Master Storyteller: A Look Inside Christina Mellor’s Photography
When you think of bold, imaginative and fun, you can’t help but be reminded of Christina Mellor and their photography. Their photos grab your attention with colors and concepts that you thought could only appear from your deep sleep dreams, becoming tangible simply through Mellor’s camera and skill. Similar to their photos, Mellor is bold, confident and not hesitant to expose vulnerability and stories in their work. The perfect way to describe their photography is unequivocal: storytelling.
Mellor began their interest in photography rather young, constantly grabbing their father’s camera to take photos. In the beginning, these images simply featured blades of grass and close-up nature shots, until Mellor’s father gave them a Canon Rebel T3i when they were 17. “I started to take pictures of my little sister, and I remember there were a couple of times where I got the lighting right or something was working and I remember being so drawn to the way I can see something in my head and then portray that through a photo if I am lucky,” they say. Taking photos of their little sister catalyzed Mellor’s love of portrait photography and experimenting with storytelling.
“I’m drawn to people, and photography is a medium—it’s a way to connect with people and share their stories and create,” says Mellor. If Mellor is able to tell a story through their photography then they’ve achieved their goal. A memorable shoot that encapsulates a dark, beautiful tale occurred when Mellor shot photos of The Hunger Games actress Willow Shields. Shields dressed like a doll in a field that progressively becomes more and more annoyed at her solo tea party until she begins smashing everything. “It went from this sweet doll to this destroying princess. It was just so fun, it was so fun to evolve through a photoshoot like that, to tell a story,” says Mellor.
“I’m drawn to people, and photography is a medium—it’s a way to connect with people and share their stories and create.”
Mellor’s creative process centers the people they photograph and their stories. They love connecting with their models and learning more about them through the shoot and want that reflected back in the photos. “I’m trying to tell a story with the lighting, the location, the poses, so I think each time I go to create something, ‘I’m either trying to portray a feeling or like tell a story,’” they say. “I am especially drawn to getting to know the people I am taking photos of and finding ways to tell their story through photographs.” Not only is Mellor exceeding at portraying each model’s story, but people come to them asking for a portrayal of their own story. “People will come to me after going through something really hard in their life or going through a big transformation and want photos to document this time and celebrate [themselves] … [I] find out how I can take your lived experience and show you what you accomplished through someone else’s eyes.”
In this way, Mellor’s photography becomes a safe space for others, a portal to a world that embraces beauty of all kinds and isn’t afraid to speak its truth. “I would say my work is body-love focused, and it’s a bit surreal and very imaginative, colorful, bright and creative,” says Mellor. “The theme is to celebrate the skin that you’re in, and I want to make you think when you look at it.”
“I would say my work is body-love focused, and it’s a bit surreal and very imaginative, colorful, bright and creative.”
Mellor describes their work as a specific genre of listening to stories of people’s dark times or transformations and turning them into beautiful photos. “I’ll be asking them their story, and then they’ll tell me mostly about feelings,” they say. “People paint their stories in how they felt during the time, so they tell me about feelings and I can take those feelings and I will ask them, ‘Ok, that’s how you were feeling? Fast forward, how do you want to feel looking at these photos? What do you want to see when you look at these?’ And that is a big descriptor that I go off of when I’m planning those photoshoots; how people feel is very telling.”
Mellor recalls a time they took photos of someone who had recently come out as nonbinary after a traumatic car accident that snatched their dreamt-up life away. “They told me because of that time in their life, they realized that life was really short and fleeting. So they decided to come out as nonbinary and they were so afraid to live their truth and be who they were. They kind of put on this mirror face of what everyone else wanted them to be,” says Mellor. After coming out to their parents, the subject’s mother said, “You’ll always be my alien baby,” which inspired an alien-inspired shoot on the Salt Flats. “We did this photoshoot with holographic tapers and insane makeup and wardrobe, and it looked like this person was on the moon, and somewhere completely different,” says Mellor. They reiterate that the fashion and editorial aspect of it wasn’t the purpose—the purpose was to take a specific part of the subject’s identity and show it to them, to show the individual their power and confidence in their own skin.
“I love being a mirror for people [and] reflecting back at people what’s already there,” says Mellor, “because we don’t see ourselves very clearly and so it’s really powerful to have someone else assist in that process and show you who you are in that moment, it’s beautiful.”