Interview with Cig Harvey: You Look At Me Like an Emergency

Opening on the 14 November at the Robin Rice Gallery in New York, Cig Harvey will be launching installation exhibition, You Look at me Like an Emergency, based around her best selling photographic book of the same name. The exhibition is set up to mimic the book and allow the audience the experience of walking through it, even the cover of the book is replicated in the large white title stuck onto the red back wall. Drawn into a world of stories of relationship failures, falling in love and adjusting to motherhood the viewers will be struck by the vivid colours and perfect compositions of Harvey’s friends, family and found objects. Previously featured in Aesthetica 48, Harvey speaks to Aesthetica about her first photos and her desire to exhibit in the UK.A: Please explain the idea behind the unusual title of your book and the exhibition, You Look at me Like an Emergency.
CH: The title came from a stare this guy gave me as we crossed paths one day. We ended up getting married. How delicious is that?

A: Can you remember the first photo you ever took?
CH: Less a specific photo and more a particular roll of film. At the age of 12 or 13, I shadowed a photographer for a day and we drove around, pulling over every five minutes to make pictures of things that intrigued us. I was hooked. The next day I joined the local community darkroom and signed up for life. I’ve spent a part of each day since making or planning how to tell stories through photographs, making the unseen seen.

A: The faces of your subjects are often hidden, why is that?
CH: I used it as a device to make the image more anonymous, so less about one person and more about the idea behind the work. I’ve always been interested in what is universal and timeless in a portrait. In many ways it is sort of the anti-portrait, in that, the overall emotion of the piece is not necessary specific or exclusive to the person I’m making the picture of. I have challenged myself in the last few years to do that with the person’s identity fully shown.

A: What do you want the viewers to experience when they are looking at your work?
CH: I want the viewer to be physically drawn to a piece, both aesthetically and because the content somehow resonates deep with them. The stories told in You Look At Me Like An Emergency are very common everyday ones, about fear and mistakes, love and courage, a search for identity and a home.

A: Which artists and photographers have particularly inspired you?
CH: The list is endless. Although primarily, I’m drawn to artists from a wide variety of media, literature, music and the visual arts, who use the personal to tap into the universal.

A: Is there anywhere you’d particularly like to exhibit in the future?
CH: I have to admit, I would really I would really really love to get gallery representation or a show in the UK!

You Look At Me Like An Emergency, 14 November until 30 December, Robin Rice Gallery, New York City 325 West 11th Street, NY 10014.

1. The Channel Marker, courtesy of Cig Harvey and the Robin Rice Gallery.
2. The Day Dream, courtesy of Cig Harvey and the Robin Rice Gallery.
3. Annemarie, courtesy of Cig Harvey and the Robin Rice Gallery.
4. Doug and Harriet, courtesy of Cig Harvey and the Robin Rice Gallery.
5. Palm Tree, courtesy of Cig Harvey and the Robin Rice Gallery.