Silverlake Voice – The Meteorite Hunter

Online Interview

Yesterday PARIS PHOTO 2014 opened at the Grand Palais in Paris. PARIS PHOTO is one of the most important art fairs in the photography industry, hosting 169 galleries and art book dealers. Within the fair The Aperture Foundation PHOTOBOOK AWARDS will take place, with its 4th edition. Rewarding one author for each of these three categories: First PhotoBook, PhotoBook of the Year and the new category Photography Catalogue of the Year. The Short Listed titles were announced earlier in October, Alexandra Lethbridge has been selected for the category “First PhotoBook” with her “The Meteorite Hunter”. We’ve interviewed Alexandra about her work and process, trying to discover more about the secret key hidden between the pages of her book…

Hi Alexandra! Congratulations for your participation at the “Paris Photo”. You must be thrilled! What was your first reaction to the news?
I was completely shocked. A friend had actually seen the announcement before me and told me so it came as a complete surprise –  although a pleasant one!

How did you come up with the idea for “The Meteorite Hunter”?
It was a long process… I had ideas about this fictional archive I wanted to create but for a long while I was too focused on the literal and began creating work about geology and geography. The work evolved when I began experimenting with the idea of the Meteorite as a metaphor for all the fantastical, fictional realms I wanted to allude to. It all just made sense.

In this work you’ve juxtaposed archive images with those created by you; what criteria did you follow?
They were selected based on their ability to illustrate the realm I was aiming to make. If I saw something and I felt I could work with it and create something else from it or that perhaps it would act as an anchor to the work, I kept it in. There wasn’t a rigid criteria as such.

How long did the research of images and meteorites take you and where did you search them?
Collecting and searching for the material was never ending but it was a real labour of love. I get very excited at the prospect of what I might find and where that will lead. A lot of the images I used as reference material or images to work on came from places like Ebay, car boot sales and even NASA’s online image archive.

“I think I’m always searching for the mythical and otherworldly. Something that’s in plain sight but transports us to other worlds.”

Is there an episode happened during your research you remember the most?
I think the most memorable progress was one I mentioned earlier about using the idea of the meteorite. The work up until that point, felt difficult, I was almost fighting it at points, but once I became clear on that, it began to flow and come together really easily.

Blue, green, yellow and pink, these are the colors of your book; why did you choose them?
They represent some of the rocks in the book and I wanted to keep the covers bright and colourful, as the work is.

The key to the book is tucked inside the cover: could you unveil something about that?
The key is the most important part of tying the work together. For me, if all the images and rocks allude to this fictional, extraterrestrial place, the key cements it in the factual. In hiding at either end of the book, you can search through the whole sequence of images before it’s revealed to you the location or source of these images.

As you wrote “The job of a Meteorite Hunter is one of patience, understanding”. What did you learn from your book?
I definitely learnt patience. This body of work has been a real learning curve in my own practice and having patience in myself. I’ve learnt to trust my own instincts and follow my ideas all the way to the end, as they have a tendency to evolve beyond anything I can plan for!

What’s your “meteorite”? What do you search everyday?
I think I’m always searching for the mythical and otherworldly. Something that’s in plain sight but transports us to other worlds.

“Lush, bordering on the indulgent, layering images printed on vellum pages to beautiful and ethereal effect”
Paris Photo / Aperture Foundation