Told by an art teacher at high school not to pursue photography, Yvonne Todd ignored the advice, once high school was over and she’d done her time at a “dreary admin job”. With a world of possibility opening up to her, Todd experimented and learned the ins and outs of photography.
“It was an exciting time. I felt like I was unlocking the secrets of the universe — secrets I had previously been excluded from knowing,” she says.
Now, Todd has taken over both floors of the City Gallery in Wellington with her exhibition Creamy Psychology, which features around 150 of her photographs. She’s the first artist to take over the entire venue with her work.
“To be the first artist with a solo exhibition that fills the entirety of City Gallery is a significant undertaking … I haven’t had a solo show on this scale before, so it’s a momentous event in my career,” Todd explains.
Subjects of Todd’s images include cripples, anorexics, cult members, showgirls, and tragic heiresses. Typically highly styled with the use of wigs, make up, false teeth, and costumes, the portraits have been described by Todd herself as being decidedly uncomfortable while others are comical or tragic.
As you flow from room to room you’re confronted with images that delve deep into the realms of Todd’s interpretation of, and the feelings she discovers about, commercial photography and fashion. It’s less about making the viewers identify and feel comfortable with the images and more about confronting them with tragic scenarios. Todd herself has suggested that people may come away feeling uneasy from the exhibition.
The exhibition, curated by Robert Leonard, will showcase many photographs that Todd has captured since the 1990s, incorporating her love for glamour and collecting fashion pieces with a display of some of the vintage designer gowns that Todd has collected over the years, including gowns owned by the likes of Whitney Houston.
Creamy Psychology runs until March 1, 2015 at City Gallery in Wellington and you can read more about Todd and the exhibition itself in D-Photo Issue No. 64, on sale now.