Sam Taylor-Johnson makes photographs and films that examine, through highly charged scenarios, our shared social and psychological conditions.
Taylor-Johnson’s work examines the split between being and appearance, often placing her human subjects – either singly or in groups – in situations where the line between interior and external sense of self is in conflict. Her languid and silent film portrait of David Beckham, for example, which was shot in a single take, offers a serene alternative to this most intensively photographed celebrity. In Prelude in Air (2006) Taylor-Johnson filmed a musician playing a piece of cello music by Bach, but the cello itself has been erased. Likewise, in Breach (Girl and Eunuch) (2001), a girl is portrayed sitting on the floor in the throes of grief, but the sound of her tears has been removed. In the celebrated film Still Life (2001), an impossibly beautiful bowl of fruit decays at an accelerated pace, creating a visceral memento mori. Taylor-Johnson has also explored notions of weight and gravity in elegiac, poised photographs and films such as Ascension (2003) and a series of self-portraits (Self Portrait Suspended I - VIII) that depict the artist floating in mid air without the aid of any visible support. In her film The Last Century (2006), what appears to be a static image of a group of people slowly reveals itself to be a real, filmed take, timed to the length of a burning cigarette: the film is entirely static apart from the involuntary blinking, twitching and barely-visible breathing of four motionless actors, all arranged around a central figure as if in a group portrait painted by Rembrandt or Caravaggio. Recently, Taylor-Johnson directed her first narrative short film, Love You More (2008), with a script by Patrick Marber. She followed this with Nowhere Boy (2009), her highly acclaimed biopic of John Lennon.