Amy Pollock’s “Embodied Cognition” Photography Project

This flesh-filled series explores the psychological concept referenced in its title

NYC-based, Australian photographer and videographer Amy Pollock is no stranger to portraiture, interiors, interviews and party footage, but her personal work proves to be a striking departure from her professional endeavors. Her project Embodied Cognition is a little gruesome at first glance, but simultaneously glorious. The series of highly stylized photographs explores the psychological concept of embodied cognition: that obviously the mind influences bodily action, but that it also works the other way. We spoke with Pollock to learn about her intention and photographing all that flesh.

Can you tell me about the conception of this series?

The series originated from a personal exploration of the mind-body relationship where I dived into the philosophical idea of embodied cognition, which (in a very basic sense) is the idea that we learn and develop cognitively through our physical interactions with the world, not just through activities that directly influence our mind.

As technology continues to advance, the actual need for physical presence is decreasing. You know, we so often talk about the need for more exercise to keep our bodies in shape and our minds alert, but then we go back and experience the world from our desk. A lot of us are aware of the detrimental effect that physical repression can have on a person and I really believe that the irrelevance of the body in the digital age is negatively affecting a lot of us in both a psychological and physiological way. I know physical separation and limitations has for me in the past so this series was both an intimate personal exploration as well as an attempt to highlight the importance of embracing our bodies and to celebrate the physical.

What was your process for shooting it?

It was a messy and slightly confronting process. As a vegetarian, I had a few ethical dilemmas going into this but I worked closely with a butcher friend and was able to create the series and not conflict with my personal views about meat consumption and food waste. Each image was highly considered in its symbolism but in terms of the framing and actual visual outcome—that was created after a few glasses of wine and a lot of trial and error. The thing I love most about still life is that you’re creating something that only exists through the lens. The image itself looks like it could be a sculptural piece but if you step outside of the lens and see what’s really going on you lose a lot of the beauty.

I really believe that the irrelevance of the body in the digital age is negatively affecting a lot of us in both a psychological and physiological way.

Was there a specific mood or feeling you want to evoke in viewers?

Each image is full of specific symbolism that someone could dissect if they wanted to but individual interpretation is the most important aspect of any art and I love when I hear about the different thoughts or emotions that the work creates. For example, the wine glass image refers to the sin of the flesh, however I’ve heard a mix of reactions that relate more to the relationship people have with alcohol and their bodies which is a valid interpretation. If an image makes a person think a minute about anything at all it’s an achievement for me…. or if they creep you out and make you feel a little uncomfortable—even better!

Is there a certain satisfaction that you get from personal projects that are different from your client work?

Definitely. With personal projects the entire process is kind of therapeutic—and is just as important as the intended outcome. I usually start off with an idea, explore it, dissect it then kind of grow with it. Client work is great because you get to bring a part of yourself into someone else’s world, but it’s a collaborative experience and you’re performing a specific role. I love any moment I get to be behind the camera but nothing beats working on a personal project.

Images by Amy Pollock