Artists in Residence is a collaborative project curated by Yarra Valley photographer Suzanne Phoenix. In a time when the fate of the music industry hanged in the balance, this project gave many creatives the opportunity to connect, collaborate and create in their own homes.
The virtual portrait series involved 52 Victorian artists who connected with Suzanne over three weeks of Zoom photoshoots, calls and chats.
“I missed my friends,” explains Suzanne to The Real Songwriters of Melbourne. “I missed my creative circles and the chance to create and collaborate. Living in the Yarra Valley, the 5km restriction after many months of already not being able to go far meant I could see no way to continue to photograph with people.”
The project also gave artists the ability to transform their photos into any creative form they liked, whether it be digitally illustrating the photo, sewing, planting and watering it and more. They were also invited to share their experience about their time in lockdown and how it has affected their livelihood, mental health and work in the arts industry.
Singer/songwriter Carla Troiano encapsulated her love for dressing up and “being in character” as a performer through her piece, “A Beautiful Mess.” The Mayfield frontwoman used this opportunity to glam up in a sexy leather frock as she aimed to promote self acceptance and self love through her portrait.
“I’ve grown a lot personally behind closed doors over these lockdown months. I’ve been someone who has often struggled with body image, self-acceptance and loving myself. That has been my silver lining this year. I feel really positive about many things about myself. I guess, that’s what happens when you can’t control an external world. You control yourself. So I wanted to be sexy AF because that’s how I feel and I don’t think we need to apologise for it and dislike ourselves.”
With photographers adjusting to the norm of shooting through Zoom, Suzanne describes the experience as similar to a real life shoot. She explains that there is still the feeling of nervousness from her subjects as together they figured out where the perfect backdrop for the photo should be in the artist’s house. Undoubtedly, the challenge of presenting an image that was taken by a camera through a computer screen meant that Suzanne had to accustom herself to a new way of presenting high quality images.
All artists involved have either been a part of a previous collaboration with Suzanne, individuals that the photographer admired herself or just simply friends that wanted to be involved. The Bamboos vocalist Kylie Auldist was previously photographed by Suzanne in celebration of International Women’s Day in which she was part of a series of black and white head shots displayed in a Melbourne CBD laneway.
“A lot of musicians have had to take different jobs. A lot of art has been lost. I’m so grateful to Suzanne for the opportunity to be involved in making art at any time! Lockdown just made it more special,” says Kylie.
The Artists for Residence series was released in conjunction with ‘Festival of Strong,’ a month long event that promoted mental health awareness. Available now for the public to purchase, a portion of profits will be donated to the National Association for the Visual Arts.
“Nearly all of these meetings and conversations would simply not have occurred without the excuse of this project. Creating and holding space for these discussions was an important part of the process. Connection with other artists was empowering.“
You can visit Suzanne’s website here