Some will know Ellen Virgona for her fashion photography. Favouring film, and having collaborated with clients like Gucci, Miu Miu, Em on Holiday and even RUSSH, her work has this feeling of being behind the scenes, of moments captured mid-breath. For Four Seasons, Virgona's upcoming show at China Heights Gallery, the photographer will exhibit an intimate black and white series she began working on, unbeknownst to even herself, in the wake of her mother's passing.
After her mother's death, Virgona explains how she "felt an urgency to document as much as possible". "In my family, it was rare to take photographs aside from on special occasions — a birthday, Christmas or the odd school event," she continued. But following her personal tragedy, "It was as if every instant had to be savoured," Virgona said. "I began to photograph everything: loved ones, good moments, bad moments and the uncomfortable."
Comprising of seven blown up photographs and a tangerine orange photobook, Four Seasons is the product of a decades worth of images. Each one is rendered with the same tenderness and impulsive nature that has become a signature of her commercial work. When the question of how to organise the images in the photobook arose, the solution was found in something as natural and almost banal as the seasons, whose cyclical nature Virgona compares to her own grief.
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"I often wonder if we can really recognise happiness without suffering?" she questions. "All things become more clear when compared. Seeing the dismal and the beautiful together in this way, laying them alongside each other like awkward cousins, has helped me learn to structure my grief. Like the seasons, mourning is cyclical. The only reliable thing about it is that it always resurges."
And so, the photobook is placed into chapters ordered by the seasons as Virgona witnessed them in different corners of the world. See them for yourself at the opening night of Four Seasons by Ellen Virgona on April 8 at China Heights Gallery. The exhibition will continue through to May 1, 2022.
Ellen Virgona 'Gabriella & Max, Kings Cross, 2021'
Ellen Virgona 'Central Park, New York City, 2014'.
Ellen Virgona 'Mindwell, Bondi, 2020'