Imogen Wilson's lens on the world is phantasmagorical by nature. Not that this was ever her intention. The photographer, stylist and director at Mimi Casting only began to notice the colour in her work in the last two years. “It’s just how my eyes work,” she explains. Wilson’s photos are drenched in milky pastels and turbo primary tones, though they can appear faded and hazy, an appealing quality of the film she works with.
This time last year Wilson completed a series she began working on as early as 2019, spanning Brisbane and Tokyo. She describes the period working on it as a "blur", creating it in a world before we learned the hard way that global disease is not just a thing exclusive to apocalypse films.
Recently, with the help of Bad News Books, Wilson bound these photographs into a new tome entitled Dreams. The pages reveal her playful and hypnotic worldview, peppered with intimate portraits of faces from varying subcultures, moments of introspection, and the physical environments of our post-internet lives.
Upon the publication of Dreams, RUSSH spoke to Imogen Wilson about the month she spent travelling Japan, the importance of creating safe spaces for her subjects, and the music she imagines would accompany her new photography book. Find our conversation, below.
Describe your photography style in three words…
Just for fun.
Why did you want to make Dreams? Tell me about how you landed on the name?
Dreams came from me sitting on a series of personal photos that I didn’t want to outright share with the world, in a time that felt exciting and new to me. I had been chatting to Harry from Bad News Books for a few years, and it came into place really naturally. I finished the series in Brisbane this time last year, with the cover girls, Belly, Ella and Emily, that was the only shoot that was really planned. The title came from Flossy (Hayley Morris) who worked on the Typography & Art Direction for the project. Most of the moments in the book feel much like a dream for me, and a moment in time, the majority were from pre-covid adventures and feel like a beautiful blur.
What was your first camera?
As a kid, I remember the Polaroid i-Zone.
If Dreams was given a soundtrack, what songs would appear on it?
This is for me [Baby Blue] Planet 1999 remix - Banoffee
Tell me about your time in Japan when some of these images were shot?
Japan was my favourite holiday. I flew over in 2019 and spent a month there, including two weeks in Tokyo. I’d just walk around Tokyo for hours, listening to music, people watching. I was so overstimulated I hardly ate till 2 pm most days. The Japanese culture and people totally restored my faith in humans, at the time my mental health wasn’t its best and it really saved me. My experience totally refreshed my mind. Visually, everything was how I’d love it to be. Socially, I’d never felt so safe. Good manners were valued. There was a perfect contrast between calm and chaos. When I was shooting Mania, she invited me into her family home, where she lived with her mother and grandmother, 40 minutes outside of Tokyo. Her grandmother didn’t speak English but she invited me in with the biggest smile and we ate red bean pancakes, had tea and watched TV. Maina said her grandmother had put on makeup that day for the first time in a long time for my visit, along with a huge smile, it was a really special feeling being welcomed so beautifully by someone who only just met me.
I love the pregnancy images. Is there a story behind them?
I first met Madison when I took these photos, in early 2019. I think this is where the series started. It was an hour out of Melbourne, she was heavily pregnant and preparing for Maimie. The nursery was all set up with cute toys and name decor, ready for her to arrive. These photos have become more special with time, for Mad, and me, it feels like forever ago.
What is it about youth culture and subculture that you’re drawn to?
Those with a strong sense of individuality sparkle to me. I guess sub/youth cultures tend to sit in this world pretty obviously. I love people with a unique take on their own world and their approach to understanding others. Those able to express themselves through their style, words and actions, creatively and positively, whilst not taking themselves too seriously. Those with a refreshing awareness towards the media they consume and who are smart about whom they surround themselves with daily.
Colour is a staple of your work. When did you notice this for yourself?
Only in the last year or two, surprisingly, it is something that has always been a huge part of my work but has never been as planned as people think. It’s just how my eyes work. The tones of colour are more important to me than the “colours” themselves, alongside how the light falls and reflects through and on them.
What is the key to creating intimacy in photographs?
Overplaying a relatable and relaxed version of myself is key to creating a safe space for my subjects. Nothing magical comes from intimidation or unnecessary insecurity. Removing as many pressures from the experience, for myself and whoever is in front of the camera. It is important to be friendly and read the room. Knowing when to give strong or mild direction. Never rushing. I often chat about silly pointless talk to fill the air with a sense of un-seriousness and playfulness.