Phantasmagoria is a mixed media painting and photography series by CecilBoyd, created in a true collaboration between painter Will Boyd and photographer Hubert Cecil. The culmination of two and a half years working together, the series is an exploration of female identity – however, more broadly it becomes an acute commentary on the inner dialogues, dichotomies and imbalances experienced at times by all.
The collaboration is, in part, the evolution of an idea borne from an aesthetic Cecil developed throughout his student career in nightclub photography. His predilection for the dynamic results possible from long exposure and strobe lighting would often result in one person appearing twice in the same image. Compounded by his following years of experience working in the world of fashion photography – including for such photographers as Mario Testino, Alex Bramall and Tom Munro – the concepts and aesthetics pregnated over time working with Boyd, a painter and muralist with an inclination towards the cross-disciplinary.
In Phantasmagoria, the two artists develop this accidental aesthetic of the night club photography, replacing it with conscious decision-making and the stylistic precision identifiable in high concept fashion editorial. For the series, the pair worked with a roster of bright young things – artists, actresses, designers, models, socialites and entrepreneurs including Elliot Sailors, Sibylla Phipps, India James, Idina Moncrieffe, Bella Yentob and Joanna Vanderpuije.
Starting uniquely with the model and working with makeup artist Wilma Lundin, the artists move outwards from individual characters to create a style and narrative. Set against Boyd’s incredibly painterly and even, at times, tactile backdrop, the subjects are multiplied through Cecil’s double exposure technique. The resulting image is a powerful one, revealing the instance of one person reacting to themselves. We are not all entirely harmonised – and of this notion the Phantasmagoria series is a pure expression.
Framed and presented in interactive lightboxes that respond to surrounding sound frequencies – music, speech, background noise – the immediacy of the dialogue becomes even more striking.