Annabel Elgar's photographs present an imagined archive of retreats and hideaways. Lodged somewhere between fact and fiction, they read like a fantasy labyrinth of oddball activity, conjuring up the fall-out of human interaction. The dramas she creates often allude to contemporary events of surreptitious exchange, where issues of counterculture and collective and individual withdrawal are predominant.

The ongoing 'Refuge' and 'Companion' series explore these central themes. The court case of the breakaway Amish group who were found guilty of hair cutting was the chrysalis for 'Companion (5)'. The doomsday cult in Russia who withdrew into a cave for the impending Armageddon and the creationist teacher who branded crosses on to the arms of his pupils with an electric coil form part of this trajectory. Within these gothic vignettes, the characters (who are often absent in the final image) have laboured lovingly over hand-made puppets, bread sculptures and other strange contraptions, presenting a world of endless and inane production.

Elgar's photographs are poised between the fairytale and the everyday. Sources, often mythic, are gleaned from news stories, the internet, folklore, literature and art history. Conceived as 'staged' photography, her work blurs the line between the constructed and the documentary. Peppered with carefully honed details such as cropped figures, fires and totemic symbols, the images present an endless proliferation of narrative possibilities. The viewer is made aware of ritualistic behaviour and the allusion towards cult and secrecy, yet the locale is never clearly identified.



Annabel Elgar