Originally from the Midwest, Colleen now lives in New York and is one of the most active photographers in our community as well as one of the most ardent patrons of our LomoLab.
The first time I saw Colleen, what caught my attention was the huge volume of film she brought for developing in our LomoLab. I asked her why, and five minutes later I realized I had made a good friend. She has a cheerful and friendly disposition and shoots a lot, so it’s really hard not to like her and her pictures.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from the Midwest. Traveling a little here there and everywhere I ended up in New York City, a place that I never imagined myself. I work as a manager of a wholesale cookie company but spend most of my days dreaming of my next travel adventure and my next roll of film. Lomography is my sanctuary in the city. It is where my memories go.
How did photography become one of your favorite hobbies?
When I was in middle school my family took a trip to the mountains for the first time. While we wound around these magnificent rock forms, I felt for the first time engulfed in beauty. My mother bought each of my siblings and me disposable cameras. Everywhere I turned I wanted to capture some of this awe, I wanted to stow it away so that maybe, when we returned home, I could come back to this newness. But the tragedy of reality is that the mountains can not be captured. When the pictures were developed and I paged through them, I was disappointed at how small everything seemed but the memory lingered. From then on, I wanted to be an intricate part of the memory, like I was the first time I saw the mountains.
Why do you prefer to shoot film over digital?
I have gone back and forth between film and digital. In high school I took a photography class and found my happiness in the dark room. The smells, the process, the image coming to life slowly before your anxious eyes. In college, due to convenience sake I turned to digital. There was something empty in the constant manipulation of the moment, the checking of the image on the back of the camera and the lack of satisfaction when the moment didn’t appear how you had imagined it to appear. Cleaning out my parents’ house one break, my little sister found my dad’s old film camera. She excitedly called it her own, shot for a week and quickly became bored with her new hobby. So I became the owner of the camera. I wanted again to be part of the moment, to not depend on the outcome of the picture to define my memory. I shot with film again because I wanted to be a part of the risk. The risk that image may not turn out, that the image may be blurry, that the roll may be exposed, that you may have to rely on your own memory in the end. With this risk, I have found that my photos have once again, turned back to an undefinable authenticity. Because once again I am participating in the moment.
How did you end up shooting in the middle of Africa?
I went to Zambia, Africa to visit my best friend from high school who lives there volunteering through the Peace Corps. She lost her camera the first week she was there. I am her only friend/family member that is going to visit her during her term in Africa. I felt incredibly blessed to be able to document her life and the beautiful relationships she has made with other Peace Corps volunteers and her neighbors in the village where she lives.
What’s been your best picture yet?
That is a super hard question to answer. I have my camera on me always. Some weeks I shoot three rolls and other weeks I shoot one frame.
This picture changed the way I view photography. I was in the mountains in Perú in a really remote impoverished village. A traveler came through years before and left his violin for the people who live there. This man taught himself how to play. The moment I shot this photo I realized that photos are not taken, they are given.
This other one is of my little sister a couple years back. There is something mystic about the photo that I love.
But in all honesty… I could send you 20 photos that answer this question…
What’s your next adventure?
My next adventure is Mexico City! I will be in one of my best friend’s wedding. I cannot wait to be in the bustling city.
Can you give some advice to those who are just starting to shoot?
Live with an acute awareness and the photo will be there.