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Work / Photography

Chase Middleton’s candid, bizarre and compelling photographs of strangers

“My practice lies somewhere in between the constructed and the candid,” explains Australian photographer, Chase Middleton. With a cast of unique characters and settings that are almost too good to be true, Chase’s images are confidently confusing, with the perfect balance of strangeness and intrigue.

Having grown up in the countryside of Australia, Chase is currently studying for her MFA in photography at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She acquired her first camera at the age of eight as a consolation prize from her father after “a night on the town involving too much alcohol.” She explains how “to make up for his behaviour he bought me a camera and from then on I’ve been obsessed with image making.” From that day, Chase was allowed to have one roll of film developed every week and would spend each day “carefully curating how I would use my 24 frames”.

When still based in Australia, Chase worked on a series of images depicting a fishing village in New South Wales on the country’s northern coast. Titled Terminal Mystery, the series features the locals of Iuka, a “beautiful, yet strange place” in a blend of documentary-style photographs and vignettes. The resulting scenes are surreal in their execution, highlighting the peaceful absurdity of the village that largely serves as a place of retirement. “I spent a year walking the isles of the local grocery store engaging with strangers in hopes that they would invite me into their homes and allow me to take their portrait,” she recalls.

In her most recent series, Nostalgia For The Mud Chase took an equally proactive approach to finding her unusual subjects. “For the past six months, in New Haven, I have been spending time in bars around ‘last call’ and talking to those who are still around, asking if I can take their portrait and inviting them to different locations neither of us had been before,” she explains.

The images in Nostalgia For The Mud are almost unnerving in their peculiarity. The highly staged scenes with their Wes Anderson-esque settings feature a tension that can only be created by a photographer engaging with a total stranger. “I’m not sure what it is but I am instantly drawn to particular people and particular faces,” Chase tells It’s Nice That.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the motel rooms or diners featured in Chase’s photographs are her own creations but they are, in fact, all real places. Stating long drives as both an inspiration for her work and a love of hers, Chase uses this time to find locations. “The world is far more fascinating than anything I could create,” she says. Each uniquely intriguing setting features the perfect colour palette to compliment each subject’s scenario. “I have a love affair with colour,” Chase explains, “I seem to accidentally find it everywhere.” The locations, although different, are uncanny in their similarity and serve as the perfect stage for Chase’s candid, bizarre and compelling interactions with her subjects.

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Chase Middleton: Terminal Mystery

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Chase Middleton: Terminal Mystery

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Chase Middleton: Terminal Mystery

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Chase Middleton: Terminal Mystery

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Chase Middleton: Terminal Mystery

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Chase Middleton: Terminal Mystery

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Chase Middleton: Nostalgia For The Mud

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Chase Middleton: Nostalgia For The Mud

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Chase Middleton: Nostalgia For The Mud

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Chase Middleton: Nostalgia For The Mud

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Chase Middleton: Nostalgia For The Mud

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Chase Middleton: Nostalgia For The Mud

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Chase Middleton: Nostalgia For The Mud