"Advocate for yourself! These are really competitive fields, no one is going to open the door for you. And when you get told no, (which you will) just respectfully move on. Not everyone is going to love your vision and that's okay, it's probably not personal. It might sound strange in the digital age but people love authenticity, I think we all find it really refreshing. Be genuine and people will see that you’re really serious about your art."
Words: Nelli Mooney and Morrigan Rawson
Images: Morrigan Rawson
Morrigan Rawson is a photographer and digital artist Known for her dark and dreamy work with clear cyber influences. She has collaborated with modelling agencies in both London and the States, shot fashion campaigns for talented designers and furthered her practice into glitch art. Morrigan continues to push the boundaries of experimental and abstract photography using camera effects and new media methods.
Hi Morrigan! Thank you so much for taking the time to have this interview with us! To start off, I'd like to know a bit more about your background. You grew up in the States, and now you live in London. What made you become an artist?
Yes, I grew up in Georgia but absolutely hated it. The people, the weather, the bigotry, everything felt so backwards to me. The last few years I was there I focused all of my energy on going anywhere else. I then ended up in Seattle from 2015-2019 studying Comparative History and Experimental Video Art at the University of Washington. After I got into the photography and music scenes in Seattle, art became a reason to get up in the morning. It's a real source of light in my world, and every single day I feel drawn to chase that light.
What made you partially move to London?
I had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with some London artists on my last trip here and it was like stepping into the biggest, most beautiful pond I could have ever imagined. It was quite overwhelming, however, knowing that the opportunities here are quite literally endless also felt super motivating. The creatives in London are so driven and have such strong vision and I just fell in love. It also didn’t hurt that my partner is from London so I have my very own tour guide!
I love that you are an 'almost entirely self-taught' photographer (quote from your website). How did you start your journey as a photographer & a digital artist?
While I was at university I started modelling and became heavily involved in local art communities. However, I had such a strong vision of what I wanted to see in photography and I couldn’t find anyone that shared that vision. Hence I bought a half broken camera for $30 from a stranger at a DIY show and started shooting!
I’ve never had any formal training and most of my photography knowledge comes from friends in the industry, YouTube tutorials and sitting in the V&A Art Library for hours looking at photography books. When I was first starting out I just took photos of friends and then eventually upgraded my setup and started reaching out to agencies, MUA, and stylists. At first they told me my portfolio was “too creative”, so I had to hone in my style and find a balance that still felt like me but wasn’t so outlandish that I couldn’t book anyone. I’m so grateful to all the amazing creatives that have believed in me and my work. Their talent is half of every photo.
I see a lot of influences of the punk era in your work, but also the embodiment of studying those inner demons that exist within the human mind. In other words, I absolutely adore your photographs! What inspires and/or influences you?
Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m heavily influenced by the 90’s and early 2000’s aesthetics. Movies like The Matrix and Bladerunner are still some of my favorites, along with a lot of vintage anime. Recently I’ve been watching all of Wong Kar Wai’s films, which are surreal and colorful capsules of nostalgia set in 90’s Hong Kong. That kind of atmosphere really resonates with me. I love dark, dreamy and distorted imagery, and like you said, I think some of my work tends to reflect my own mind. I struggle with, at times, dissociative episodes where time and space seems to exist in a void. It's incredibly cathartic for me to translate that into imagery. My “Netrunner'' self portraits were inspired by that feeling of simultaneously floating in space and being pulled apart.
Tell us about your favourite photo shoot.
There are so many but one of my recent shoots is really sticking out in my mind at the moment. I was staying in Boston with my family for a few months while I got my UK visa sorted and I managed to do a handful of COVID-19-safe photoshoots while I was there. One of the last ones I did was with model, stylist and all around creative Kim Cunningham. We got this huge, gorgeous studio and shot a very Bowie alien inspired concept. However, while we were shooting we talked about overproduction in photography and how fake so much of it feels: how everyone’s skin is too flawless and so many photos just look so sterile and sharp; how it feels like there’s just nothing "there" in those photos. We talked about Petra Collins and radical softness and embracing femininity in all its forms. And then, to top it all off, this gorgeous shadow from the setting sun cast the perfect window shape into the studio! It was a much needed day of connecting with another human and making art after a year of isolation.
I love that! Tell us, where would you like to go next, in terms of your artistic career?
This is so hard to answer because I feel like I just want to go everywhere. There’s still so many things I want to try but I’m also desperately trying to reign myself in and get more focused on a particular style. This year I’m striving to work in creative teams as much as possible and solidify color palettes and styling choices that are unique to me. My friends tell me that they always know it's my photography as soon as it pops up on their feed, but I don’t see the level of cohesion I’d like yet. Ultimately, I want to build a world that all of my shoots live inside - almost like a video game where you get to slowly explore the map, but it's still within the same universe. All of my favorite photographers seem to have done something similar and I think it's just wonderful as a viewer to experience their world like that.
Have you got any advice for aspiring artists & photographers?
I would highly recommend finding a core group of people you absolutely love to collaborate with. When you work with the same people consistently you get a much better feel for each other’s styles and how to best work together. That type of creative environment is invaluable for you to experiment and get to know yourself as an artist. Also being a photographer or artist now is so much more than just being good at your craft. Don’t be afraid to really fill the role of social media manager, PR agent etc. Advocate for yourself! These are really competitive fields, no one is going to open the door for you. And when you get told no, (which you will) just respectfully move on. Not everyone is going to love your vision and that's okay, it's probably not personal. It might sound strange in the digital age but people love authenticity, I think we all find it really refreshing. Be genuine and people will see that you’re really serious about your art.
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