Please give us a little background about yourself, where are you from, where do you live now, and how did you discover photography?
I’m not really from anywhere specific because I’ve spent my entire life moving from country to country. My father is Scottish and English and my mother is Irish and English. My father was a hydro-electrical engineer and his work took us to exciting countries with big rivers. My sisters and I grew up in Malaysia, Canada and Brazil. My husband’s Australian and my two children are more Swiss than anything else. The countries that are most important to me are France, the UK, Brazil and Switzerland. I currently live in Singapore.
I’ve been very visually aware for as long as I can remember. As a small child I was as enthralled by John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark as I was by a plant’s shadow.
I studied Fine Art Painting as an undergrad and as a graduate student. I eventually tired of painting and the way it isolated me from my environment. Around this time I began to look at and think more about photography. I started a degree in Creative Arts Photography around 2008. I hated the course and the tedious hoops I had to jump through to earn my degree, but it lead me towards the kind of critical thinking that I think has given me a solid base to grow from. Although painting was important to me for many years, I never had the crazy obsession with painting that I have with photography.
You are shooting equally in styles generally defined as street, documentary, and travel photography. What are the distinctions to you, and is defining a difference between these styles of any importance?
I just think of myself as a photographer. I don’t like separating my photographs into genres. I like to mix things up. I’m constantly evolving in the way I think and in the kind of work I make. It’s only over the past couple of years that I’ve really identified and understood where I’m coming from and where I want to go. I need the freedom to be as subjective and illogical as I want. I don’t think what I’m doing now could fit into a genre…even if I wanted it to!
In your years of travel experience, are there some memorable anecdotes illustrating contrasting attitudes toward photographers in the streets around the world?
People in megacities like London, NY and Paris are usually too busy to worry about being in some stranger’s photograph. It can be a lot more difficult in some smaller towns in France where people can be very suspicious. I lived in Geneva for 13 years. People are very private there and I always felt street photography was a real challenge in Geneva. The worst location I’ve ever experienced for street photography was Djibouti. Although some Djiboutians were happy to pose for photographs, most of the men seemed to see candid photography as an abusive act and they responded with threats of violence. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the locations where people get very excited about being photographed and start posing as soon as they see me. This happens a lot in small towns in India. While it’s not what I’m after photographically, the interaction is enjoyable.
You work more on groups of images and series, rather than “single shots,” what can you say about this?
I’m definitely much more interested in how images communicate together than I am in the power of a singe image. I’ve always felt that a single image wasn’t enough and that a series was the best way for me to create something stronger and more meaningful. I really enjoy selecting and sequencing images.
And what can you tell us about your selection process?
If I’m looking for a series of about 32 photos, I will quickly select about 100. Then I will narrow it down to about 50. After this stage I like to take some time, if possible, to distance myself emotionally from the experience of the shoot, before making the tighter selection. The final stage involves the tough part of killing my babies for the sake of flow and rhythm. I used to try to tell fairly linear stories, but now my editing is much looser and more subjective.
You have been active in different social media environments since before Instagram and the current fashionability of the street genre, what changes have you noticed?
I started using Flickr about six years ago. From what I hear, it was already waning then. I can’t really judge how it’s evolved because I haven’t spent much time on Flickr over the past few years. I dive in and out of Facebook frequently but for short periods and I enjoy seeing what other photographers are up to. I don’t think I’ve been part of the FB photo community long enough to see any differences. I’ve recently started using Instagram and it is a great way of viewing and sharing images.
Have you observed differences for women in the genre between then and now?
I think that there is now more awareness of male dominance in street photography. I’m confident this awareness is encouraging a more inclusive street photography community. Blogs like Her Side of the Street are playing an important role. Personally I’ve never felt I missed out because I’m a woman, but I will always advocate for an inclusive photography community.
In what ways do you think being a woman has affected your work?
It’s difficult to talk about this without falling into gender stereotypes, but I do think many of my interests are traditionally feminine and the general feel of my photography could also be described as feminine. While it’s interesting to be aware of general differences between the two predominant genders, I really think a photographer’s interests and work has much more to do with his/her personality than his/her gender. I also feel uncomfortable discussing gender as though it is binary, which it obviously isn’t.
Color or black and white, digital or film?
Both colour and black & white — it depends on the subject and the feel I want the series to have. I love the way B&W simplifies visually, while it can intensify the emotional power of an image. However I enjoy colour too much not to also shoot in colour. I’ve been digital since 2008. I also use Polaroid-type cameras sometimes.
Can you name some photographers you find inspirational, and are there “ones to watch” you have your eye on?
From a very long list of favorite photographers, here are a few I find particularly inspiring: Kim Thue, Martin Borgen, Michael Ackerman, Jeff Jacobson, Carolyn Drake, Jacob Aue Sobol, Olivia Arthur and David Carol.
There are too many interesting photographers who I’ve discovered through social media to even start a list, but two amazing photographers that spring to mind are Gustavo Gomes and Dina Oganova.