Hello Kalliope, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
I come from a family of artists on both sides, so I have always been very creative. I started working with photography about eight years ago and never looked back. It’s the one thing that combines all of the things I love in one medium.
I started working with photography because I wanted to see if I could make the emotions and ideas in my mind visible in photographs. From day one, I approached the camera as an artist first. I learned to photograph intuitively and to view the camera as something capable of manifesting the invisible. Photography became my primary medium because I feel that there is no other medium that is capable of as much synchronicity and magic.
You submitted some work of your self-portrait series. How did it come up that you started shooting yourself?
I started using myself as the model in my photographs because it was convenient. I was the one who was always there at two in the morning when I had an idea. Once I started with self-portraits, I also started to see the cathartic value of being both the subject and object of what I want to express.
When I was younger, I was a model, so I had experience being creative in front of the camera. Being creative in front of and behind the camera at the same time was new to me, but it came naturally and I really loved the level of creative control that it allowed. It’s important for me to be able to work in solitude, so self-portraits became the bulk of my work.
The visual expression of your series is very unique. How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I don’t really plan out my photographs too much other than the concept. My process would probably be considered chaotic. It is very performative and emotional rather than pre-planned and I think that this sort of approach comes through in the mood of the finished photograph. My process essentially involves my asking a question in the form of gesture and receiving the answer in the photograph. I always compare my process to the Japanese art of Butoh dance, because it is very much a dance that is summoning something deeper than myself. The difference is my process finishes in a photograph.
So, my compositions are usually very spontaneous. I tend toward creating a base for my compositions that creates the mood of a viewer looking in on a secret moment, or compositions that are evocative of pictorialism. My compositions and all of the elements that I use in my process are always reaching for something timeless in the finished image.
Can you tell us a little bit about your workflow?
I have two residences, so it’s different depending on which state I’m in. When I am in New York, I do a lot of street photography and so it’s a very different kind of workflow. I spend a lot of time taking photographs of the daily hustle and bustle as well as the quiet beauty of the city. It’s a quiet, daily chronicling of memories of a city that means so much to me. Street photography is spontaneous, so my workflow is very simple. I live my life, I capture the beautiful or interesting moments in it, and I don’t spend too much time editing.
When I am in my other residence in Rhode Island, my workflow is different. I have a very large studio and office in my home, so I incorporate a lot more staging. I have closets of backdrops, props, handmade lighting and filters. So, even though the subject of the photograph may be loosely planned, I tend to plan out the “stage” or the experimental effect more intricately. I also tend to spend more time editing my self-portraits and experimental work, because over the past few years I have really come to appreciate the possibilities of filters and textures.
Before you became a visual artist you were a poet. Did poetry influence the way you work as a photographer?
Photography is visual poetry to me. I go through long periods of time without writing. In the absence of words, images are how I express my inner and outer landscape. When I have periods of time where I am not creating photographs, I write. To me, photography and poetry are different aspects of the same language. They are both vehicles through which I can translate the invisible into something more tangible.
This year you started with street photography. How did this come up? And what do you enjoy most about it?
The first time I took photographs of people on the street was shortly after David Bowie died. I went down to his apartment building and the scene there was such a mix of beauty and grief. I think it was the day after he died, and a makeshift memorial was starting to grow. It was such a beautiful and sad moment. That was the first time I felt inspired to take my camera and photograph moments on the street and to take candid portraits of people.
It was the first time I had the experience of creating art by capturing a live and very emotional moment outside of the studio. It was the first time I recognized that documentary and street photography were capable of capturing the fragility of being human, the passing of time -all of the things that I have focused on in my other work. So, it was outside of David Bowie’s apartment on a very sad day that I became inspired to start capturing more of the human moments around me.
Was it a challenge to shoot strangers on the streets?
I try to remain an invisible observer because I feel it adds a more interesting perspective to the finished image. I don’t like to invade people’s personal space or be intrusive. If there is any challenge, it is the challenge to try and stay invisible. Sometimes it’s a challenge to make sure I am not invading people’s space. I like to catch people as they are, in authentic moments, lost in their own thoughts, lost in the landscape of the city. When it becomes obvious that I am taking a photograph, that dynamic is changed and it results in a different aesthetic.
Those series were not a result of working as a portrait photographer. Both Marina and Hillary are women that I am inspired by and when I am inspired, it influences my art. So, both of those were personal projects. In fact, all of my series are personal projects, because I could never work without complete artistic freedom. I don’t work for anyone but myself, and I don’t do commercial photography. It’s all fine art photography. It’s all art and it all comes from the same place, so all of the work I do is personal. For the past few months, I have been focused on photographing Hillary and creating other art in support of her campaign because it’s really important to me. On that note, my advice to others is to focus on what is important to you, while at the same time realizing that what is important to you will always be changing.
My advice to other artists is to do what you love and follow what moves you without making concessions if you are able to. I have never made concessions in my art, my career, or my life and this is important to me because it keeps my work and vision as authentic as possible. My advice is also to focus on your own vision. Don’t pay too much attention to what others are doing, what gear they are using, or what the latest trends are. Trends will come and go, but authentic vision that originates in the gut and the heart will remain timeless and endure.