David Hughes documents the cathartic process of seeking closure in new book, Impermanence - Mission

David Hughes documents the cathartic process of seeking closure in new book, Impermanence

By Hana Yaqoob.

In the still life fashion photographer’s new book, Impermanence, Hughes delves into his iPhone memory to make sense of change after a breakdown and loss of a friend. 

When a relationship ends, the question surrounding what to do post break-up with your camera roll lingers. What’s worse is that iPhones appear to fabricate melodramatic clips with pictures of our loved ones and the memories shared with them unsolicitedly. When fashion photographer David Hughes, recognized in publications such as An0ther Man, Arena Homme +, Beat, i-D, LOVE, Man About Town, V, Vogue Homme Nippon and Mission, was asked about the inspiration of his new book, he said it was his way of “understanding change through taking control of his iPhone memories”.

iphones automatically generate montages of pictures with your friends and family  – an unhinging moment then a sentimental video of a former friend or lover pops up randomly during the day. “These photographs of me and my ex kept appearing.. [Impermanence] is really an attempt to take control of iPhone memories” Hughes explains “and making them into smaller narratives so people interpret [these images] as they see fit”. The images in Impermanence are Hughes “attempt to make sense of change, trying to understand and create a visual narrative around that process.”

Impermanence features scenes and moments that are impermanently placed in our sightline – a pair of laddered tights, the dirty bottom of a Marc Jacobs bag, a tacky news headline – and are curated to form a coherent sense of modern Britain when jigsawed together. The imagery in Impermanence is collated from the last eighteen months of Hughes’ relationship until the couple parted ways. Through documenting this period, he invites the voyeur to question the way the images “tap at your instincts and make you feel, whether it’s through color, shapes, or ideas”.

“I didn’t want to lead people by the nose too much”, Hughes  reveals and wants the voyeur to “look at these images and make their own story up”. Photographs captured within the backdrop of Hughes’ relationship seduce its voyeur to decipher the narrative, an element of mystique injected into each picture. For Hughes, the book is an expression of using his “gift, as a creative, to turn a negative into a positive”.

Initially, the intimate photographs from Hughes iPhone memory appeared in Love Diaries, a series stemming from Love Magazine, run by stylist Katie Grand. The photo series exposed Hughes to Patrick Remy studio who are publishing Impermanence in Paris and where the “idea of sandwiching images together developed. Hughes’ penchant for visual storytelling also caught the attention of Donlem Books and Antenna books in London where Impermanence will be published and available from 23rd May 2024. 

 The book is also Hughes’ ode to collaboration, and the individuals and friends he has encompassed in his career – from working in still life fashion photography, advertising and with musicians including Mark Ronson, Nick Cave, and The Rolling Stones. 

Impermanence holds testament to the idea that no matter what occurs in each of our daily lives, the world still goes on; as Paul Flynn encapsulates in the book’s introduction, “sex still happens and joy is embedded somewhere” and the focus of Hughes gaze “hints at beauty blowing in the wind”, redrawing the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable to document. The philosophy of Hughes’ visual language exemplifies the wabi-sabi principle –motioning the voyeur to constantly search for the beauty in imperfection and accept the “birth and death for different stages of our lives”, in Hughes’ words. 

“To be able to put a message out, whether or not it comes across is irrelevant” for Hughes. “The act of doing it is something that I feel very fortunate to do.”

Impermanence by David Hughes will be available to buy at Donlem Books, 75 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH, on 23rd May 2024.