Things have changed quite drastically in the past couple of years with Instagram opening the door to budding photographers around the globe – there are still purists, but why limit your creativity at all? I say experiment as much as you can, until you find your niche and what you love to shoot.”
INTERVIEW: LANI SPICE
PHOTOGRAPHY: DANIELLE CLOUGH
PORTRAIT: TYLER B. MURPHY
You have a reputation for being a “jack of all trades” and in your rare case “master of them all.” you are known for many crafts one of them being your photographs. What’s your story and how did you get introduced to analogue photography?
I was introduced to a site called Pijin.net around the time I had been given a very basic digital camera. I think I was about 15. It was a social network, before Facebook, revolving around photography. You had briefs and people rated your photos which got me thinking about taking photos in a different way. It wasn’t just about smiling pictures of friends. Not long after that I discovered Lomography cameras. They were cutesy and fun. My curiosity about how the images would turn out became a bit obsessive and I found that I was learning more from shooting with film. From then on I just found myself gravitating more and more towards analogue photography. I guess I went about it backwards, digital first, film after.
What film do you enjoy using the most?
I go through phases, I really enjoy cross-processing slide film, I think mainly because it’s so unpredictable and that’s part of the beauty of analogue. It’s always fun to experiment getting black and white film and then push-processing it. I often forget what film I have in what camera and just hope for the best.
What intrigues you the most about shooting on analogue?
You’ll take the photo and you construct it as best you can in terms of your composition, exposure and all the variables, but by the time it gets processed and it’s in your hands, you are completely removed from that moment and the image can tell a totally different story. It’s almost like having your memories recited to you in a different voice. I think that is what intrigues me the most; being able to create something and then experience it later.
I know you have a love for both mediums of digital and film, however recently i heard a phrase where somebody said there’s not enough mystery in digital, would you agree? How do you feel about the two?
Film is different to digital as it often rewards mistakes. Seldom in life do we get to experience that anomaly. I use digital for different reasons and see it as a different tool completely. I use it much more commercially when I have to have a quick turnaround time, for example when I shoot my embroideries or events. There is a lot to be said about that instantaneous aspect of digital but I personally find the process a little less rewarding. Perhaps that is because I am more sentimental about film.
What cameras are you currently using and what’s been your best so far?
Rollei 35, Canon A1 underwater, Zeiss Ikon Nettar, Kodak Retinette, Nikon FM2
Zeiss – Ikon Nettar
Kodak – Retinette
You’ve also explored different disciplines of photography such as portrait, fashion, documentary etc. What would you say is your favourite
I love portraiture and I think that carries through in a lot of the things that I do such as the embroideries. I really enjoy documentary style photography too. Nearly 10 years ago, when I first started getting really passionate about capturing people I started documenting parties for a personal project called ‘Fuck off I’m Raving’. It was the raw, sweaty side of night life. My kickback from the Thunder.coms. It got me into parties and into trouble. I used to climb on stages and people thought I was crew because honestly, I didn’t know any better. I learnt a lot in this time and it opened a lot of doors for me. The idea of documenting the environment around me has stuck with me since then.
What seems to be a constant in your work is very delicate moments you experience in your surroundings and in your life. What would you say personally makes a subject or environment beautiful – what’s your motivation when capturing this?
That’s a tough question. I’m not out hunting for a certain aesthetic and I don’t know what makes something beautiful, but I do like an image to ask more questions than it answers. A big part of that comes in the selection. I don’t think the selection process is emphasised enough. I’ve been noticing this a lot lately with digital. The majority of people have access to some form of image capturing device, and people are more visually literate, but don’t take the time to consider what they shoot and share.
Despite the mass appreciation for film, people still talk of it being a dying art. How do you feel about that?
The perception that it is dying is because it’s not industry standard anymore. It has become a different form of the craft, and will occupy a different space. This happens with so many professions as technology grows; signage, tailoring, print, carpentry etc. But look at artisanal industries such as craft beer or jewellery. They are growing because people have a respect for things that are considered and made with skill. Brands like Lomography are making film more accessible to the main stream, and I have faith that film is going to grow in popularity as more and more people realise that the joy is in the process and not just the outcome.
You are a visual artist in just about everything you do at the moment, such as being a successful vj, a designer and an embroiderer. Does your photography influence any of these mediums?
Definitely, they all merge together in a weird way. I’ll use my photographs as references for my embroideries and shoot things for VJing or my design jobs. I like being able to be a part of all aspects of the creative process. It’s important today to have a selection of ‘tools’ in your skill set. They all inform each other.
I’m sure this is the hardest question, but which form of art do you enjoy the most?
It changes as I go through phases. There will be times where I just want to be a hermit, sew and watch Sopranos. Then there’s days where all I wanna be is out and taking photos. I think the different mediums speak to different aspects of my personality. Sewing is very much intricate, personal and quiet whereas VJing is loud, intrusive and spontaneous. It’s by accident, but I have curated things so that I can be productive no matter what mood I am in.
In interviews you often talk of your gran being your biggest inspiration, why is that?
Because of her kindness and openness to the world, and her ability to take anything on. She’s 81 with two poetry books published despite being a scientist her whole life. She’s got a blog and she’s on Facebook. There are no real limitations to her and she is a constant reminder that I can live 100 lives if I stay pleasant and positive.
Who else inspires you, are there any photographers or artists local or abroad?
Lorraine Loots is a big inspiration to me, it’s amazing to see what consistent hard work can bring you. I feel like it may be an obvious answer but she is magic. The people I am most encouraged by are the ones I have known for a while, and whose growth I been able to witness. Knowing where Lorraine, Anke Loots (photographer) and Jay Gordon (illustrator) started and where they are now keeps me motivated.
Any exciting projects coming up?
I’m exhibiting at The Space Between at the end of August in a group show, where I’m dabbling in some new embroidery ideas. I’ve also started a printmaking class which has opened me up to fresh techniques, so we will see where that goes!
‘Are you in or are you out?’
SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE
A & M label