Twin issue XVII: Wham Bam Andersen
Photography Clare Shilland, Words India Doyle
Olivia Bee started taking pictures in her early teens, one of those rare precocious talents who already had the basics nailed before most of us had figured out how to make our lava lamps work. And when I say basics, I mean being commissioned to shoot commercials for Nike and Converse by the time she was 17…
Having emerged during the peak Tumblr years, Bee has continued to carve a name for herself with candid photographs that capture the intensity of youth; the fragile nexus of love, and the yearning for the wild. Her photographs are often situated within nature, away from the obvious limitations of the city and the responsibilities that lie therein.
With a knack for powerful juxtapositions, Olivia Bee’s photographs have a corpuscular quality that capture individual moments in time but which together weave a wider narrative about the transient nature of youth. With a beautiful new tome, Kids in Love, out now, Twin caught up with her to talk hanging out in Oregon and the future of the Internet.
Starting with Kids in Love – your photographs embody a fantastic energy. What’s your process when shooting?
Kids In Love came about because I was taking pictures of the world around me — I wasn’t really trying to make anything in particular, other than the things I gravitated towards. When it was finished, I knew, and I knew it was a show and a book. The energy in Kids In Love came from the universe that I existed in and made for myself when I was a teenager. I was observing that universe.
What was it about the camera that you were originally drawn to?
The ability to create and make art simultaneously; to directly document your experience.
What I like about Kids In Love is that you immortalise the transient state of youth through movement and these wonderful juxtapositions with the natural world. Was this an aesthetic that came naturally to you? How did your style develop?
I mean this just came with living in Oregon, living in nature but being around kids my age and exploring that universe. In Oregon you just go to the river and to the mountain and to the beach and to the forest, that’s what you do for fun and that’s where you get drunk. it was just part of every day. Green was my studio.
You started working professionally when you were pretty young, did you ever feel that this inhibited your ability to develop creatively? Was there less freedom to make mistakes, experiment etc.
I always kind of did what I wanted and didn’t think much about it. There were times I’d get feedback from people who were selling my work saying what i was doing was less marketable, but i’d just be like, “dude. i’m just documenting my world.” It was (and is) a natural process for me to document. I still experimented and made plenty of bad pictures.
What is it about intimacy that interests you as a subject matter?
It is so innately human.
Instagram has bought this generation a whole host of really exciting creatives who otherwise might not have had the capacity to promote their work to a global audience, but do you ever feel that sheer scale of the platform – and its millions of contributors – might come to negate the power of a singular image?
I’m getting less and less satisfied with the internet. It’s all controlled by money at this point and our information is getting sold so that companies can market for our demographics. It’s terrifying. We have to fight back and play that game to our advantage. My work belongs in galleries and in books and in theaters — not just the internet. I get depressed when my pictures I love are just on the internet and then they’re gone or stolen because people think the internet is an equal playing field and ownership is lost.
Also with the internet, people skip over movies, books, tv shows, people, and minimize them into one single image on their tumblr when they haven’t seen that movie, tv show, read that book, or researched that celebrity. Everything is aestheticized. Even the notion of “liking” or “loving” something or someone has been aestheticized. Authenticity has been aestheticized. People have to remember what’s real and I really do think a big part of that is existing in your world and participating and reading and talking to people and watching movies in the theater and on tv and going to museums and being in nature if these kinds of things are available to you. That shit will keep you human.
Who and what are the major influences for your work?
My life and my emotional experiences. The wonderful people i surround myself with. Nature.
What do like to listen to when working?
Right now I’ve been listening to a fuck ton of Leonard Cohen. I just discovered Emily Eeo when I was in a coffee shop in Portland and have been playing that over and over. The Lemon Twigs are wonderful too.
What’s your favourite camera to work with?
That’s a secret 😉
What’re your plans, concerns and hopes for 2017?
Time is a marker that we created — it doesn’t actually exist. It’s fluid. So I don’t always believe in setting goals for certain periods of time but I do feel that with 2017 and the upcoming Trump presidency it is especially important to stand up for the things you believe in. I want the people I choose to be in my work, especially in fashion, to be more diverse, and I want to write a book? Or a movie? I want to quit low balling and I want to stand up for myself and the ones I love more! Also establish some sort of place to live in the future in nature.
Ahead of his new exhibition at NOW Gallery at Greenwich Peninsula, Culture Trip catches up with designer Charles Jeffrey.
20.06.2016 | TWIN
Mayan Toledano is a photographer and co-founder of Me and You, an online platform that celebrates friendship, feminism and girlhood, run with her BFF Julia Baylis. As a photographer she creates images that are playful and poignant. They invite viewers to enter into private spaces with her subjects – bedrooms, bathrooms – not as voyeurs but as allies. Toledano is part of a new generation of female photographers that have transformed notions of the gaze, and it is not surprise that she often works with kindred sprit Petra Collins. Throughout Toledano’s portfolio we see that her images reflect truths about the female body, investigating what is essential in women without fetishising the flesh.
Having recently released a striking series which focusses on Israeli soldiers during their military service, we caught up with her to discuss process, pink and the power of underwear.
Can you talk a little about how you got started as a photographer?
I got my first camera in high school, it was a terrible digital camera with an adjustable screen like the first “selfie” camera and I remember being obsessed with it. I started documenting everything around me, not in a very artful way but it was when I realised how important it is to record. I grew up dancing and was surrounded with all this beauty, resilience and passion that inspired me to create photos in a similar way- part of the reason why my work is female centric. A couple years after I got a real film camera from my uncle, he found it at a flea market and thought I’d be into it.
What are you looking for when taking a picture?
Emotions. I’m strongly followed by my subjects, it’s usually a certain mood or feeling that I get from them and I’m there to create the most relaxed atmosphere for it to just happen. I try not to direct much and focus on getting to know the people I shoot. It can be very conversational and casual on set, the more time you spend with someone the better it gets and that’s why I like working with muses that repeat in my photos over and over again. Same for locations, less obvious photos are taken in places I’m more familiar with.
Who / what are your influences?
Film, I think it’s the highest form of art. I really like coming of age stories because of the awkwardness of being misunderstood. My mom is a main force in my life that always inspires me and so are my friends and collaborators. The internet too ❤ (:
What is it about colour, and particularly about the candy – palette you work with, that you are drawn to? Is colour vital to your photographs?
Photos can be treated like paintings, especially with film because it’s a physical format. adding colour through light or objects is just one way to play with it. Pink was always my favourite colour, i just see it everywhere almost in a magnetic way. I’m a very spacey person and i get distracted easily, objects that are in that soft colour palette are the first thing I notice in a new space and I find it comforting.
Do you prefer working with natural light and in a spontaneous way, or are your photographs carefully crafted?
Mostly spontaneous and in daylight, I have some light tricks that are probably not professional at all but work for me. I do love set design so that is something that is always planned and considered.
You own and subvert the idea of the gaze, why is it important to photograph women in this way?
The female body is either capitalised for looking a certain way or shamed for not looking that certain way. Female intimacy has a lot more to tell and when I take photos I try to look at the body for what it does, not mediated by the male perspective but with full awareness of this gaze and its history. It is more interesting to see women feeling comfortable and celebrated in all shapes and sizes, still without being fetishised.
I found your series of photographs on Israeli soldiers particularly striking and powerful. How did this project come about?
Growing up in Israel it was very normal to see soldiers everywhere: in the mall, in restaurants, on public transportation. I served for two years between the ages of 18-20, that’s when it’s mandatory for girls. Looking back I mostly remember the frustration and my personal refusal to adapt during that time. I barely took any photos during my service and I regret it, I felt so uncomfortable in the uniforms that I couldn’t imagine it as a subject at all. After moving to NYC and having enough time away from my personal experience in the army I realised it is worth revisiting and documenting. Because in my case I felt completely unseen, having to put aside my political views and goals I wanted to find a way to voice other stories beyond the visual conformity of the uniforms. It was refreshing to find alluring singularity with each of the girls I shot. Photographing female soldiers wasn’t about taking sides or supporting the army in any way. I think the reality of teenagers going into mandatory service, regardless to their views and opinions, is worth documenting considering the extreme political context.
You and Julia Baylis have made an exciting impact with Me and You. How important is collaboration to your work?
Collaboration is so significant to what we do because female friendship and support is where it all started, it is a beautiful exchange that we have with our friends, followers and collaborators. Julia is my best friend and an amazing artist on her own, growing together is a powerful thing that I’m so grateful for. Me and You came together as a reflection of our friendship and grew into a community of like minded girls who inspire us to keep going. It is our baby project and our home.
What is it about underwear that’s so alluring?
It’s intimate and personal, the first thing we put on the last thing to take off. It is something we wear for ourselves so it has to be a fun choice.
What are you working on at the moment, and what’s in store for the rest of 2016?
I’m going to continue the Girl Soldiers project, hopefully into a book! Next up is a music video for my friends at ‘Garden City Movement’ which I’m really excited about, can’t say much but we are going to focus on gender fluidity because it’s a beautiful thing. I’m always working on Me and You with Julia to keep expanding our message and other creative collaboration projects as well.
His subject is one that has been much documented across the arts, but photographer Mark Steinmetz lends a unique eye to the chronicles of contemporary American life. Whether capturing everyday happenings within a Cleveland school or the natural environment of Sandy Creek, the photographer’s ability to imbue images with unforced narrative consistently delights.
This capacity to scrutinise the idiosyncrasies of daily life whilst remaining aloof from the frame allows Mark Steinmetz’s photographs to both transcend and embody their moments in time, rendering his images powerful historical documents as well as works of art. With a ninth monograph, Angel City West out on Nazraeli Press, we asked the photographer to lend insight into his work, inspiration and future projects.
When did you first start photographing?
I started very early on. My parents gave me my first camera around the age of six. I have many clear memories of photographing when I was a child. I remember that framing a scene was always a pleasure for me; I liked making the decision of whether I needed to stay standing up or whether I should scrunch down or move in closer in order to make the best picture. I had set up my first darkroom in my home at the age of 12.
Can you talk a little about the Angel City West series as a whole – how did they come about, what camera were you working with and what were you looking for when taking these pictures?
I was 22 and restless. I had moved to Los Angeles after having left the Yale School of Art after my first semester. In LA, I met the great photographer Garry Winogrand and was able to photograph with him on several occasions. I used a Leica primarily but also dragged around with me a twin lens reflex. My impulse was just to make interesting pictures that were realistic but still had an independence from (and weren’t exactly responsible to) anything that might really be going on. I was exploring the fictional strangeness that’s intrinsic to photography when you extract an image from the flow of life and I was trying in my youthful way to match or supersede what photographers such as Winogrand or Robert Frank had done.
What is it about black and white that you’re drawn to?
Black and white is what I was looking at when I started to photograph and it’s the medium of the great masters I admire most. There’s a removal from the world with black and white; it strips away one of the levels of illusion from the world. It seems to concern itself more purely and strictly with structure and light. Colour photography needs to be primarily about colour, and to me it seems rare that it can be controlled in any coherent way since the relationships between the colours take over and can too easily overwhelm what’s really of interest and importance. But then again we see in colour and that’s what most everyone in photography has been up to lately.
How important is a sense of place to your portraits of people?
I tend not to have less interest in photographs of people where they are placed against a neutral background. The subjects then seem like butterflies pinned in a collection. Richard Avedon’s group of portraits in the American West are strong but it makes little sense to me that he puts the people he’s photographing against a white backdrop instead of leaving the gas station or the road behind them as background. I much prefer placing subjects within a context. The scenes are less sterile that way and more convincing. That’s how life is.
You often photograph people in motion, or seemingly unaware. How did you develop this style?
I prefer photographs where it feels like something is happening or about to happen, where a moment is suggested. Walker Evans photographed people surreptitiously in his series of subway photographs for the reason that “the mask is down” when people don’t think anyone is watching them. I’ve always been a quiet person. I don’t make waves and I don’t startle people. Many of my portraits seem natural as if they are not aware of being photographed, but I’ve had to talk to them and gain their permission in order to position my fairly large camera exactly where I want it to be in order to make the picture I want.
In general do you see the role of a photographer as a watcher as opposed to someone that is present in the picture?
Koudelka is a great photographer but in his book, The Gypsies, the subjects are looking at him and responding to his presence. It’s up to each photographer to define photography on his/her own terms. In my case, my mother was French and I’ve spent a lot of time in France where people sit in cafés a lot and people watch. That’s how I photograph for the most part. I don’t intervene.
The Angel City West series was taken in the ’80s, are you still interested in the city and the people when you look around at Los Angeles today?
Yes, very much so. I’d like to spend more time there to photograph. Los Angeles remains a very interesting and unique place. Like Paris, it is a terrain that has been explored a good deal in cinema, photography, and literature, so there’s an audience that already has an understanding of the place. That means you can plunge right in. You don’t have to start at zero to establish a context for your body of work as a context already exists.
I love your Sandy Creek series, did you find it challenging to capture the natural world in the same spontaneous way?
Thank you for loving the series. Like most people I need a break from time to time and photographing in nature allows me to unwind and to photograph without any of the stress of photographing in the cities. The trees don’t talk back to you. It’s a very different problem. I think nature has a lot to teach us and particularly anyone interested in the design fields needs to take a serious look at what nature has come up with. Robert Adams and Atget have been helpful to look at.
Generally speaking, what are your influences?
Anything in life can be an influence. Some things stick to you, some things don’t. In photography, Atget, Evans, and Winogrand are the great influences but there are so many.
What are your projects for 2016 / 2017?
Right now I’m working on a commission from the High Museum in Atlanta to photograph at the Atlanta airport – that will be a show in 2017. I’ve also been photographing in Europe a good deal and in particular in busy public areas in Paris, Berlin, and Milan. I should have a book on summer camps come out next year and possibly one later this year of unpublished photographs from the American South (no titles for the books yet).