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Haunting Photos from a Make-Believe World

No Goodbye

Her eyes once filled with joy
Until he said, ‘Why not a boy?’

She followed in her childlike trance
Waiting for a loving look, or a backward glance.

No man should ever leave,
A little girl who says, ‘Daddy Please’.

Copycat Dolls

Fickle followers of fashion
Flock to the frilly frock and mock,
The very stature that should matter.

Where follies of copycat dollies
Prance pristine with glamorous gleam.

From day to day, with nothing to say.

Gillian Hyland’s photographs aren’t “real” in the strictest sense, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t “true.”

The pictures are based on the artist’s own poems, which are based on real life, but the final results are elaborately staged pieces of theater. She casts her models, chooses the location, selects the wardrobe, and gives mood boards to hair and make-up artists to inspire the final look.

After exhibiting around the world, Hyland is at last bringing ten years of her poems and images together in a book entitled Words in Sight. Photography, unlike film, is still and silent. But taken together with the poems, Hyland’s tableaux seem almost to speak and to move. It’s as if her characters could spring to life and continue their conversations and routines— but only after you turn the page.

“I feel my photographs present the story from different perspectives,” Hyland tells me. “If there was something I’d ask, it would be for the viewer to consider all the various perspectives for each person involved and their points of view depicted in the picture.”

In Hyland’s world, the words tell fragments of the story, and the pictures start where they leave off. But it’s not a fifty-fifty split, and not everything is revealed. There are still gaps in the narrative, secret, mysterious spaces that Hyland invites us to fill in with our own memories.

Comparisons to Gregory Crewdson and Jeff Wall might be inevitable, for like them, Hyland could certainly be described as a “conjurer” as much as a photographer. Some say her pictures are “supernatural,” and they are, but they’re not haunting because they’re strange. It’s quite the opposite— they stay with us because they’re familiar. They ring true, like scenes from a dream you forgot you had.

Support the creation of Words in Sight on Kickstarter from some beautiful rewards, including early bird copies of the book, postcard box sets, and framed fine art prints.

Delusion

What fools are we, lost in our own fantasy
With the games we play masking us from today.
We are not free, but trapped by who we used to be.

Gloating and doting on our former self,
Convinced of our once worth and stealth
We shine the memories of our glory days
Like trophies of time, to battle our decline.

What was once banal, is now divine.
Tomorrow’s legends, are but the fading memories of today.

Hole In My Heart

I can’t stand by your tombstone and weep,
Or scatter your ashes upon the wind.
There’s no goodbye, ‘In loving Memory of You’

For you weren’t taken, you left.
And your grave is dug deep in my heart
Where I try to bury my sadness for you.

Now it’s my tears that are cast upon the earth
As your absence is etched upon my soul.

Born out of love, but left in shame
That’s all I have left of you.

Look Away

The eyes never lie you see
And yours look dead to me.

There’s no delight upon my sight.

Just the shadow of the day
you wished I went away

Make a Wish

What was it that made us last,
And forget the memories of our past.
To fight the bitter woe and let go
Of all the pain that reminded our play.

Today I stand with you in sight
As my heart leaps, with sheer delight.

It wasn’t easy but we found our way
Now I hold you right and hope you stay,
Forever happy in the sisterly love of our day.

Mirror Mirror

What shall I say, how should I be?
It doesn’t matter, no one is looking at me.
Their only interest, is that of themselves.

Words linger, in the vacant air between
The true self, and the desired projected version.

Both are all-consuming, and utterly lacking,
So aimless conversation ensues.

Seeing Me

Youth is filled with floating dreams
Where nothing is ever, what it seems.

The Author

To write by the night out of sight,
Has given me my secret delight.

But to have my words held dear
And heard by many other ears,

Drives my beating heart to tears.

All images and poems © Gillian Hyland

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