Birgit Buchart

The first time I met Birgit was when she was working on a video promo for Lomography. It was a hot summer day in Brooklyn, but she was cool and composed serving as the photo brand’s marketing manager, producer, talent wrangler, etc. Despite having to wear several hats that day (and on most days) I found her to be one of the kindest and most present people on set and it was clear to me how dedicated she was to her work and growing the film community.

Which is why we are so lucky to have her as an integral part of Seeing Collective. In addition to being an amazing organizer and supporter of our growing photo community, we also want to introduce her as an artist and the talented photographer that she is.

Shot exclusively on film, Birgit’s photographic work beautifully captures the ever-changing streets of New York City and its people. Much like her personality, her images are honest and real and have a natural tranquility about them that makes her photography special.

Armed with her 35mm Leica Rangefinder, Birgit captures moments that are often overlooked like a discarded plastic bag caught in a tree or a spilled coffee cup under a row of empty subway seats revealing her unconditional love for the city and its grit. On the other side of documenting these fleeting everyday moments, her portrait work is beautiful, humanistic and sometimes playful, showing the wonderful range in her visual vocabulary.

Have a stroll around Birgit’s Instagram where she most frequently shares her “film only” photos and experience New York City and its inhabitants through her poetic and journalistic vision.


Intro by Lanna Apisukh

What attracted you initially to photography? (when did you first pick up a camera?)

I think the first camera I picked up was my parent’s point and shoot. I randomly found it one day and shot a full roll. When my mom realized that, she told me film was expensive and I couldn’t simply take the camera and waste a roll like that. But when I got the prints back from the lab and experienced the magic, of holding those moments in your hands, which you saved from fading into nothingness.

This weirdly exciting feeling stuck with me. My sister and I both started taking pictures and we found out my father and grandfather were quite a bit into photography. My dad handed down his old SLR to my sister and ordered one for me off ebay. I remember this time as the first time I saw my dad excited to being able to teach us something we were interested in. It was important to him we understood the basics of photography before we went out to shoot and I enjoyed the bonding hobby.

I pursued photography later in school, but unfortunately by the time I got to high school they had switched everything to digital. I still enjoyed shooting digital but it’s unlimited possibilities felt too overwhelming to me. I realized I was too much of a perfectionist when it came to photography that I couldn’t deal with the digital form of it. I was never truly happy with any results, because it always felt like I could shoot a better version of the same photo or edit them differently.

I got back into film, through my job at Lomography, which changed a lot for me. I wasn’t aware of the huge, active and passionate community that was still existing in the film photography world and it simply sucked me into it. Ironically, now with the limits of film photography, I am shooting more than ever.

Why did you choose photography over other art forms?

It was never a conscious decision to pick photography over other art forms. I simply feel drawn to photography, just as much as I’m drawn to writing. But even with these two passions of mine, I don’t have any control over when to do which. There are days I feel the urge to write and others I need to take photos. But I do think, subconsciously, they fulfill different needs. With writing, I turn my inside out, focusing on my inner feelings and thoughts. Photography, on the other hand, forces me to truly look at the world around me. I love street photography in particular because it strengthens your awareness of your surrounding, something it’s so easy to lose in a city like New York.

What keeps you motivated to produce new work?

To me, my photography doesn’t really feel like “producing new work”. Therefore, I don’t feel like I need anything to stay motivated. Taking pictures is more like an urge I have and whenever I feel it boiling up inside, I simply go out and shoot. It’s this human instinct, forcing me to simply create, rather than thinking about the actual purpose of the results. Sometimes, I get rolls back and I don’t like a single photo in them. And that’s okay, because the reason I shot that roll, was only to shoot it.

That said, taking photos has become natural to me. I do it every day. What I need motivation for, is afterwards doing something with the photos I’ve created. But thankfully, through my job and the people around me here in New York, I am constantly surrounded with creatives who are constantly working on personal projects, lifting each other up, helping out and encouraging to “do something” with your art. All of us here in New York are probably borderline workaholics and might regret this in a couple of years, but right now New York’s notorious work ethics is giving me a lot of confidence and motivation.

Where or from whom do you get your inspiration?

Again, as someone being rather new to New York, the city itself is still my oasis of inspiration. It simply feels honest and real, which is what I am looking for in art as well. It’s beautiful and horrible at the same time. Walking out into the streets of New York is exciting because you never know if the city will bring you down or make you happy that day. And whichever one it is, I better have my camera on me to capture it.

And then there are the people in it of course. I feel lucky, not really having to buy photo books or scroll through pinterest to seek inspiration. I come across daily it by socializing within the creative community around me and I am very thankful for that.

Do you make time for personal work, and what new projects are you working on?

I try to. Of course, it always feels like I should make more time for it. But then again, I try not to put too much pressure on my personal work and projects. I already have a 9 - 5 job, I care about and I want to keep my personal projects mostly personal, meaning I want to truly enjoy them. They shouldn’t feel like work.

At the moment, I’m working on a shared zine with a friend, from a recent trip to Mexico City. For no particular reason, other than to simply find closure for the body of work we created on film, by bringing them back to a print medium.

Other than that, I am constantly taking photos, pushing myself to try different things, whether that’s film stock or photographic styles, to get better and more daring in certain ways and to see where it takes me.

What has been a big learning lesson for you in the photography industry?

That there’s a place for everyone. Sure, there are certain aesthetics and types of photography which might be trending at the moment and easier to earn money with. But if that’s not your main goal, there are platforms and communities for any kind of photography which respect and value your work. Whatever that might be.

Tell us about a project that changed the way you work in photography (did it force you to create new work? did it expose you to new challenges? did it open you to a new community?)

For a long time photography was something I exclusively did on my own. I still enjoy going out to shoot by myself, it’s a type of therapy or meditation at times. However, on my trip to Mexico with a fellow photography-friend, I for the first time enjoyed the perks of shooting with someone else. It pushed me to stay focused, as both of us wanted to be the first to spot a motif before the other. It also challenged my habits, as you notice the other person’s perspective. It’s one thing to look at someone’s photos, realizing they’re seeing different things in the streets than you would normally notice but it’s another thing to be right there, when they see them. I learned a lot witnessing how this friend of mine went about taking his photos. I definitely want to “collaborate” more with others, and shoot with different photographers to challenge up my own perspective.

Who is your ideal client? Explain.

The only client, I know: Myself. I want to stay away from commissioned work. Photography is too precious for me to do it for someone else. It would spoil the pleasure. If I ever shoot a series, I myself is good enough to pitch to clients, I might do that one day, but that’s not my goal. Not right now at least. 

Where would you like to be in 5 years?

Hopefully still walking through New York with my camera. Maybe on the way to a group show with photos by me and my friends. I hope both, my writing and photography will have developed further and will still be developing. Maybe I will have found a way to combine these two forms of creative storytelling. 


Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?

I believe with the growing online media and social platforms, are making things harder for commercial photographers. Photographic skills and professional gear might have become obsolete in 10 years. That sounds scary, but I’m afraid that’s where we’re heading for a period of time. At the same time, “real” photography, including film photography, will further grow in the creative scene. I believe that’s a natural development. If the photographic craft isn’t needed in the daily business anymore, because there are new, cheaper and easier forms to produce commercial content for businesses, photographers will not simply stop shooting. They will turn to the creative industry and produce more art, experiment more with the medium and techniques. And that again opens new doors and I’m curious to see where they lead.

Image by Megan Mack

 

Sina Basila

www.sinabasila.com

Upon meeting Sina at a friends gallery show opening I had been obsessively talking about starting a photography collective; during the time I was in a creative rut - lacking motivation, personal drive, and focused momentum to tackle the idea alone. Immediately when we met I spurted out the idea of starting this photography collective, instantly her eyes lit up and I noticed her genuine enthusiasm for this project. My desire stemmed from missing an in-person connection and a stable photography community I could go to/cultivate - she too shared in this desire.

From day one I could tell Sina’s bold personality and strong drive would help get the project off the floor. This is what community is all about, working together to create something out of nothing. Finding and meeting people who are not like you to help bridge gaps. When I looked at her images and video work I could see she was passionate about the environment, youth education in the arts, gender equality, and cultural discrepancies in the industry. I was so impressed by her refashioned garbage work; the intricacy of the outfits she made from discarded materials was so beautiful. This idea had always interested me, but I never had the tactile craftsmanship to pursue. Sina has a unique style and remains true to her vision. Her passion for community organizing has helped shape Seeing Collective and Photo Café into what it is today.

Intro by Megan Mack

What attracted you initially to photography?

I became enamored with photography as a window to experiencing different cultures and to see commonalities in places different from my own. Images of my parents’ travels had an enormous impact on me. Photos from their years traveling through Africa on bicycles adorned our walls and were regularly seen in the form of a slide show. I also remember looking through my mom’s handmade photo albums of the tiny German village that we lived in; these photos connected us to our German roots that we somewhat rejected as young kids growing up in upstate New York. I had my first camera at about the age of ten. The photos were nothing special, but I did start to love the process of taking and developing photos


Why did you choose photography over other art forms or other career paths?

I’ve always been creative, and I love the beauty of photography. With the use of light, color, and perspective, a photograph can show ugly things in beautiful ways. A beautiful photograph can draw you in to communicate a message, and I wanted to be capable of that. I want us to challenge our perspectives on values and how we devalue certain things and groups.

I also work with documentary video, but I use these mediums in different ways. My videos include narration, movement, and time. I love that a photograph is a moment turned silent, and we can look at a photograph for a second or a lifetime to dissect its importance.

Where or from whom do you get your inspiration?

I tend to get inspiration from two different directions: I love photos that affirm the value of everyday or underrepresented individuals (think: Mary Ellen Mark, Dorothea Lange, and Zanele Muholi) , and I also love the work of photographers who think outside of the box and insert a lot of creative direction (think: Tim Walker, Annie Leibovitz, and Cindy Sherman). I think my own work has this same duality of direction. I want my work to have something important to say while still being beautiful.

I am also inspired by the world around me. I think there is a lot of beauty in the mundane, routine, and obvious. I try to stay aware of the beauty in the everyday.

What keeps you motivated to keep producing new work?

Creating work is a way for me to engage with my community. I like to showcase the work of people and organizations in my community, and I like being exposed to new ideas that challenge my own limited knowledge of the world. I am motivated to use my camera as a tool to showcase things that I find important such as programs, education, criminal justice, the environment, and the important existence of the less-than-extraordinary human. Every person’s existence affects their community.

Do you make time for personal work, and what new projects are you working on?

To piggyback on the last question, I love to create projects that allow me to interact with my community. Right now, I am excited about my series (Create)ive Change where I photograph and interview artists who use their creative platforms to make political statements. I am excited to have the opportunity to engage with people whose work I admire and to see how they work. I rejected titling myself as an artist for the longest time because I felt that being an artist was frivolous and ineffective. I am excited to investigate how creative endeavors can create change, and I want this series to inspire others to be a part of political change.

What has been a big learning lesson for you in the photography industry?

Learning to ask for my worth has been a big learning lesson (I’m still not sure I’m doing that!). There is such a delicate balance in asking for a price that doesn’t make you look greedy or make you look cheap. Unfortunately, photographers have a tendency not to share their rates—which is a shame! How can we fight for a living wage and opportunity equality when we all hold our cards close!?

Shortly after moving from Berlin to New York, I had an opportunity to shoot an event and had no idea what New York prices were (higher wage for higher living costs). I asked a friend who told me that I should say that my rate is $65/ hour but to offer new clients a discount at $50/ hour (this included post-production time). It took me a long time to realize that this rate was totally unsustainable! It took me a long time to increase my hourly event rate (which I did incrementally) and not to let clients take advantage of my naiveté and kindness. In the honor of transparency, I currently ask for $150/ hour, and I know other photographers who ask for more and/or have a 3-hour minimum ask.

Tell us about a project that changed the way you work in photography

My Refashioned Garbage project finally let me embrace titling myself as an artist while still having a powerful message: rethink your waste. What started out as a fun idea to be creative in self-portraits turned into a much larger project where the pre-production is as much of the project as the photo itself. For this series, I collect materials destined for landfills to create wearable designs that mimic high fashion. This mimicry disrupts the flow of consumption by flipping concepts of fashion and garbage.

The challenges that I face with this series are: when can I find the time to create a new piece? How do I create and shoot this work in my small, shared apartment? How do I get this work out there—do I want to have an exhibition or get published in a magazine?

I am still figuring out the answer to these questions, but what I have gotten from this series is exposure to a whole new community of artists and activists.

How is the photography community beneficial to your art?

Feedback is energizing. When someone has a positive reaction to your work, it gives you the feeling that someone else cares about what you are doing. I don’t get the same energy from social media, but it is a tool that I need to utilize better. The energy is different in person. Earlier this year there was a period when I was working on a lot of foundational and administrative work for projects which kept me from producing new work with my camera. My collective colleague, Megan, got on my case about it which was just what I needed to hear. There is always an excuse not to do something, and it is wonderful to have a community that pushes you.

Who is your ideal client?

I would love to work for the parks or an environmental organization to create a visual program that engages the community through exhibitions, workshops, and actions. We are at a critical moment in determining the future of our planet, and I want to engage the community in this conversation and movement. I imagine this in three parts: create a photo series in the parks, invite the community to participate in a workshop to create their own art piece inspired by the photographs, and end the exhibition with a call to action.

Where would you like to be in 5 years?

I want to continue to be a visual activist and to use my work to promote understanding, curiosity, justice, education, and inspire action. I want to do this with my video and photography, but I would also like to create more regular programming like that of Photo Café (but with funding!). I love to be a part of organizations for change and would love to organize regular events that are beneficial for the larger community. I would also like to use the time between projects to work in a studio and/or artist residency on my Refashioned Garbage series to continue my exploration of waste.


Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?

I think that there are a lot of downsides to the automation and surveillance of digital devices, but at the same time, this technology is becoming ever more widely available to more people. This availability is giving more groups the chance to take representation into their own hands and to share their perspectives with the world. I would like the industry to take notice of the convivial possibilities of this trend and to hire a more representational group of photographers.

Image by Megan Mack


Megan Mack

www.meganmack.com

When Megan first approached me about a new photo collective she was forming with Sina Basila, I was intrigued, excited and even flattered that she would ask me to join as my career in photography was just beginning. Being invited into a group of talented photographers by someone whose work I had admired was an honor and demonstrated her personality – open, friendly and always curious to learn about people and the world.  Basically, some of the most important attributes of being a great photographer.

I still recall browsing Megan’s portfolio for the first time and being completely amazed by her extensive celebrity portraiture work she modestly crafted at a young age. As a generation X-er who grew up on 90’s alternative fashion and skateboard culture, I was naturally drawn to her dreamy outdoor portraits of cool-girl Chloe Sevigny gazing into her lens. But it was the striking and moody image she created of Oscar-winning film director, Guillermo del Toro that really captivated my attention. At the time, he was up for Best Director Academy Award nominations for The Shape of Water and the portrait that Megan had created, was a brilliant concept executed beautifully with watery dimension, depth and cinematic darkness. It takes a clever mind to conceive ideas like this and bring them to life in photographs and that’s exactly why Megan’s work is exceptional. 

Give her expansive portfolio a stroll and you’ll find yourself drawn into a world of fascinating people and magical scenes captured through her powerful vision.

Intro by Lanna Apisukh

What attracted you initially to photography? 

Photography first attracted my attention during a childhood visit to the Rose Bowl Parade. I understood that the flowers on the floats wouldn’t last and I wanted to keep the image of the flowers in their full bloom. As a child, I struggled with the idea of death and impermanence and photography was a way of preserving a moment or place in time despite its inevitable erasure. I was obsessed with old photographs of my grandparents, in particular images of the farm my grandpa grew up on. The image as a lost world had a profound influence on my visual imagination, enabling me to create elaborate personal narratives that amounted to, essentially, time travel. 

Why did you choose photography over other art forms or other career paths? 

In high school I took up photography and, despite not seeing a future in it, I realized I had a gift of sorts when my photo teacher awarded me some money towards pursuing photography. Sometimes it only takes one person to push you. As your typical lost teenager, I thought photography would allow me to be a wallflower and still make money.

Where or from whom do you get your inspiration?

I gather inspiration from people (number one), books, nature, my fellow artists/photographers, my cat, the subway, light, loving moments, human interaction. Of course, there are moments when you feel too inundated by imagery and stimuli and so I'll try to find some alone time to reset. I think it’s needed, especially in New York.

What keeps you motivated to keep producing new work?

That’s the biggest challenge. I’m one of those people who start a lot of projects but doesn’t always finish them. But at least something is always in motion. Instagram is really helpful for connecting you to strangers, and it’s a good platform for collaboration. If I’m stuck, I’ll find someone and ask if they want to shoot together. Of course, Instagram can be extremely distracting, so it’s always a give and take with that platform.


Do you make time for personal work, and what new projects are you working on?

Currently, I’m working on my hunting series and trying to navigate my street photography. Lately, shooting with film has brought back my love for photography. My eye becomes clearer and more aware when shooting film because it makes you slow down and shoot more methodically.

What has been a big learning lesson for you in the photography industry?

You have to grab at opportunity and not let rejection get you down. In the past I gave up on new leads and regret it now. Sometimes I was indecisive, could have pushed a little harder here, stuck my foot in a door there, but I was worried it would look too bold or earnest. Being a woman definitely factors into this; while a man can knock on doors and look aggressive or confident, a woman has a fear of looking too pushy or can come across as desperate. I wish I had been braver but it's hard when you're young and told you look young for the job. So much has shifted for the better since I started my career 10 years ago.

Tell us about a project that changed the way you work in photography 

It’s not easy to select one project that changed the way I work, but I think the most challenging is my hunting project. Documenting hunters is very difficult. You need to be incredibly aware of everything at all times, while also being quiet and alert. Coming from a commercial portraiture background I wasn’t trained in journalism or documentary photography, so I wanted to explore that avenue with this project.

How is the photography community beneficial to your art?

Having a community of other photographers helps me bounce ideas around, get feedback, be inspired by the different work they are doing, and being around other photographers to discuss the industry.

Who is your ideal client? 

Someone who pays well, and can give me assignments that allow me to travel and tell stories...Nat Geo, Time, NY Times and Atlantic.

Where would you like to be in 5 years?

Working as a photographer full time, completing an MFA, rebranding my business -- while still able to afford a good amount of downtime. Work steady. Show the results. Have a balanced life.

Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?

That’s a hard one. Robots and code will probably assume the more mundane image making. There will be highly accessible and portable studios, and, hopefully, some sort of mini hovercraft to make me taller 'cause I’m always shooting up at folks and hate bringing a step stool. 

The photography industry is very wasteful (like pretty much everything else in the world), so it would be great if there is more emphasis on sustainability in terms of eco-friendly equipment and materials. And be cost efficient, of course: being a photographer is not cheap. Also, cameras will always get smaller and more powerful, considering where the iPhone and Samsung are taking us. DSLRS will be dead but not --I hope--film!

Image by Lanna Apisukh


Lanna Apisukh

www.lannaapisukh.com

I am looking at a photograph of Lanna. It’s a warm, sunny day. She wears a breezy lavender top and her hair is pulled back into a low ponytail. She has a slight smile on her face as she lands an impressive skateboard trick, with both arms in the air under a Brooklyn overpass. She appears composed while maintaining an effortless cool. Whether she is on a skateboard or photographing the CEO of a major company, Lanna exists to me as she does in this photograph, vibrant, warm, energetic, and poised. Unsurprisingly, Lanna’s photography exudes these same radiant qualities. Her portraiture, aside from being incredibly striking, is unique in it’s honest, positive, and empowering view of her subjects. You can draw a line from her work with these skaters directly to one of my favorite images. Kabrina, the subject of the photograph, stands with her arms lazily folded outside an L train stop in Bushwick. The sleeves of her purple tie-dye shirt are wrapped around her fists, suggesting a crisp evening air. Kabrina stares candidly into the camera, partially illuminated by the unmistakable glow of a late-night taco truck. This sort of compelling image is not a rarity in Lanna’s work. Her masterful abilities to manipulate lighting and capture one-of-a-kind scenes makes looking through Lanna’s portfolio a treat. I hope you will enjoy looking at her amazing work below.

Intro by Fiona Veronique

What attracted you initially to photography? (when did you first pick up a camera?)

It’s funny, I can’t exactly remember when I first picked up a camera because growing up, my family always had them around. They were constantly documenting our personal lives, my gymnastic competitions, family gatherings and food, always food! Photography just felt like a natural part of everyday life so it’s hard to pinpoint when I picked up a camera. However, I do recall getting very excited about photography in high school when I’d photograph friends in my parents garage. We’d dress up in crazy outfits and conduct mini fashion shoots with my 35mm point and shoot camera. Getting the film developed and seeing the results was always a thrill.

My obsession for photography continued to grow as I went off to university and studied art and photo history. I eventually discovered the darkroom and that is when I really took to image making. Back then, I was shooting a lot black and white film and experimenting with double exposures. I photographed my personal belongings, skateboarders, people on the street and musicians. In a way, I feel like I’m just picking up from where I left off at in college since I’ve started to re-examine similar subjects.

Why did you choose photography over other art forms?

As a young adult, I was always drawn to images in fashion magazines and art history books. Photography always felt more accessible and emotive to me than any other medium. It’s the quickest way to record a moment in time and I’m able to get access to people and places I’d never imagined I’d meet or experience. In many ways photography has allowed me to be more of an adventurous and empathetic person by connecting me with new places and people in a very human way. It’s the best!

Have you always been shooting professionally or did you have other jobs before you became a photographer?

Before I arrived to photography as a profession, I was actually working in digital marketing for about a decade promoting music apps, video platforms and creating content for brands. I was making a lot of money but I wasn’t feeling satisfied with what I was doing. Whenever I was shooting on the side, I would get so much joy out of it and daydreamed about doing it full time. So when social media started to blow up, I jumped at every opportunity to shoot content for the brands and companies I worked for. I started out photographing beauty products, promotional giveaways and eventually models for a beauty campaign. One thing lead to another and I left my full-time marketing career so I could pursue photography professionally. So far, it has been a hustle but the experience has been extremely rewarding and I have no regrets!

Where or from whom do you get your inspiration?

I get my inspiration from everywhere! Books, magazines, films, the streets of New York City, skateboarders and especially from my travels. A few years ago I started making travel photo essays every time I visited a new country or city. It helped me process the experience and trained my eye on how to edit a series. I worked a lot with Sara Fox, the Photo Director at literary travel magazine Nowhere and she really helped me with refining my vision.

I still love making these essays and would love to publish a book of them some day.

I’m also influenced and inspired by my fellow creative friends and my husband who is an experimental documentary filmmaker. I really admire his work ethic and drive to create work that challenges conventional filmmaking. He introduced me to a lot of wonderful documentarians including Frederick Wiseman which has been a wonderful source of inspiration for me.

Working as a photographer:

I’ve always loved Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s cinematic portraits, Saul Leiter’s painterly street photos, Nan Goldin’s intimate work of lovers and friends, Mary Ellen Mark’s Streetwise, and Stephen Shore’s color photography of American life in the ‘70s. I was blown away when I saw his retrospective at MoMA last year. Five decades of incredible work. I have a long way to go!

What keeps you motivated to keep producing new work?

The awesome support and feedback I’ve received from my peers, friends, family and past instructors definitely keeps me going. The photo community at BKC and Seeing Collective has also been encouraging and has definitely kept me motivated to shoot more. (Shout out to my awesome mentors, Justin Lin, founder of BKC and my past professor Curtis Willocks at FIT, they’ve both been wonderful supporters since my leap from marketing to photography!) I also feel that the hustle of New York City keeps me motivated and has given me a lot of opportunity to work and connect with amazing people. There is no place like it!


Do you make time for personal work, and what new projects are you working on?

Lately, I’ve been focused on commercial work because I need to pay the bills but I always try to make time for personal work because that’s the stuff that is most interesting to me. Most recently, I’ve been documenting a group of amazing students that attend a fashion high school in the city. Their ambition and drive to create is incredibly inspiring to me and I’m hoping to continue with that project and see where it takes me.

What has been a big learning lesson for you in the photography industry?

Basically, that there is no cookie cutter answer for determining your rate for a job since there are so many variables to consider. You basically have to look at each project case by case and develop a creative and production fee that will satisfy both you and your client which isn’t always easy. This is why photo collectives and communities like BKC and Seeing Collective are so beneficial to photographers. We’re here to help support and guide each other when we have tricky questions from both a creative and business perspective.

Tell us about a project that changed the way you work in photography (did it force you to create new work? did it expose you to new challenges? did it open you to a new community?)

I recently took on a big commercial client and that forced me to be more organized on the business side of photography. I had to get insurance for the shoot, hire a lawyer to help with contracts, create call sheets, production schedules and hire assistants. It was a great exercise in a big production and now I have a solid template to work with moving forward.


Who is your ideal client? Explain.

Basically anyone that trusts my eye, my ideas, has a sense of humor and is excited to collaborate with me. An individual or a creative team you can jive with is always the best.

Where would you like to be in 5 years?

I try not to think too far ahead because it can be overwhelming, but I’d love to have one of my documentary projects eventually shown somewhere or published in a forward-thinking magazine or arts/culture/news publication. Hopefully I’ll have the freelance life more figured out by then too!

Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?

Well, we’re already at the point where people are experimenting with 360 video and crazy VR content, so perhaps the next cycle will be a rejection of it all and a return to analog photography? Seems like it’s already happening now with the re-release of instant film cameras and brands adding a film look to their campaign images. A lot of my peers are picking up their medium and large format cameras again and the teenagers I’ve recently photographed are starting to experiment with film now too, and that’s pretty awesome.

Image by Fiona Veronique


Fiona Veronique

fionaveronique.com

There is a serenity about Fiona’s photographs. It’s as if I’m watching a part in a film where the camera holds on a moment, as the sound is overtaken by the cawing of birds or rolling ocean waves. The camera lingers to make us look, harder. Her photographs capture moments we may fail to see if it weren’t for these beautiful photographs. Fiona’s photographs attract us with glistening color and light. Her photographs explore space and objects left behind. Her work captures simplistic beauty with a touch of humor. It is when I take a longer look that I really admire the beauty within Fiona’s photographs.

I met Fiona through Seeing Collective. Like her photographs, Fiona has a quietness to her that does not declare her poignant artistry. Fiona is a pleasure to be around, she shows up and she is present. Her observations are worthy of attention.

It was easy to photograph Fiona for her portrait (see portrait at bottom). I chose some of my Refashioned Garbage creations to photograph her in, and she took to them right away. For her portrait, Fiona wore discarded garden netting onto which discarded party streamers were tied, and on her fingers she wore aluminum yogurt lids that were fashioned into cones. Our collaboration produced many wonderful photos with little direction needed. 

Intro by Sina Basila

What attracted you initially to photography?

When I was 9, I brought a disposable camera to camp and upon returning home, decided I wanted to finish the last frames of the roll of film at the supermarket. The photos I came back with were of packaged meat under fluorescent lights and splashy soda cans in their tall reaching stacks. I never did do much with these images, but I can distinctly recall the thrill and curiosity I felt documenting this place that was strange, beautiful, and inexplicably melancholy. What attracted me to photography that day is still what attracts me today: I am fascinated by the ways in which people relate to the natural, or built spaces around themselves, and feel constantly inspired by the ability to communicate a story or feeling with a single image.

Why did you choose photography over other art forms or other career paths?

For the most part I felt certain that I wanted to major in photography at Pratt, until one day I designed a cake box for an art assignment. I was so pleased with the final product that I told my professor I had changed my mind and would study graphic design. She rolled her eyes at me and said only, “Okay, Fiona.” Disheartened by her less than enthusiastic response, I decided once again that I would study photography. But I think this shows the ambivalence I still feel about solely pursuing photography and the deep connection and inspiration I draw from other media. Photography is perhaps the medium I feel most at ease with, yet I think that generally speaking I would have been content working in any medium that would allow me to reflect on daily life through visual, metaphorical means.

Where or from whom do you get your inspiration?

I recently discovered the work of Michael Northrup, a photographer who worked primarily in the 70s-90s. His photographs are bizarre, beautiful, upsetting, and uplifting all at once. There is a photo of his where a woman and a small child are delicately holding hands in front of a suburban house with a lovely yellow bush down in the middle. There is so much that I love about this photo — the soft but powerful colors, the cinematic wide angle and off-kilter framing, and the subtle, vaguely frustrated expressions on their faces. It's such a moving photograph and portrays what might for some be a “real” depiction of what life feels like — whatever that means.

What keeps you motivated to keep producing new work?

I feel motivated by my own obsession with documenting the everyday, and preserving the poignant moments, people, or narratives that might otherwise go unnoticed. When I was in high school, I would sit in the classroom thinking that every room and every moment could be composed of a million pictures. There are so many beautiful, funny, special, and completely tragic moments in life that pray to be captured and tucked away to forever hold and look back on. I, like many people would rather not die, and photography has been an exceptional tool in helping me balance overwhelming awe with a sense of groundedness and with genuine human connection.

Do you make time for personal work, and what new projects are you working on?

I try to set aside as much time as possible for personal work. Making photographs is an crucial aspect of my being; I rely on photography to help me process daily life— that being said, I always strive to preserve and nurture the connection that I have with it. Sometimes this means sifting through old work and looking for patterns, or just going to a museum to look at the work of other artists. In terms of new projects, I am working on putting together a collection of photographs made over the past few years in the Pacific Northwest. About three years ago, my younger sister moved across the country to Olympia, Washington to attend school. I visited her on several occasions and became incredibly entranced by the landscape and personality of the region. I am currently in the process of editing and compiling this work.

What has been a big learning lesson for you in the photography industry?

Learning to be less hard on myself. Being on social media, it becomes very easy to compare your work and process to that of other photographers/artists. Instead of this being motivation to work harder, I find it ends up pushing me backwards — way backwards, putting the focus on attempting to replicate the success of others rather than on my personal goals. I spend so much time invested in the accomplishments of other photographers, I often have to remind myself that I am also a photographer! You would think that the stream of helpful men offering unsolicited photographic equipment recommendations would help me remember...

How is the photography community beneficial to your art?

During my time at Pratt, I benefited immensely from the critique, support, and knowledge my professors and peers shared amongst the community. When Megan Mack, one of See C. founders (along with Sina Basila), approached me in 2016 and told me that she was planning to start a photo collective, I was thrilled by the concept of once again belonging to a photography community. It’s been almost a year since our first meeting, and it has been so encouraging to be surrounded by other photographers working in several different sectors of the industry. Having a group of people with which to share ideas, show work, and discuss photography is massively beneficial in a era and place that increasingly discourages creative endeavors. I feel passionate about our plans to spread the knowledge and resources we possess as a group through talks on relevant industry topics, and our growing partnership with community-minded photography school, Brooklyn Central.

Who is your ideal client?

As a documentary photographer, a forward-thinking publication that tells stories in a creative fashion would be a dream to work for! I consistently photograph a wide range of subjects so it would be great to have clients who see the versatility of my work as an asset and are confident in my eye. As a concrete example, I have admired much of the photography in the Times magazine and the New Yorker.

Where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?

I would imagine the industry will continue to move towards the moving image and virtual reality. Despite my fear of technological advancements and my expertise being very limited, I do hope that we are moving towards a place of greater inclusivity in the photography world (and outside of it). Artists with privilege, need to be uncomfortably aware of the power that their identities may bring them in these industries, and work consistently to dismantle the systems of oppression that they have kept in place.

Tell us about a project that changed the way you work in photography?

I used to have a strong objection to portraiture, much of which I believed to be boring, insincere and overly sentimental. After graduating in 2015, I began to reflect on my work and the substantial role that people or their implied presence play. In my photographs, people were often in the frame, but almost always in the distance or turned away. I was shooting a lot in Brighton Beach at the time and started to feel quite unsatisfied with the photos of tiny, distant figures — my avoidance of people’s faces disguised as a unique photographic element was avoiding a challenge I had to conquer if I wanted to tell compelling stories. I had been assisting a portrait photographer at the time and was blown away by how complex and challenging it was to simultaneously form a connection with someone and take a meaningful, well-composed photograph. It became clear that a portrait did not have to be the dull expression I once understood it to be. Trying to push more portraiture into my work has been an extraordinarily exciting journey and challenge. I look forward to continuing to push myself to photograph both strangers and familiar people.

Image by Sina Basila

Copyright 2019 Seeing Collective © All rights reserved.
Using Format