Aëla Labbé’s photographs draw in the viewer with her haunting quiet images. Studying her pieces more closely, that quietness evolves into a wealth of conflicting emotions. Nowhere is this truer than in her winning piece, New Direction. Part of an ongoing series of self-portraits, it can either provoke a very curious response or, more likely, a very tense and uncomfortable feeling for the viewer. Like other images in this series, New Direction features Labbé contorting herself into an unnatural position while hiding a part of her body. It is precisely that discomfort, present in much of her work, which causes Labbé’s work to stand out.
Juror's Choice: New Direction
As Labbé describes her work:
My work is intimately influenced by my surrounding and life experiences, my dreams as well as my deeper and most peculiar feelings; it is filled with something that wavers between sorrowfulness and poignant delight. These self-portraits reveal all the complexities and these paradoxes I’m made of, an intangible thing I can feel and understand but hardly articulate with words.
Her success in presenting these complex emotions and dreams may stem from Labbé’s use of her skills as a contemporary dancer to “choreograph” each scene. “Choosing quite extreme and ‘unusual’ moves, playing with my own limits and flexibility, using my dancing skills of composition, I tried to combine both mediums to create one singular mode of expression.” Feelings she cannot articulate with words are instead communicated with body language, which Labbé says is the motivation driving the series.
Self Conscious Quirkiness
Her work is influenced not only by her own emotions and dreams, but also by her family. Specifically, Labbé’s nephews inspire her to explore the experience of being a child.
It was thanks to them that childhood has become a recurrent and determinant theme in my work. It is based on a different vision that aims to show a darker side, and mystery, through unconventional representations of the early time of life. I feel deeply touched and inspired by their imaginary world; we grow and create together.
Waiting For Sleep to Come
With such personal meaning behind her art Labbé is certainly pleased by the attention it has garnered both in the United States in her home country of France. Despite this, the purpose of her work is not to gain approval from others. “I’m not creating to ‘fit’ somewhere, the goal and the need after which I go unwaveringly is to share my vision and my emotions with others.” It will undoubtedly be exciting to see where she takes her photography next.