Marisa Culatto | London

Hello Marisa, thanks a lot for submitting your work. How did you get into photography?
I think I was interested in “producing images” from an early age.  I started taking pictures with a small compact camera I was given at the age of 11. Then, when I was 17, in my last year at school in Gran Canaria, I got my first reflex camera and attended a year long photography workshop organised by my senior school with an amazing local photographer – we even had a darkroom!  I did modern languages at college, but spent most of my spare time reading about art and experimenting with mixed media and alternative photographic/printing processes, sometimes even “borrowing” other people’s images from newspapers and magazines to work on them. Then I got a job as assistant to a fashion photographer who was very experimental.  I learnt a lot about technical matters in those years with him, but the most important lessons he taught me were that there are no fixed rules, and that hard work is the base of everything.

But it was really the encounter with the digital realm what consolidated my artistic practice, as it helped me think of the camera as just one more of the elements of my process.

You said, that you have an ambivalent relationship with the photographic medium. Can you explain why?
I’m always surprised – almost uncomfortable – when described as a photographer, which could seem strange as I work exclusively with a camera.  I think this is because my language – my imagery - and my work processes don’t fit comfortably within the classic territory of photography. Since the advent of the digital, there’s a lot of talk of what is or isn’t photography (let alone what is or isn’t art!).  I have heard opposite approaches: that only photojournalism is photography, or that anything lens based is photography.  I think both approaches talk about the same fact: that there has been an explosion within the medium. I’m not sure where I stand on the theory… I just want to do what I want to do.

Let's talk about your submitted project Flora. First of all congratulations for these unique compositions! How did you get the idea for Flora?
Then, first of all, thank you: I’m delighted that you like them.  I had been thinking about tackling the genre of the still life for quite some time.  I wanted to do my own take on it and eventually concluded that the way to do it was to photograph frozen compositions. I tested different approaches until deciding that these would have to be based on vegetation.  This decision came about after doing another project called Ophelia, in which I photographed clusters of seaweed floating in small puddles in the sand… So, in this case, refining the process took a while.

The photographs look very well composed. Every single flower seems perfectly arranged.     How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
I think the sense of composition is something that one just has, like being able to sing in tune, or being good with words. The rest is just working at it, and looking a lot of other people’s work - I’m sure it helps train the eye too. 

What is your intention behind this presentation?
The conceptual intention has to do with beauty, and the loss of it, and the futile attempt to hold on to it.  It’s my way of trying to come to terms and accept the inevitable process of getting old…  In the end, it also speaks about the act of photography itself: the freezing of the moment.

What do you find is the hardest challenge when taking pictures?  

My biggest challenge is producing what I want to produce with limited resources.  I am not very interested in technique or technology, and I don’t like having too much equipment, as I find all that too encumbering and distracting. So I have to find a way to do what I want to do with the resources available.  This is generally possible and, also, for me, limitations are helpful, in that they provide me with a framework and help me focus.

Is there a photographer which has influenced your thinking and photography? 
I’m never quite sure of who or what has influenced me the most.  I think I’m not always aware of what has an impact, as I feel that this sometimes happens at a subconscious level and in a cumulative manner.  I tend to resonate with very different visual artists, regardless of the medium they work on, so not just photographers.  Having said that, I remember a Keith Arnatt exhibition I saw in the early 90s, which included works from his Canned Sunsets and The Tears of Things series.  It had a massive impact on me.  It would take too long to explain how or why, but the fact is that I left the gallery finally certain that, if I ever allowed myself to be a practising artist, my medium would be photography based. 

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers?
At the moment I’m working simultaneously on two very different projects. One is a long-term, ongoing nature.  It’s called In Order to See, and deals with a more “photographic” behaviour in which I carry a camera with me to take pictures of the world, but obviously with a twist…  The other one is another “staged” body of work, like Flora, in that I put them together in the studio, but the idea behind it is completely different, and, formally, it happens in a dark background, rather than the very bright white of Flora…  It’s in its early stages, so I cannot say more about it yet.

Thanks a lot Marisa for the Interview!

Dawn Mander | Blackpool

Hello Dawn, thanks for submitting your work. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself ?
Not really much to tell, semi retired translator/interpretor with background in theatre and arts.

How did you first discover street photography?
Everyone starts out taking pictures of signs, and details, and sunsets. But not many people feel the need to take pictures of strangers.

What attracted you to it?
I find street photography exciting, I love people and people watching, imagining their lives and private stories. The behaviour and expressions of people on the streets excites me, draws me to the individuals.  I’ve been known to run up and down the streets to catch that moment , that special shot that makes me think ‘yes’ to myself… thinking ‘right that’s it now I can go home’ knowing that have captured that ‘thing’. But there are other times when I will find a spot and if the light is right will stand on a corner or sit on a step somewhere and wait,  watching daily life as it unfolds around me, sometimes am lucky and a story will come in to my line of view and I can capture that ‘attimo della vita’ that happens and is then gone…

You mainly document life in your hometown Blackpool. Can you tell us a little bit about the relation of the city and its people?
It's simple really I love my home town, not big enough to be a city but bigger than a small town its got something for everyone. Like many coastal towns it gets neglected when 'out of season' but its a great place with great characters for photography.

What drives you to pick up that camera day in and day out and hit the streets?
I think of street photography as a way of documenting history, capturing candid moments of subjects in everyday situations. I will leave the house with a destination in mind and go in search of the right light, once I get there will either go looking for a shot or simply wait till something or someone comes in to my frame and then, hoping that have the correct settings, will just press the shutter button capturing that moment in someone’s life when without knowing it they came in to mine.

Are you more of a walk and watch or a wait and see kind of street photographer?
There are times when I will find a spot and if the light is right will stand on a corner or sit on a step somewhere and wait,  watching daily life as it unfolds around me, sometimes am lucky and a story will come in to my line of view and I can capture that ‘attimo della vita’ that happens and is then gone…

How do you deal with confrontation when shooting on the street?
I frequently ask self "will this shot get me in trouble"? but I usually just risk in and come up with an on the spot explanation if questioned. A high viz jacket is always a good thing to have if going somewhere you shouldnt really be. Saying that I generally try to avoid being too noticeable using a Canon fd 28mm manual lens on my Lumix G2, also having the appearence of someone's (everyone's) grandmother helps!

How do you stay positive when you’re shooting on the street?
I get on the streets as often as I can and always feel positive when out shooting the unsuspecting public.

What advice would you give new street photographers that are stuck in a rut and can’t seem to move forward with their work?
Never compare yourself with others and don't copy other people's styles and images find something you like and practice till you're happy. Always look for something different.

If you had the chance to go on a photowalk with a famous street photographer. Who would it be and why?
William Eggleston - because I love his simplicity, the colours and the seeing something in the everyday.

Bruce Gilden & Dougie Wallace - because I admire their courage of using flash on the streets and Georgie Jerzyna Pauwels, a facebook photographer friend whose work have admired for many years.

Do you have a favorite photobook?
I have many and will carry on collecting ... I think mine will be my fave when I get round to printing it!!

Thanks for taking the time for the interview, Dawn. 
It was a pleasure!

Nicola Miles | Brighton

Nicola, tell us a little bit of yourself and how you got into photography?
Hello, I’m an easy-going woman who lives in Brighton, it’s been home for around 20 years now, i’m lucky enough to live between the sea and the Sussex Downs.
In 2009 i travelled for a while, taking a pocket camera with me. I spent a good amount of time playing around with it, realizing what could be done, i haven’t looked back since. A short while later i took an inspiring course which led me onwards.

Are you a full-time photographer or would you describe yourself as a serious enthusiast?
I’m a part-time photographer & definitely an enthusiast. There’s so much to discover, i’d like to do it more often though, I’m working on it.

When you are shooting, how much is instinctual vs. planned?
The only thing that is planned is where i’ll go, everything else comes instinctively or with a stroke of luck.

How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
This is what interests me the most, getting what i see into the frame. I think you can tell when it’s my work, there’s a continuous pattern running through the composition in my pictures & usually a lot of space placed around the subjects. I guess i cultivated it with practice, knowing what i liked and didn’t like, then, taking more time over a shot. I look forward to my composition evolving as time passes.

You have a strong body of work from your travels to Myanmar. Tell us a little bit about it.
There have been two visits now, just about to head back for a third. Each time i visit a different area, there’s a lot of walking involved. I’m drawn to the country very much for myriad reasons; for photography reasons - the light in that part of the world is quite wonderful and i have a lot of fun. I’ve been shooting alone and with a small group of other photographers. I’ll do the same when i head back this time.

Did you feel a special inspiration while shooting in Myanmar?
I do, yes. It’s a beautiful country, the people i meet there are great, there’s an open-ness. I feel welcomed. The sunshine and warmth help too.

Is there a photographer or a type of photography that influenced your work?
A few Brighton photographers that i know have an influence, carefully watching what they produce, having an idea of where it might come from. I especially love documentary style and have just discovered Tiksi by Evgenia Arbugaeva, it makes me want to never sit around, get out there. Influence comes from artists like Narelle Autio & Alex Webb too, their great use of rich color. Here far away by Pentti Sammallahti was the first photo book i bought, beautiful, i remember that having an affect on me.  

Would you like to share a little bit about your upcoming project you plan in your hometown in Brighton?
Right now it’s a work in progress inside of my head, possibly to do with the suburbs where i live. There is a coastal project too that i will work on for years, slowly. There is a real pull for me to have a project nearer to home so i can be closer to the subject in many ways, rather than flying off to a faraway land.  

Sara Nicomedi | London

Sara, tell us a little bit of yourself and how you got into photography?
I started my studies at the National Academy of Dance in Rome to become a professional dancer until I realized that rigid rules and smelly dance halls were not for me.

After many years of strictness I needed to feel free again. I started studying Art and Photography and found myself on the streets with my camera. Five years ago I moved to London where I got in touch with street photography.

You shoot mainly in color, digital and film. What is your opinion on film vs digital?
I use my digital camera a lot for the obvious reason we all know, but I also like to shoot on film. I always carry with me a disposable camera or a compact Yashica. I dedicate a different energy and emphasis to a picture that I take with film because I know it’s precious. 

Film is a material with substance, even if the picture is not “perfect, it has something to tell you, to evoke you. With digital we need to be more careful to don’t over-produce soulless images.

You have a very strong body of work from your trip to India last year. Tell us a little bit about it.
Travelling is necessary for me. My trip to India was the first outside Europe where I travelled alone. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do that, despite my initial fears. I have never felt so much joy and satisfaction. One of the best and most important decisions I ever made in my life.

Did you feel a special inspiration while shooting in India? 
Street photography is a challenge we do with ourself, there is no communication with the subject, in some way it reflects perfectly our individualistic society and our culture. India opened my eyes to a different way to photograph.

It gave me the opportunity to talk a lot with people. I opened my heart and mind, my curiosity and my need to communicate increased. I enjoyed the human side of shooting in India.

Is there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
One of the first books I bought years ago were „William Eggleston’s Guide“, „The Last resort“ of Martin Parr and Photie Man of Tom Wood. I think they were my first inspirations. I also like to look at film photographs from the 70’ and the 90’ and love the current projects of Alessandra Sanguinetti, Caroline Drake and Alec Soth.

What would be the best compliment you can get from the viewers of your pictures?
I like to see the body language of the viewer when they see my pictures. This can be a smile, a frown or a whiff - these are all good signs. It means that I am communicating something. Pure reactions from the inside are much more honest than words.

What are your next plans?
I’ m organizing a trip to South America where I would like to do something similar I’ve done in India. I also would like to continue a project I started about Italy. My country is in ruins and we are not doing anything to change things. We are just waiting for something to happen, I would like to document this immobility.

What is your favorite picture of your India Portfolio and why? Can you write a little bit about the story behind that shot? 
My favorite photo is the one where a man cleans the path. It was taken in Varanasi, which is the holiest city in India. Day by day Hindus follow their rituals along the steps or in the Ganges, where they also cremate bodies of their deceased loved ones. 

When I took that shot, it was early in the morning, foggy and the atmosphere was very mystic. The man was sweeping the dust which might have been the ashes of the deaths. I could strongly breathe death, religion and devotion. I got very emotional while watching the man. This image will always remember me of the essence of India.