In her new book, To Anyone Who’s Ever Lost Someone to the Side of the Road, London-based photographer Stella Asia Consonni finds herself absorbed in the world of the touring musician, following Philadelphia natives, Nothing, on a gruelling 42-date American tour.
“I had clear in my mind that I wanted to work on something that would celebrate free spirit, that country borders are only a restrictive man made convention, that a 9-to-5 job and settling-down-before-30 are not necessarily the only option,” explains Consonni in the interview below. Fewer things represent freedom in the modern age more than a road trip across the Free World, especially when the journey is a venue-to-venue hop playing the sort of uncompromising rock ‘n’ roll Nothing create.
Whilst predominantly a document of the band’s travels and camaraderie, the book also serves as a poignant survey of American culture in a time when it is being questioned and scrutinised, perhaps more than ever. Free of any conceit or posturing, the resulting photo diary is an endearingly intimate insight into friendship and on-the-road freedom. Here, Consonni talks us through her project alongside exclusive imagery from the book.
Em Smith: What inspired you to start this project?
Stella Asia Consonni: I had been thinking about making a book for a while. In a time where photography is just a finger flick away, I wanted to create something that people could keep in their living room, something that would hold the attention of the viewer for more than the two-second Instagram average.
Even before deciding the subject of the book, I was clear in my mind that I wanted to work on something that would celebrate free spirit, that country borders are only a restrictive man made convention, that a nine-to-five job and settling-down-before-30 is not necessarily the only option in life.
Em: How did your relationship with Nothing form?
Stella: Their PR approached me to shoot them for a UK publication while they were in London for a gig. After the shoot they invited me to the show and it was so good, that made me realise that they would be perfect for the book idea that I had in mind.
Em: How was the whole experience and life on the road?
Stella: It was intense but great at the same time. Almost every night they were playing in a different state so we were getting back on the road pretty much after every gig and drove until we reached the next venue, which could have been the following day in the afternoon.
We stopped for coffee, snacks and pee-stops every now and then and that was my occasion to shoot. Some of my favourite shots were taken at sunrise when the guys were still half asleep, the sky was pink and there wasn’t a soul around.
“In a time where photography is just a finger flick away, I wanted to create something that people could keep in their living room, something that would hold the attention of the viewer for more than the two-second Instagram average. “
Em: The photographs are very beautiful and intimate. Were the band at all apprehensive about having you shoot them?
Stella: Thank you. Being on such a tight schedule meant that we had to do everything together, there wasn’t really time for anyone to go off on his own. This way, we also went from being practically strangers to be close friends.
In the first few days I barely took any picture as I wanted them to get used to having me around. I wanted to catch those off-guard moments of every day tour-life so that the viewer would be able to feel like they were in the van right next to the guys. It really amazed me how they opened up through time, revealing their caring souls hidden under their tough appearance.
Em: In the book’s introduction it says you wanted to explore, “What it is that drives a man to carry a house on his back.” Do you feel like you found the answer?
Stella: I am not sure that there is a real answer to that question. But I think that watching the process is probably even more interesting than finding the answer.
Em: You’ve previously done a lot of fashion photography. How did this compare to shooting fashion?
Stella: I don’t really see the book as a departure from my fashion work. Even though the images might be visually different, I believe that the foundation of my work remains the same: celebrating youth and freedom from social stereotypes.
When shooting fashion, I always opt for a natural, stripped back look, featuring conscious brands as much as I can. I like my images to promote the message that people do not need to follow certain criteria to be accepted or to succeed; ie. girls don’t need to be super skinny or sexy or anything that they do not feel like being just because some trend tells them to. I am a firm believer that beauty is what transpires from the inside rather than the result of an endless chase of a particular image laid out by advertisements and corporate greed.
What attracted me to Nothing and made me decide to make a book about them was the energy that hit me when I saw them live. After the gig I had a chance to have a chat with them; their story only confirmed what I felt at the show. Despite their troubled past, they turned all that anger, anxiety and frustration into beautiful music. Instead of conforming themselves to the norm and accepting what the social structure would have given them as future, they reacted and turned their past into powerful songs. For me, this made them the perfect subject for my book