Heart­break Ho­tel

Caitlin Cro­nen­berg and Jes­sica En­nis find beauty in the break­down.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Market | People - By Is­abel B. Slone

At least three peo­ple broke up with their boyfriends not long af­ter we shot them for this pro­ject,” says Toron­to­based pho­tog­ra­pher Caitlin Cro­nen­berg. The “pro­ject” is a glossy cof­fee-ta­ble photo book cel­e­brat­ing a not-so-glossy sub­ject: breakups. The End­ings, a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Cro­nen­berg and art direc­tor Jes­sica En­nis, was shot as if the cam­era was one-half of a cou­ple break­ing up. Ac­tresses like Ju­lianne Moore, Mena Su­vari and Danielle Brooks stepped in to take on the roles of the spurned, em­body­ing women whose dra­matic dis­so­lu­tions end in ac­cep­tance, fear and con­tent­ment, re­spec­tively. The book is an ex­er­cise in what Cro­nen­berg de­scribes as “raw emo­tional vul­ner­a­bil­ity.” »

Raw it is. The photos con­tain an un­re­pen­tant dark­ness that can also be found in Cro­nen­berg’s fa­ther’s films. (Her dad is leg­endary hor­ror-movie direc­tor David Cro­nen­berg.) Women do ter­ri­fy­ing things in this book, in­clud­ing clutch­ing at a still-throb­bing heart and tak­ing scis­sors to an ex-lover’s clothes. Cro­nen­berg and En­nis say that many of the sto­ries de­picted in the book ei­ther hap­pened to them di­rectly or they heard about them through friends. (The gar­ment slic­ing came from a story told to them by Amer­i­can Psy­cho direc­tor Mary Har­ron, who wrote the fore­word).

If a book dwelling on the emo­tional drama around breakups sounds, well, a tad re­gres­sive, Cro­nen­berg and En­nis as­sure you it’s not. “It [was] im­por­tant that it not just be a book of women cry­ing,” says En­nis. “We def­i­nitely wanted to show that our char­ac­ters could be strong and vul­ner­a­ble at the same time,” adds Cro­nen­berg. The emo­tions cap­tured in the im­ages run the gamut from numb list­less­ness to sear­ing rage to cau­tious hope­ful­ness and, per­haps, cathar­sis.

“So of­ten, we don’t re­ally ex­plore end­ings; the end is just the end, and we move on in sto­ry­telling,” says Bri­tish ac­tress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was pho­tographed for the book in the role of a wo­man whose in­stincts sug­gest that her part­ner might be cheat­ing. “I was drawn to the idea of dwelling in that space.”

In­deed, most nar­ra­tives sur­round­ing ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships tend to fo­cus on ori­gin sto­ries. Meet cutes sup­pos­edly give way to “hap­pily ever af­ters.” But the lat­ter is hardly a fore­gone con­clu­sion. Cro­nen­berg and En­nis wanted to give women space to find them­selves in the fall­out. As En­nis says, “No one gets off un­scathed.”

The im­ages have the cin­e­matic qual­ity and nar­ra­tive rich­ness of a short film.

Mbatha-Raw says that this is be­cause Cro­nen­berg acted as both a direc­tor and a pho­tog­ra­pher. “She was like, ‘What if you just dis­cov­ered some­thing in his drawer? What if you found some­thing like a blond hair in your bed?’” Cro­nen­berg may be the heir to a filmic dy­nasty, but she says she chose still pho­tog­ra­phy as her medium be­cause “just look­ing at one im­age can bring you as many emo­tions as watch­ing an en­tire film.”

The premise of The End­ings feels unique be­cause it treats women’s some­times im­plau­si­ble emo­tional re­sponses with em­pa­thy rather than twisted ex­as­per­a­tion—un­like, say, Fa­tal At­trac­tion. In Cro­nen­berg and En­nis’s world, women aren’t crazy—they’re merely flawed. Once a re­la­tion­ship ends, women in par­tic­u­lar are ex­pected to sweep up the bro­ken bits, put them in the garbage and leave it on the curb for morn­ing pickup; in­stead, The End­ings al­lows them space to revel in the break­down.

“It [was] im­por­tant that it not just be a book of women cry­ing.”

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