A flower that grows through the cracks in a sidewalk. That is what Montreal photographer Annabelle Agnew makes me think of. It’s fitting that in this self-portrait (that stopped me in my tracks) she holds a flower in her mouth. Despite all the obstacles that life has thrown at her, she is the flower that pierces through the concrete and finds the light.
On a Zoom call in March at the beginning of the pandemic with friends, Annabelle was emotional. We were all sharing how we were doing, and for the most part, it was various shades of dismal. We all had sad news. Cancelled plans. Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled. Everything was cancelled or postponed.
For Annabelle, it was the uncertainty of wedding season, which as a wedding photographer meant uncertain income for her family. She feared the business she had worked so hard to build up was potentially a wash. Add to that other life-changing personal challenges, and you’ve got the justification for giving up.
Inspired by French photographer Jamie Beck, Annabelle accepted the “Isolation Creation” challenge to photograph remnants of her personal experience during lockdown. Eggshells, dried flowers, and fruit became her subjects for her to tell her story.
Then, a gallery agreed to represent her and her Still Life series went on sale on-line.
People bought prints.
What is more inspirational than someone who on the brink of losing it all, fights to create something beautiful?
It was a yellow scarf that propelled her to navigate feelings of loss and grief during a depleting time when a close family member was ill. Emotionally adrift in Paris, which sounds romantic, she walked the streets alone. Her self-portrait For the love of yellow can now be seen on Vogue Italia.
“I felt emotionless in my grief and that scared me. Grief takes on a dull tone and I wasn’t sure what the point of anything was. I don’t know if I have ever felt that depth of apathy and I was not sure how to ‘get out of it’. When I look back at this self-portrait it’s clear to me that the vibrancy of the yellow is there to stir up feelings themselves.”
I met up with Annabelle at Hampton Gallery to talk about her Still Life art, her latest venture into Boudoir portraiture, and to drink some wine together while we still could.
Under a half-lit moon, we laughed and shared stories about our dysfunctional families.
“I’m a photographer because I understand my own history through photographs. I would go through family photo albums to get answers about who I was, seeking out visual clues about my roots.”
Not only does her work tell a story, it celebrates light, shadow, reflections and finding beauty. She elevates wedding photography into fine art.
Her work was just featured in Rangefinder magazine, the award-winning online hub for wedding and portrait photographers, with a following of eighty-five thousand.
Annabelle told the magazine that “I feel like this year has been a period of reflection, and I like to think that this photograph encapsulates a lot of the looking outward from behind our windows: pensive and hopeful.”
As German painter Gerhard Richter said “Art is the highest form of hope.” Annabelle’s photography is a deeply personal exquisite expression of hope.
Watch our chat here!
Montreal Photographer Annabelle Agnew Links