Playing with the colour associated with love, sex, and death, Aaron McElroy presents a voyeuristic look into his ideas and memories
Red is a volatile colour: it is associated with both anger and romance; fire and blood; passion and power. When featured in an image, its vivid tones are often overpowering. “At photography school I was taught that it was a ‘problem colour’,” says Aaron McElroy, whose latest photobook, Reds, is a series of diaristic and staged images, drenched in the very colour he was taught to avoid.
Originally intended to be a zine, McElroy began gathering photographs from his archive that included the colour red. But, with the desire to make new images too, eventually it sprawled into a much larger body of work. In Reds, the photographer examines emotions associated with the colour, producing tightly cropped, contrasted images that are personal, abstract and intimate.
McElroy’s journey to this current point in his life has not been easy. At the age of 17, he ran away from home and started living on the streets, where he became addicted to drugs. Fortunately, he managed to turn his life around at 23 – he got clean, started working as a councillor for teenage drug addicts, and moved into his own apartment. “I’m grateful to have put that stuff in the past now,” he says.
McElroy began taking pictures when he was 27, because he wanted to make his own art to decorate his new home. Now, aged 40, he works full-time as a photographer, producing work in his distinct style, which often includes tightly cropped, abstract images that focus on form and lines.
“I don’t want to give too much away,” explains McElroy, “I want to keep my images anonymous and open-ended”. This is partly inspired by his initial interest in street photographers like Daido Moriayama and Gary Winogrand, and how they are able to capture a moment in a fraction of a second. But mainly, it is reflective of his own personal thought process, which informs the way he edits and sequences the images too.
McElroy likens this process to time spent lying in bed at night, wide awake, with thousands of images rushing through his mind. “My brain doesn’t work in a straight line,” he says. “Those visceral images that keep you up at night – that’s the process of my editing. The sequencing is random because of the way that thoughts come to me.”
Each image in Reds is seductive, not just because of the colour, but because of the spontaneity of each image – it is a voyeuristic look into McElroy’s memories and experiences. “I’m letting you into a personal moment. I want it to look genuine, like it is from a personal archive.”