Interview #51: Shiri Lee Webb
CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?
Shiri Lee Webb: Initially when I was in my teens my father and I traveled around London and captured things through our lenses, him on digital and me on a 35mm SLR. That is where I began to learn that there are a lot of interesting things to see and I wanted to be able to see them again and again. Later my interest developed through owning an abundance of point and shoot film cameras and having access to such beautiful people and places.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your town/city/country affect your photography?
SLW: I live in London, England at the moment. It is where I grew up so I understand it well on many different levels. I think there are a few elements that affect my photo taking habits in England, particularly the time of year. I find that in the winter months I have a complete hibernation period with my camera, the light simply does not infuse me – it is very grey and damp and nothing shines. The momentum begins to return to me right about now so I am getting quite excited about getting films developed. I think time here also influences my creativity; I seem to lose it very quickly. I have a longing to be at my boyfriend’s old station house in the countryside in Norfolk quite often and just walk for miles, exploring the landscape.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
SLW: This morning I had some toast and jam at a bicycle café, Look Mum No Hands.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
SLW: I studied Photography at University. I sort of shied away from the technical side of things and took more of an interest in photographic history and theory. I miss daily access to a darkroom – that was very satisfying.
CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?
SLW: Breaks from reality, good people, coffee, Google reader and dogs.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?
SLW: Not necessarily. It depends on the intentions of the person taking the photograph, what they interpret the photograph to be and the context of the image. To me, I understand being a photographer as being something that requires you to work incredibly hard to achieve what you want. It’s just too easy to call yourself a photographer after taking a series of digital or even film snaps.
CUS: Describe your average day.
SLW: At the moment my average day won’t sound too inspiring. I scan architectural photographs the majority of the week and relax on the weekend by cooking elaborate recipes and visiting exhibitions.
CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion?
SLW: One thing I love to see in every photograph is the photographer’s true perception of the world.
CUS: If you could go anywhere in the world to take photographs where would you go?
SLW: I’d like to go to Africa.
CUS: What is your fondest childhood memory?
SLW: On days off from school, recreating the classroom at home with all the stuffed toys I could find with myself as the teacher.
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?
SLW: I make my own ceramics. I also cycle a lot, it clears my mind and opens up a lot of new locations to me.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet is a legitimate place to showcase your work?
SLW: Absolutely, in this day and age. I guess if work was only ever exposed in publications and exhibitions it would be more exclusive but I do not believe we can escape from the fact that there is a demand to ‘view’ things online. It has definitely helped me develop my own work, I have gained so much inspiration from my peers and the ability to access someones archive online has been a great advantage.
CUS: Do you always have preconceived concepts of what you want to shoot?
SLW: Yes and no, I do not set up photographs but I have an instinct that guides me in taking a good image, however this does not always translate to my audience.
CUS: What are your plans for the spring?
SLW: I’m staying in London mostly and taking advantage of all the great things that stop by but also planning on visiting a friend in Berlin, cousins in Israel and trips to the coast in Norfolk, England. My friend Toby Price and I are working on a photo book that we are self-publishing together.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
SLW: Be yourself, read a lot and make an effort to see everything.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Matthew Tammaro, wants to know: What fuels your ideas, photographs, and decisions?
SLW: It’s self-therapy. I am excited by every photograph I make and that process releases a positive energy. Everything that I encounter influences my work.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
SLW: Do you feel it is necessary to study photography in order to understand photographs?