Saturday, July 21, 2012

Interview: Carolyn West

Carolyn West lives in Geelong, Australia. A post from her photography blog was recently linked on Nirrimi's Facebook page, after they spent some time together in Sydney. I loved the post she'd written, and was so impressed looking through the 17-year-old's photographs. Carolyn already has some pretty impressive experience behind her, and her determination to legitimise her photography business, Oh, Clémencewhen she turns 18 is so admirable. As always - a very difficult (but enjoyable) task choosing just a few images to show here, so make sure you check out the rest of her portfolio.


Did you grow up in a creative environment?
I was encouraged as a young child to be involved in the performing arts. My mother is a lovely singer and she took me each Saturday morning to ballet lessons and would sing to me before I went to sleep at night. My father was more interested in visual arts and taught me how to draw and paint when I was older. We would spend hours sometimes, looking through photo albums from when I was born or drawings my father had done while still in high school.

How long have you been taking photographs for?
I've been taking photos since I was about ten years old. My father taught me how to use our film camera in 2005, on a family holiday to Queensland. I was itching for my own camera ever since and in 2007, my wishes were granted and I got a very cheap digital still camera and took it everywhere I went. My passion developed through the beauty of my life I captured through one click of a button.

Do you have an early photograph you could share, to compare with your recent work?

Early

Recent

Do you have any training in photography?
So far, I've self taught all that I know from the pages of many books and online tutorials. I have studied the subject 'photography' at school since year 10, but instead of teaching you how to use a camera or edit photos in photoshop, we just learn how to create a folio of works.

What equipment do you currently use?
I share a Canon 500D with my father, which as you can imagine, can cause a lot of fights. Fingers crossed I will be able to get the money for my own camera very soon! My favorite lens is my 50mm 1.8 portrait lens. I currently use Photoshop CS4 for editing all my photos.


How much time do you spend working on your photography?
As I'm still at high school, I always dedicate the latter half of my usual day to my photography work. Whether it's editing photos, writing blog posts, looking for inspiration or promoting my work. On the weekend I often do freelance work or organize photo shoots when I can.

Is photography your main source of income?
Yes. About a month ago I decided to quit my part time job and solely focus on my photography. Thankfully, it has been a very good decision for me.

What else are you involved with?
I'm currently completing my year 12 so unfortunately, that does take up most of my time. I run a food blog with my boyfriend, I sing opera from time to time and I’m a huge movie buff.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
In March I was lucky enough to be an official photographer at the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. I shot for Alex Perry and Frankie Magazine at the end of the runway with photographers from getty images, all the newspapers, Vogue magazine and other places I only dream of working for at the moment. It was honestly a surreal experience. I was the youngest there and I met so many lovely photographers who were more than happy to help me out. I got my own media pass and I felt rather professional, despite my age. I was also lucky enough to sneak backstage for some shots. It was an experience that made me feel utterly at home, in my comfort zone and I'm absolutely itching to do it all over again.



What role has the internet played in your career so far?
Huge! Most of my marketing is online. In fact, the only sort of advertising I do without the internet is hand out business cards. I'm not quite sure where I would be without the internet. It's where people contact me, view my work and read my stories. It has enabled me to reach over the boarders of Australia and make my work international. It's the most amazing self marketing tool.

Where do you dream of having your work shown?
I've always imagined portraits of mine on huge pieces of paper, pasted on city walls for quite a long time. Making an impact, a statement. However, I think having my work featured in any magazine would be amazing. Having something in Frankie Magazine or Vogue would be absolutely awesome!

Do you have a favourite photograph of all those you’ve taken?


Have you experimented with any other forms of art?
Before I really got into photography, I used to draw all the time. I took a few classes and wrote picture story books with images I illustrated when I was quite young. As I grew older, I experimented with painting and using inks and water colors. I’ve also done a little bit of filming for myself.

How would you describe your photography style?
I don't even think I have a style! I think it depends on what I'm shooting. I like edgy images with high contrast, especially if I'm shooting in black and white, but I also love images with soft lighting and lots of pretty colours.


Do you find it easier to shoot with strangers or people you already know?
I find both to be equally as easy. I think working with people you don’t know gives you the chance to learn from them and to expand your contacts. It also creates diversity in your images rather than just using the same people all the time.

Have you experienced nerves, particularly in the paid work you've done?
I always get quite nervous when I’m doing paid shoots or work for modeling agencies. I mostly get nervous about whether they will like the photos or not, but I always remind myself that they wouldn’t hire me if they didn't like what they saw on my blog or portfolio in the first place. Before a big shoot, I often look through old photo shoots to remind myself of what I'm capable of to erase any sort of negative thoughts out of my mind.


What inspires you?
Nirrimi, who I was lucky enough to meet recently, is a huge influence on me. Her passion from such a young age is similar to mine and her achievements for being so young constantly motivate me to achieve more and aim higher. I love her images because they capture little, precious moments in time, they’re the in between moments. They never look posed or fake. That has been something I've aimed to capture since I was quite young.

My dreams are a very big part of who I am and where some ideas for photo shoots come from. I have a very active dream life, I lucid dream almost every night. Sometimes I will be overcome with ideas that I’ll get barely any sleep. My mind is active and it’s exhausting but amazing at the same time.

Music and lyrics also inspire me. Sometimes I can take a single line from a song and create a whole photo shoot out of it. If I can, while doing a shoot, I like to play music to create a bit of a mood for the model and I to work with, to really capture the feelings I want associated with the images.


What are your goals for the next five years?
Oh wow! I have so many aspirations for the next five years. Well, hopefully I'll be off to university next year to study photography and get some formal training and hopefully some more opportunities. I've been running my own freelancing business through Facebook and I'm registering it as an actual business when I turn 18 and doing numerous small business courses over the summer as I hope to continue making money through my little business while I'm still at uni.

I’m hoping to move to Melbourne next year so that I can do more photo shoots and test shoots with modeling agencies and I guess continue to promote my work and myself. I am also hoping to do a photography fund raising campaign in the near future, to raise money for the disease muscular dystrophy and maybe experiment with film making more. I’m not really one to plan everything right down to the meticulous details.

I like to see where life takes me, I’m spontaneous. So we shall have to wait and see what the future has in store for me!

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