Paris-based photographer Kourtney Roy believes that “the world has a secret potential to transform itself at any moment into a film set” and her latest series, Northern Noir, demonstrates just that. Photographed in her native Canada, it unfolds as a series of movie stills from a fictional film noir set in rural suburbia in which Roy herself is the protagonist. The setting, both familiarly mundane and eerily menacing, is complemented by Roy’s meticulously stylized presence, uniting the banal and the uncanny into a personal narrative of imagination. The series is published as a book of the same name by Editions la Pionniere.
Northern Noir’s photographs have a Hitchcockian implicitness of imminent danger as well as a David Lynch-ian undercurrent of horror lurking below an apparent ordinariness. Channeling the suburban gothic of such films as Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, Roy’s images, rendered with an extreme vividness of colour, merge the contemporary with the retro and the familiar with the otherworldly to create a sense of dislocation and bewilderment. While some stills capture moments that at first glance seem uneventful or banal, on closer inspection they reveal disturbing or eerie clues—a lake with a half-sunken boat at the distance or a field of tall grass with the body of a falling woman pocking through—whereas others explicitly confront the viewer with some horror that defies rationalization—a deer’s carcass splayed on the ground or the film’s heroine, stripped to her undergarments, looking aghast through her bandaged face in the middle of nowhere.
Roy's depiction of herself as the film’s protagonist, a mystery femme fatale who eschews a simplistic identification as either the victim or the perpetrator, keeps up with her past projects of highly stylized self-portraits where she takes on various roles in order to subvert the objectification of women in popular culture by doing the objectifying herself. In this project, her persona is tastefully dressed and impeccably styled—a nod to her work as a fashion photographer—yet her picture-perfect aura is constantly undermined by her cryptic demeanour, the weird set-ups and the locale’s ominousness.
Taken over several road trips in 2015 through Northern Ontario and British Columbia and capture landscapes and towns where Roy grew up, her familiarity with the settings imparts the series with another layer of significance, allowing an interpretation about the fictional dimension of memory and questions to arise such as: How much of what we remember is fact and how much is fiction? Isn’t the process of remembering a sort of detective story where we search our mind for clues to glue the past back together into a coherent, cinematic narrative? All of the above arise in a narrative that tiptoes between the real and the fantastic just like the one uncannily unfolding in Northern Noir.