Please tell us a little about your background, and how you came to photography.
I come from a family of travelers, my parents lived and worked all over the world and I was born in the United States. A few years later, they decided they wanted to raise their kids in their home country, and we relocated to France. We continued to move every few years to a different region, and I still carry that yearning to travel with me!
I was always creative growing up (drawing, painting, ceramics, you name it), but the first time I picked up a camera, it was different, and more natural. I felt like I could see the world differently, and find more of myself in it.
I went into an arts program in high school and ended up studying art history (I still wonder if I then felt more comfortable in the role of the viewer than of the maker.) Throughout high school and college, I experimented with pinhole cameras and shot film on and off. I studied in Philadelphia for the last year of my master’s degree and got to take my first darkroom class, which sparked my interest again.
When I moved to New York after finishing my studies, my passion for street photography really started. I was shooting more (film, then digital) and got involved at the International Center of Photography where I took classes before serving as a teaching assistant. Eventually, I took a job as a studio manager for a photographer, while continuing to develop my own work.
After several years in New York, I was ready to pack up my bags again and I moved to Chile, where I’m currently developing new work.
You are currently based in Valparaíso, tell us about your approach to capturing the tone of this place, and how it’s different from your approach elsewhere. And how have you decided to depict this famously colorful city in black and white?
Working in black and white always comes naturally to me, it hasn’t been something that I second-guess when I start a new project, even when photographing in a place as stunningly colorful as Valparaíso (or Cuba, which I also shot in black and white.)
I think there’s a sense of “placelessness,” and timelessness in my work, which black and white really helps channel. I’m most interested in images that convey a sense of mystery about the place, photographs that feel unfamiliar and familiar at the same time. In that sense, I also find that there is a great continuity in my work: whether I shoot in New York, Valparaíso or elsewhere, I’m attentive to strong visual elements, unusual viewpoints, graphic lines and stark shadows.
As many artists before me, Valparaíso’s grit and poetry, dysfunction and energy drew me in. That sense of orderly chaos is, I think, central to my depiction of the port. Moving here has really felt like a turning point, both personally and photographically.
I moved to Chile almost on a whim – and not speaking a word of Spanish – so my interactions with the city were both exhilarating and confusing. It pushed me to reflect on my need to create a visual language, to find a sense of order, and why I rely on form so much.