Anne is from France, now living in Portland, OR. You can find her on a daily basis fighting with green and magenta as she scans your negatives at Blue Moon Camera & Machine.
You can find her on tumblr: http://annesol.tumblr.com/
I recently sat down with her via Skype and over cocktails (hers: gin, rosemary simple syrup and bitters, mine: margarita) and asked her about her photography. I’ve been quite curious to know some of these answers, and in the process hope to introduce you to a knowledgeable, skilled, and refreshing photographer. Her expertise in all the different types of film is evident from her wonderful work.
How did you get into photography?
I only took snapshots here and there before 2008, when I moved from London to New Hampshire to intern on a senate campaign where I was one day given a digital camera to photograph the candidate at events throughout the state. I also took a lot of pictures of the people I worked with which felt paparazzi-like sometimes.
When I got back to France, I bought a “bridge camera” (cross between point and shoot and dSLR), and later bought a Holga. I was determined to get some awesome bokeh in my pictures but the depth of field wasn’t that small with the camera so I ended up buying a Canon Rebel that I honestly don’t use more than four or five times a year these days.
Around the time I got the Holga, I also bought an LC-A and started using my mother’s old Minolta X-500 with cheap film and really fell in love with photography. I started out with cheap film, then bought better film, taking crappy shots. Back then, I thought that, to be good at something, it had to come naturally to me, but one day decided that I’d been wasting my time waiting for something that might take years to come, so instead, I started reading everything I could get my hands on to get better. And I think that started happening when I bought a Mamiya M645.
I dream about photography all the time. I’m obsessed with color; that’s the main thing I notice in photographs and movies. Among the many conversations you and I had was one about the show “White Collar”. One of the reasons I like it so much is that the colors, especially the Fuji-like greens, are gorgeous and they always make me want to cry.
I’ve been thinking about that for a few months now. I think I have a style, but I also believe that it’s more about the color palette and the way I use light. For instance, you won’t see much red in my photos, I like lighter shades of browns, light pinks, natural lighting. Occasionally, I’ll use light in a more dramatic way. Usually, I like to overexpose a little bit. Light is very important but not to the extent that I won’t take a photo unless that light is present, because I can always adjust exposure to get it the way I want it. And if I had to rely on golden hour in the Pacific Northwest, I’d only take photos between March and October.
Does it make me shallow if I say that I don’t care about the message so much as I care about showing the beauty in something simple? I could try to find subjects that are difficult and make grand sweeping statements about the state of our western societies (and I’m glad that other people are doing that) but I prefer to find beauty in what’s around me. Maybe the reason why I’ve turned to the kind of photography that I now practice is that I am very pessimistic by nature and I suffered from depression a few years ago, so I’ve put a lot of effort into finding little things and rituals that bring me joy.
I also care about creating a feeling of timelessness. I hope that something I take will still be beautiful to look at 10, 50 years down the line. This is also one of the reasons I don’t use digital, because it will look dated, especially with all the filters we were taught to use to make our photography stand out, though digital definitely has its place.
I love film because you can get different looks based on type of film, so it’s up to you to find the right film for the subject you are photographing or the mood you are going for. When people begin shooting film, they thing it’s up to the camera and that film and film cameras are essentially deciding for you. I think that once you know your film, you know the kinds of results you are going to get. You might not anticipate the exact colors you are going to obtain, but you’ll know if they’re going to be pastel or vibrant and you’ll know how the light will affect them. And with film, you either get it or you don’t, and you don’t spend all your time just looking at your LCD screen to figure it out. Because of the expense you only get so many chances.
It also forces you to be present and pay more attention, and to learn faster. You still have some surprises because the camera is often old, and it develops little quirks, like my M645 that has a weird overlap that sort of divides the photo. Sometimes that effect works, and others, it doesn’t.
And I love film because of the sound my cameras make. They’re not as loud as the big thunk of the Hasselblad, but their click is like a song to me. Also, loading film is one of those acts that’s methodical and relaxing. It has this peaceful quality that I can only compare to drink green tea and creating a ceremony around it.
I am inspired both by some “who’s” and some “what’s”. Let’s start with the whats. The way the light changes, the little dances it does on my walls and on people’s faces. I am that girl who looks at people on the bus just to watch the way the light illuminates their cheek when they’re sitting by the window. I observe the light everywhere I am. I have this favorite neighborhood that I pass by on the bus and my favorite thing each day is to watch the way the light falls on its houses and trees, and the way the trees meet in the middle of the street. That’s a huge inspiration to me for some reason.
Now for the people who inspire me. It’s such an obvious choice and a cliched one too, but I really admire Vivian Maier. I’m impressed by how dedicated she was to her craft. Barry Feinstein, who photographed Bob Dylan in the 60s, is another person I absolutely admire. Richard Avedon will remain one of my favorites, too. And let’s not forget Jim Marshall, the badass photographer who created so many iconic shots of the Rolling Stones and every rock band that ever mattered.
The living photographers I love the most these days are Lauren Dukoff (check out her book, Family), Autumn de Wilde, Cindy Loughridge, Alice Gao and Sonya Yu. I appreciate people who can take something really simple, like a crumpled coffee cup and make it into almost a work of art, just like Sonya Yu does.
I am really inspired by the people who started out not really knowing what they were doing and just kept working at it, were really persistent and had this dogged work ethic. When you see how much they’ve grown in a short period of time and it’s obvious now that they know their camera and their film inside out and have mastered using natural light. In that respect, I think we’re pretty lucky with social networking to be able to see someone’s evolution and their style and subjects changing.
I love portraits but I have been unable to take them lately because I am super specific about how I want to do them and how I want people to dress for them. I need to temper that tendency to want people to be magazine ready. I’m working on it, sort of. It’s difficult.
I’ve been obsessively making photos of flowers lately. But if you’re thinking of bringing me flowers to photograph, you have to know that I don’t like all flowers equally. I adore all the layers in flowers like peonies, ranuncula and tulips. I am more interested in making photos of them when they’re cut than when they’re in nature. And I love still lives. One of the photos that I most regret not making is of a table I was about to leave at an Italian restaurant here in Portland. We’d just finished having a post dinner coffee, the menus were still on the table, the light was dim, the cups were empty and there were crinkled cotton napkins on the table.
Show us a photo you’d like to blow up large?
This is a recent one and I’m not sure it would be my favorite to hang but I’d like to have it as a reminder to live a good life, filled with delicious drinks and moments of quiet simplicity.
What is currently frustrating you about photography, like what is your next hurdle to conquer?
I would like to get much, much better at composition and framing, and also getting Fuji Pro 400H right, really making it sing. It’s one of my biggest frustrations and therefore one of my biggest goals, and maybe it makes me sound like a huge dork.
I also want to get better at my backlighting my subjects. When I’ve backlit in the past, my results lacked a lot of contrast, the foreground was really, really faded and so when I see it successfully done, I wonder is this photoshop or a different shutter speed? How can I make this have more contrast and clarity?
I want to get better at focusing with my Mamiya M645‘s new viewfinder so I don’t get entire rolls that are misfocused.
You can start out with really cheap film but don’t get stuck doing that because you probably won’t like the colors you get and you’ll start to think all film is like that. Also just learn, read as much as you can, keep experimenting, and don’t think the camera will do everything for you. Film is quirky, but it’s not as quirky as you think. It actually can look a certain way if you know how to use it. It’s not the camera that determines the results you get, you have to get to know it and learn how to make it look a certain way. Film is just a medium, not a mystery.
What would your superpower be?
Traveling through space so I can go to Japan anytime I need inspiration and to be in a country where there seems to be such value placed in everyday rituals and an emphasis on noticing the beauty around you.
Thank you for inspiring us today, Anne. I’m off to load some more film into my camera, which you’ve got me itching to do now!
Cara of tumbleweedineden