The experience of youth is momentous and fleeting. The things and people that tie us to a place can feel weightless, or they can feel like anchors. Rochelle Marie Adam’s first book Before this comes to pass balances these feelings in a sustained sequence of hazy, dreamy black and white photographs. Shot on the east coast of Australia, Adam’s images engage the viewer with the spectacle of the individual moment – the idea that specks of time, vaguely drifting and amorphous, will at some point all slip through our fingertips.
Adam’s work is light, nostalgic, and restless. Her pictures give us a sense of a drifting awareness of her surroundings. Shot over a period of three years, the images depict Adam’s immediate environment – a mixture of portraits, natural and suburban landscapes and scenes, and small details that would likely be overlooked by the average eye.
The first release by new publishing imprint Tall Poppy Press, Before this comes to pass feels fitting in its portrayal of youth and a sense of urgency that comes with time passing. Adam’s subjects are (mostly) of her generation – that is to say, they stand on the precipice of adulthood, peering over the edge into an unknown future. At the same time, there exists a feeling of limitlessness, the sense that time is not a tether to the earth or to the pressures of life ahead. Adam impressively achieves this balance in her photographs, showing that one can at the same time be on the edge of something in the future but still have solid footing in the present.
The first image in the book is of a sidewalk, shot at an angle slightly askew. In the concrete are footprints, embedded from some unknown time in the past, tracing a slow path forward. The sequence takes us through scenes of everyday life in the suburbs: a soccer ball out of reach just beyond a fence, a lone daisy standing tall in a patch of underbrush, initials and a heart carved into a tree trunk, empty seats in a movie theater, a mailbox covered in cobwebs.
Adam’s portraits show a certain sensibility that comes with her work as a fashion photographer, having a knack for allowing her subjects to display their individuality. Looking into the camera and not past it or through it, they reveal glimpses of lives that are momentary, yet somehow feel vaguely tattooed in time. A woman rests in a park, seated, the opposite page of the spread showing the sky with a flock of birds in flight, nearly out of frame.
Throughout the book, the mood sways ever so gently, but never strays too far from the emotional core. While there is uncertainty and tension present in the images, and in the solitude that is depicted in some of the portraits, the overall mood never gives in to dread or despair. Rather, most of the photographs convey a sense of love, of longing, of a delicate sense of balance. Intimacy and connection are also present. A couple embraces in a pool. People hold their pets with love and adoration.
There is the feeling that things are so fragile and gentle that if a single breath is taken, all might collapse into thin air. This makes each image, each scene, each life behind the eyes of Adam’s subjects more layered with meaning and nuance. It’s as if the world around the photographer’s eyes hinges upon something unseen, some immovable force that fixes itself as the fulcrum that connects all of the scenes and people in the book. We do not quite see what that is, but we can somehow feel it. It’s there, just beyond the curved edges of glass that is Adam’s lens.
— Andy Pham.
Andy Pham is a photographer and writer based in New Orleans. His visual work is primarily a response to the interplay between mental states and the external environment. His written work explores the role that photography plays in unearthing the psychological, sociological and philosophical aspects of being human.
Rochelle Marie Adam is a photographer currently based on Gadigal Land (Sydney, Australia). She works within the areas of documentary and fashion photography.
Rochelle holds a BFA from the Victorian College of the Arts and a Diploma in Photography from the Northern College of the Arts & Technology. Her debut monograph Before this comes to pass was recently released via Tall Poppy Press.