The Trip is a sixties-inspired story narrated through photographic images of photographer Matt Henry. The project features actors and crew from Los Angeles and each scene was story-boarded using pre-shoot location photography and the actors provided with character back stories and shot by shot direction. The project was four months in pre-production, and shot over two days at a standing movie set in the Californian desert, one and half hours north east of Los Angeles.
The story revolves around two couples, Hank & Betty and Stacey & troy who check into a roadside desert motel/diner, unaware that the owner ‘Acid’ James is hell-bent on testing his latest psychedelic concoctions on his unsuspecting guests. Fortunately for both couples, James’s long-time hippie friends Arlo and Alice are on hand to help guide these simple Southern folk through their first hallucinatory experience. As social and generational barriers melt in the presence of this supercharged LSD cocktail, the guests finally get the mind-altering taste of the sixties that had otherwise passed them by.
“The whole thing was organised from the UK, including costume and casting, which made this a real gamble to pull off,” says Henry. “I didn’t have the sort of budget film-makers have at their disposal, so I had to organise everything, which meant buying the outfits and wigs over here and sending them across to the actors in Los Angeles for fitting. There was a surreal moment at Christmas when I was snowed in at my dad’s house in a tiny village in the hills of North Wales, casting Hollywood-based actors over the Internet. But somehow it all came together.
“The photographic image is still seen as the poor relation to the moving image with regards to storytelling,” Henry continues. “But for me, stasis provides qualities that can advance narrative. On a purely aesthetic level, there’s the ability to consider composition, colour, shape, and form in a way not possible at 24 frames per second. To draw viewers into a static image and allow them to look around is to be given the opportunity to seduce. This is a gift, and the first step in involving them in your story. Then it’s the ambiguities of the still that can fire the imagination; to leave the viewer to fill in the blanks and construct their personal narrative.”
Henry’s earlier works reveal a desire to move beyond capturing an elaborate story in a single frame, often utilizing diptych as a means to enhance the storytelling potential of the photograph and lending fragments of narrative to tease the viewer into creating their own beginning, midpoint or end. ‘The Trip’ represents an ambitious evolution in its attempt to provide a more coherent storyline using a greater number of related images.
Interview text by Dennis Wyn Roberts