Persona by Chris Turner
Celeste Wong is an actress, barista, traveller and entrepreneur, and has been a friend of mine for over ten years. Some time ago we made a short film called G(O)OD+(D)EVIL, which was a study of the duality of identity, the dark and light aspects of a single character. This project saw us working together under our primary job titles – myself as director, and Celeste as actor.
But is anybody defined by a single role anymore?
As well as being a filmmaker, I take pictures. I returned to shooting stills on film a few years ago, after a ten year hiatus. People I worked with were carrying 35mm cameras around and at first I couldn’t grasp why they preferred it to the convenience of digital. But as soon as I bought a cheap little Canonet from eBay to play around with, I was hooked again.
It was good to reconnect with the principals of photography. To actually work out the exposure rather than lazily switching to automatic. To consider composition in more detail, and really think about whether or not something was worth capturing for a couple of frames, instead of firing off 25 or more shots whilst promising to myself to edit them later.
Aside from the technical and creative connotations, I genuinely believe that returning to film has made me a calmer person. It may sound ridiculous, but the process has forced me to become more patient and – I think – deal with stress a little better. I might use a film up in a day, or it could stay in my camera for a month. I no longer feel the need to see the images immediately, and the end results are in no way guaranteed, especially when using a rangefinder camera and black and white film, ‘what you see’ is definitely not always ‘what you get’. I’m fine with that.
I enjoy shooting people, but – for the moment at least – I don’t have any interest in creating heavily art directed or studio lit imagery – it just feels too much like what I do for a job. So when I shoot portraits, I ask people to come as they wish to be seen. I don’t want to brief them on what to wear, or how to do their make up. I just want to be presented with a subject, and try to find a nice way to capture them, using available light.
I think this may have driven Celeste a little bit crazy during the run up to taking these pictures. As an actor, she’s used to playing a part, and even her Instagram feed @the_girl_in_the_cafe – despite being a reflection of her true self – still focuses on emphasised aspects of her character through the tinted window of social media. So when she asked me to send her ideas about what kind of thing I wanted to shoot, I was resistant, probably frustratingly so. I wanted her to take the lead as to how she wanted to represent herself.
Some of the images play on my insecurities as a woman, and a woman getting older, but you can’t hide from the truth, and surprisingly I quite like that. I think these photos represent and capture the many sides of who I am, both in spirit and physically. – Celeste
Film photography has become the other side of what I do as a director. Less about art direction and more about observation, and with no pressure to deliver specific results. And without the immediacy and flexibility of digital technology, not to mention the filters and touch-screen editing, I find the images I get back a few days – or even weeks – later, much more honest, if a little less perfect.
Favourite Colour: BLACK is Chris Turner – Commercial, music video and film director.
Recent film projects have screened at the London Short Film Festival, Short & Sweet, The Berlin Fashion Film Festival, onedotzero, ASVOFF Paris, The BFI Gothic Season and The San Francisco Dance Film Festival.
Chris has worked with many commercial clients including Jaguar, Adidas, BMW, Sony and Sprint, and artists such as Birdy, Hurts, Jay-Z, Editors, Corinne Bailey Rae and Gazelle Twin. His work has won both One Show Gold and D&AD awards.