top of page

1-The Look, 2-Untitled, 7- The metamorphosis Was Violent, Beautiful


Leon Sommer-Simpson

Northwestern University


Inspired while on the set of a music video, these black and white film photographs combine the candid with the staged. The series plays on the idea of ‘virality’—attempting to capture what it means to exist in a digital age. Today, most people carry cell phones built with high-resolution cameras and point them in every possible direction. To be caught in this crossfire is to be consumed: a subject to the camera operator, but an object for the camera. Recognized via the algorithm as a human-face-shape, you are turned into nuggets of data, physically stored in a memory drive. You exist as yourself, but also in your avatar online—uploaded and tagged. 

I was influenced by Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills” and David Lamelas’ “The Violent Tapes of 1975,” which use photography to mimic film stills. My collection of photographs convey a larger narrative of horror—one in which the captured subject undergoes a metamorphosis, merging and recombining with their online self. The eye of the lens is seemingly the impetus for these violent changes. The photographed cameras also serve to make the venture in storytelling quite reflexive; cameras are pointed back at my camera, and so too, at the viewer, as if in threat. My camera can be found in reflection, revealing itself as the trap which ensnares me for consumption, as the mechanism for the art, and, again, as if pointing at the audience. I want the viewer to be immersed in a horrific, technologized ‘whodunit’ mystery, but one in which the ‘who?’ is replaced by ‘whose camera?’

bottom of page