Melanie Pullen Talks “High Fashion Crime Scenes” & Paris Photo Exhibition

Melanie Pullen Phones, 2004
“I’m looking for a beginning (and) middle,” says visual artist Melanie Pullen about her acclaimed work High Fashion Crime Scenes, which can be seen Friday May 1 through May 3rd at the Paris Photo Exhibition in Paramount Studios. “Something that opens the door to mystery.”

Melanie Pullen
Melanie Pullen

It’s fitting that Pullen left “the end,” when describing High Fashion Crime Scenes, as the observer plays an integral part in the narrative.

During our discussion, Pullen mentioned that some of her photo choices came from people with missing criminal files, giving the subject an ambiguity and aforementioned mystery that may compel viewers to create their own interpretations on that person’s life and tragic death.

Pullen, whose visual aesthetic is infused with traces of film noir and the audaciousness of the French New Wave, was also inspired by her grandmother’s editing eye. Her idea for “High Fashion Crime Scenes” originated in 1998, but it wasn’t until several years later (after digging into her share of police archives) that she began her ambitious project.

Dorothy - Melanie Pullen
Melanie Pullen
Dorothy , 2003
“High Fashion Crime Scenes” C-Print 48″ x 72″
Edition of 5

“The aim of High Fashion Crime Scenes is to take the viewer on a journey, to manipulate ones senses. As one views High Fashion Crime Scenes: you at first take note of the vivid colors, the shiny red shoes, the beautiful model but ultimately after you walk away you realize you were actually looking at something violently disturbing… something real, something horrid. High Fashion Crime Scenes pokes fun at the sensory exploitation employed by the media and societies’ chronic desensitization.” – Melanie Pullen

I had the pleasure of interviewing Pullen earlier this week, and the Soundcloud audio, as well as a cursory breakdown of our talk, is also below. Make sure you check out the anecdote she gives about her grandmother and the importance of how one seemingly stark photo can tell an intriguing and immersive tale:

:17 – The genesis of “High Fashion Crime Scenes” (she started research in 1998) and how it’s changed over the years.
1:19 – On the challenge of finding new and unique crime scenes. (“I’m always looking for something that tells a story”)
3:00 – Melanie Pullen on how she collaborates with her subjects. (“I’m quiet – I kind of wait for people to go through being really nervous”)
4:22 – Pullen talks about her love for the basics of editing and how an increase of technology doesn’t equate to artistic excellence.
7:08 – She gives her take on certain aspects of digital photography and how technology isn’t the most important aspect of being a creatively interesting artist and photographer.
7:56 – On what keeps her passionate about High Fashion Crime Scenes.
8:15 – Pullen talks about her grandmother’s influence on her work (she was a photo editor for Audobon). She also references a seemingly simple but acclaimed photo of a field of snow and why it stood out.
9:35 – She talks about why she’s utilized photos which had no criminal files.
11:00 – Details on the Paris Photo Los Angeles 2015. (Pullen will sign her book High Fashion Crime Scenes
on Sunday, May 2, 1-3).

To purchase tickets for Paris Photo Los Angeles 2015, click here.

For more information on Melanie Pullen and her work, please go to her official site.

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