kept watching it again and again… It was the coolest thing. That unpretentious, real, true freedom. Boom!
BP: Do you think editorial has a social responsibility?
MB: Yes, I think fashion as a whole is about the life around us. Politics, sex, power, music, art, love, war… It’s all there. That’s what makes it so thrilling and important. Its such a document. I think we have moved into a time where the world around us is communicated more directly than ever before, and the inequalities that have plagued us for so long are clearer and louder than before. So fashion, as a voice for the people moves with the people. Its brilliant and inspiring. Can every image answer and engage with that responsibility? Of course not… But those who don’t engage in that shift will be left behind. Social understanding is the reality of now. Thank god.
BP: What does the word glamour mean to you?
MB: In all honesty… A touch of sadness.
BP: What is your first memory of glamour?
MB: The usual. Mum out on the town. And probably Cruella de Vil at the cinema age six. Wow!
BP: What is the future of glamour?
MB: I have no idea!
BP: Living, dead, real or imaginary … who has the best make-up?
MB: Bowie kind of nailed it really.