Interview #71: Rachel Woroner
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Rachel Woroner: My father, who is also a photographer, gave me my first camera, a Yashica T4, when I was younger which I used quite often. It wasn’t until my teenage years and during my degree that I began to reevaluate and explore photography further.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
RW: I studied photography at Concordia University in Montreal.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an affect on your work?
RW: Currently, I am based in London, England. I find London looks like it is always about to rain and that makes the light grey and flat. Because of this, I often find inspiration away from the city and with the people around me rather than the location.
CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.
RW: My process varies greatly from project to project. I try to be patient throughout the process because the medium forces me to. I take care of my image making because it is something I have an affection for. I photograph what I admire and use photography to express my attachment. It's a way to gain an insight into the dynamics of my interpersonal relationships.
CUS: Would you say that your photographs are autobiographical?
RW: Absolutely. I see photography as a way of being in the world. My images are all personal narratives.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
RW: Yesterday I made a loaf of bread! So I had that with some cheese and a really sweet and milky earl grey. I’ve really gotten into drinking tea ever since I moved to London.
CUS: Who are the individuals in your photographs?
RW: I predominantly photograph my partner. Since I approach photography as an act of love and admiration, it makes sense that he would be in front of my lens so often. I also photograph friends, family as well as myself, depending on the project.
CUS: What makes a good image?
RW: I think light is one of the most important aspects of an image. A good image is set in the late afternoon light or a photograph at the first light of the day. It has to make the viewer feel a strong emotion and show you something you don’t normally see.
CUS: Where do you draw inspiration from?
RW: The people around me inspire me.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?
RW: Yes, everyone can be a photographer. Whether or not everyone can be agood photographer is a different story. I do believe that it takes a level of interest, attention and talent to be considered a photographer. Of course, these things vary depending on personal taste and the type of image making, but it does take more than pressing a shutter button to be a photographer.
CUS: What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography, photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…)
RW: I prefer film photography because it forces me to slow down and take my time with an image. I see digital as more of a convenient photographic medium and only use it for commercial work or occasional studio portraits.
In terms of photography and the internet, I think I have a love-hate relationship with it. I am finding it increasingly difficult to separate the mad cataloguing of my life in images on my phone, with my artistic practice. And it is often that the two do become one. The most problematic aspect of photography and the Internet for me, is how young photographers apply the logic of marketing to create a personal brand, instead of focusing on their artistic content and practice. I do always feel so strange when I choose to post a medium format photograph on Instagram.
Don't get me wrong though, I am an internet baby and I love it just as much as all my fellow 90’s babies. I am constantly inspired by the amount of images I come across online. Because of this, I am all the more challenged into creating better, stronger and more defined photographs.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?
RW: I value the internet as a place to showcase photographic work. However, it is a very different platform from having work exhibited in a physical space. The way one navigates an exhibition is different from the quick clicking and scrolling online. I believe the viewer will have a more personal and solidified experience looking at tangible, physical printed images. I prefer going to see images IRL rather than looking online.
CUS: Your favorite photographer?
RW: So many! But a few are Alec Soth, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Nick Waplington, Nobuyushi Araki, Martin Kollar. Also Todd Bolton (http://www.todd-bolton.com/gallery) and Jan Stasiuk (http://www.jmstasiuk.com) are producing some really great work.
CUS: What can you tell us about your recent project Odemira?
RW: I went to the municipality of Odemira in Portugal, which is by the sea. The light during the trip was really nice. It is a series that captures the love I have for my partner and my family.
CUS: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
RW: If she was still alive, I would be interested in collaborating with Francesca Woodman. I recently began working on some self portraits and would love to gain an understanding of her treatment of the female body and strange self portraiture.
CUS: Your dream equipment?
RW: Although I absolutely adore film, I would really like to have a digital back for my Contax 645.
CUS: What is your most treasured possession?
RW: I don’t think I have one.
CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?
RW: I find the biggest challenge is to write about photography. Writing is probably the best tool for untangling and explaining intentions in photography, but if I was good at writing I wouldn’t be producing images! So I find it quite difficult to express what I want to get across with words regarding photography.
CUS: What is the thing you like the least about photography? The most?
RW: The least thing I like about film photography is waiting for the film to be developed- I am a very impatient person. This is also one of my favorite parts of film processing though, having the film come back like a surprise and taking the time to contemplate each new image.
CUS: What are some of your favorite books, films, or music?
RW: I just read Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny and found it very inspiring. Music wise, I love Drake more than anything in the world, also PartyNextDoor and Majid Jordan.
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose and why?
RW: I think I would have liked to photograph my late grandfather. He escaped deportation during WWII from a small town in Poland by fleeing to Morocco, and later on making his way to Montreal, where he met my grandmother. He was such a quiet man with a weathered face, and I feel like we never got the chance to know each other. Perhaps a portrait session would allow for that.
CUS: What are your plans for the spring?
RW: I am going on a short trip to Berlin! And hoping to visit Paris again when it gets a little bit warmer out.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow photographers?
RW: I find it helpful to continue photographing constantly (especially just out of school) and continue to find inspiration from fellow photographers, and discuss and share your work, with those around you.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
RW: I am currently working on a series of self portraits. The series serves as an exploration of my identity as a Jewish woman and spirituality in relationship to the world I am situated in. Obviously, I am still working on ironing out the details, but that is the general idea.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Chris Bernabeo, asks: What is an image of yours that you believe best represents your style and aesthetic and what was the situation surrounding it?
RW: This is so tricky! I feel like I am constantly changing what my favorite photograph that I have taken is. Right now, the portrait of my partner by the sea in the late afternoon. I think it shows my tender approach to photography.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
RW: What are your thoughts on the importance (or non importance) of photography books today?