I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love it when two different forms of art intertwine to create something new and unique. Such is the project Too Close for Comfort by the UK-based photographer Courtenay Florence. Florence mixes macro photography and writing, adds a generous amount of intimacy, psychology, and subconscious, and sprinkles it with a bit of horror. Her photos show skin up close and personal, and each of them tells a story that will send shivers down your spine.
Florence comes from a family of creatives, so it’s no wonder that she is creative herself. She takes photos, draws, and writes, and Too Close for Comfort is just one of the projects where her creativity joins a few of her interests.
The name of the project comes from the 1965 song of the same title, sung by Eartha Kitt. “The song strongly reminds me of sexual misconduct,” Florence explains. Her project explores the obscure nature of our subconscious mind through the combination of written storytelling and abstract macro photography.
“What I exhibit in Too Close for Comfort is how my often vivid nightmares manifest dark episodes, which are influenced by real-life situations or thoughts,” Florence writes. “I turned my nightmares into flash stories to bring out the photographs. My photographs display the uncomfortable closeness of the human body and how that makes us feel.”
Photo themselves are interesting, showing something so familiar to us in a new and slightly unsettling way. But each photo hides a story behind it, too. And I mean that literally – when you click on each photo on Florence’s website, you’ll get a short horror story to read. And as you can probably guess, Florence writes these stories just like she takes the photos.
Over time, Florence has noticed that some already existing work reflects in her projects, too. After all, don’t we all have influences? Florence refers to some movies, books, projects, and animations that have influenced her work the most. If you’re familiar with Black Mirror, The Shivering Truth, Coraline, David Cronenberg’s Spider, Shirley Jackson’s Dark Tales, or Tim Booth’s A Show of Hands, you’ll love Florence’s work.
“Symbolism brings out the unique ability to express,” Florence writes. “Symbolism is heavily supported in Too Close for Comfort.” And there are some real-life situations hidden in each of the photos of this project. More precisely, in the titles.
Nail is when I accidentally stepped on nails at the beach, one nail lodged into my toe and the lifeguard had to pull it out and bandage it,” Florence explains one of the titles. “Spiders is when I was a kid, I was sitting in the garden holding ice cream,” she goes on. “I was paying no attention to this gigantic spider that crawled up my arm and rested on the top of my ice cream until I went to lick, the spider caught my eye and I immediately dropped the cone.”
As for the gear, Florence doesn’t rely on super-fancy equipment. She used a Nikon D5300 body with a 105mm Sigma lens for this project. For the lighting, she used a simple desk lamp in a pitch-black room. She didn’t use a tripod, she held the camera in her hands for the photos.