Photographer Maxime Imbert tells AnOther about his new book, City of Spiders
“I wanted to create a series of close portraiture that feels raw and real, depicting a sort of everyday life,” says Paris-born, London-based photographer Maxime Imbert, describing the premise of his new book City of Spiders. Imbert has captured seven women in their apartments for the series of photographs, which toes a line between fiction and reality: each woman goes about her own routine, with elements of mise en scene incorporated by the photographer. “The final result ended up looking much more surreal than I predicted,” he says.
Imbert – who has contributed to AnOthermag.com – wanted to explore the paradox of being in someone’s personal space as a stranger. “I like to find familiarities in unfamiliar places and situations,” he says. “There is something very intimate and exciting about being invited to someone’s space – it is an endless source of inspiration to me. The aim was to create strong images from those moments. It felt natural to be at the models’ homes – where they can be themselves and feel comfortable.”
Bookended by photographs of flowers and greenery – adding “a touch of romanticism to the narrative” – the portraits in City of Spiders are intimate, and draw on this tension between the familiar and the strange that Imbert finds so appealing. “The use of lights, the girls dressing up, styling their own hair and putting on make-up – it all played an important part in the process and added a theatrical touch to the story,” Imbert continues. He photographs the women as they go about everyday routines, interspersing these portraits with snapshots of the private corners of their homes, like a bedside table laden with beauty products and candles.
“I had in mind to photograph my models in their own spaces – all in ‘huis clos’ with no windows to create this dense climate that we can sometimes feel when living in big cities, such as London,” he says. Inspired by documentary photographers like Nikolay Bakharev, Imbert’s work is unflinching and personal but nonetheless maintains a dream-like, hazy quality.
And as to the story behind the title City of Spiders, he says: “Spiders have this image of femininity that I wanted to explore. They can be frightening and impressive yet there is also something captivating and fragile about them.” There is a timelessness to the photographs in City of Spiders – Imbert fittingly describes wanting the book’s title to sound like a David Bowie song – and the sense that these women, in their spaces, could belong to any era or place.
City of Spiders by Maxime Imbert is out now.