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Today we talk to Ward Roberts, the Australian photographer who showed us a new perspective of the solemn beaches of New York in his photo-book Flotsam, about a seemingly relevant topic: love. Yes, love and hearts go hand in hand, but the way Robert addresses this concept is no cliché at all. A series of lifeless organs belonging to a handful of different species become the subjects of each image, all different in shapes and sizes. Each heart – raw yet lovely – shows the dichotomy of highs and lows that come with the powerful emotion and experiences of love. 

The series showcases this photographer’s calculated composition and artistry, keeping true to his soft colour palette and sophisticated aesthetic. He collaborated alongside Irish musician Fionn Regan to add more substance to this series and through the use of poetic texts. Stars That Paint (the title of the project) deals with love, loss and mortality, and was cleverly or ironically released on St. Valentine’s Day.

Your new series of images is titled Stars That Paint. How did this name come about and how do we relate it to love, mortality or to the heart?
The title of the series is taken from one of Fionn’s poems. I interpreted his words as the stars representing the relationships you have in a lifetime: they may fade over time and even disappear. But they often paint who we are.
Your images showcase hearts of all shapes and sizes, from miniscule ones to others surprisingly large. How many different animal species did you work with for the series?
The list of species that were documented includes alpaca, chicken, ostrich, horse, goat, lamb, pig, cow, deer, fox, groundhog, turkey, bobcat, raccoon, squirrel, opossum, turkey, kitten, rabbit and fallow fawn.
Did the heart of any specific creature catch you by surprise? Whether it seemed out of proportion to its body?
The turkey and horse’s hearts were quiet interesting. The turkey’s one was much larger than I expected, and the horse heart looked very muscular and quiet different from every other animal, especially the colour – which I found intense in comparison to the other animal organs. It had a darker and more sinister brown tone to it.

The series, despite dealing with raw organs as subjects, is strangely soothing and poetic. Does this dichotomy rough and gentle portray an accurate representation of love in your eyes?
Love is a complex concept to approach. In a basic form, love can often be one of life’s biggest dichotomies: it can be the most beautiful experience for a human and can shape who we are in a significant way. Love can also destroy, break, damage and in some ways, be very debilitating.
What are your thoughts on heartbreak acting as a tool for creative expression? And in your experience, have you dealt with traumatic events as such through creative outlets to heal?
Oh, I mean, I’m all for heartbreak being a creative expression – this series being an example of that.  I’ve created a number of series based on my experiences with traumatic events. It really feels like a very healthy tool for expressing pain, while hopefully relating to other people’s experiences.
What would you like viewers to take away from Stars That Paint?
A love for the relationships that may not have worked out.
You worked alongside Fionn Regan, an Irish musician, for this project. Tell us a little more about how you collaborated and how your different backgrounds contributed to the final results.
I felt the series really needed some more depth, to be provided within a different medium. I’ve always been fascinated by the loneliness of the touring musician, which is something I very much related to when I used to travel on a regular basis. The collaboration was fairly simple in execution: I discussed the loose concept of the series with Fionn and asked him to provide some poems or words to sit alongside the images. From there, I used his words, which were translated into different languages for a short film.

Andrea Toro

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