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The Story Behind the Reality-Bending Cover of VICE Magazine's May Issue

Annie Collinge likes to make pictures about things that are part fantasy and part depressing reality. We spoke with her about the process behind this month's VICE magazine cover.

by VICE Staff
May 16 2016, 12:00am

Cover image of VICE magazine's May issue by Annie Collinge

This article appeared in the May issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

Annie Collinge likes to make pictures about things that are part fantasy and part depressing reality. The London-based photographer has published two books. For the first, Five Inches of Limbo, she featured junk store dolls and people she met on the streets of NYC who resembled them. For the second, The Cuttings Book, she collaborated with artist Sarah May. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans exhibited The Underwater Mermaid Theater, her project about people who act as full-time mermaids.

VICE: Tell us about the backstory of the cover image.
Annie Collinge: The project is part of my series Cuttings, which I made with artist and set designer Sarah May over a five-year period. We began making pictures together about ten years ago, and recently, we finally managed to make a book and exhibition of all our little experiments.

Where did the shoot take place?
We shot it in the parking lot of Sarah's studio on a very windy day in London. Her studio landlord was looking out the window at us disapprovingly because we were blocking the entrance, and he probably thought what we were doing looked a bit wanky. Sarah is very interested in movement in images. I'm normally more into things being still, so I think this image is a good mix of the two of us.

Why did you and Sarah decide to collaborate?
We were both feeling a bit creatively frustrated, so we started to make images just for the sake of making images. We didn't think of product, or making a portrait. We just wanted to experiment with materials we liked. She visited New York and bought loads of stuff in junk stores and flea markets, and we messed around with it. We've continued on with it over the last few years, and the cover shot is actually one of our most recent pictures.

Where do you get your day-to-day inspiration?
I like old stuff mainly: old junk, old photos, old kids' books. I miss living in New York a lot because of the great junk you can find everywhere in the street, in your building lobby, and in flea markets. In London, people tend to dispose of their junk more discreetly. I like things that are colorful and happy but slightly depressing and creepy.

The artists hunt for props in Acton, London.

Sarah May lounges in between takes in her studio.

Annie Collinge plays with a giant tassel on set.

Collinge and May shop for fabric on Goldhawk Road in London.

Alternate Cover
Although we loved the photo shown here, we chose the legs image as the final cover because of its visual trickery. With the help of a very windy day, the props create the illusion that the mannequin legs have a torso and could be a real person. Bending reality is fun, and we love the slippery area that makes you question how reliable a photograph can be.

This article appeared in the May issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.