About two weeks ago, we introduced you to the work of young film photographer Renee Ackerman. We recently got in touch with her through an e-mail interview, where she opened up about what inspires her and her dream project, among many other things. (P.S. She’s a self-confessed fan of Lomography, too!)
Hello, Renee! Please tell us about yourself, maybe something that you haven’t said yet on your bio?
I am a 20-year-old female from Willoughby, Ohio. I have always felt enchanted and fascinated by the natural world. When I was a little girl, I had a very memorable and vivid imagination. My make-believe games always involved forests, mountains, magic, witches, fairies, or talking animals. I think most of these dreams followed me into adulthood and have shaped the way I think and see to this day.
We’ve read that you started with photography when you were only 15 years old. Can you tell us about the time you’ve taken your very first roll of film?
It was about five years ago and I was spending the weekend camping with my family in Maryland. A good friend of mine had given me a halfway-broken film camera and I was bursting with excitement to finally use it. My sister and I went out to explore the surrounding woods and I remember taking pictures of all the pines, ferns, rocks, and waterfalls surrounding me. I tried not to waste any of the 24 pictures in the roll, but I ended up using it all within the hour. Once I finally got the photos back, I discovered that they were covered in red light leaks and the images were all over exposed. Yet, I was so pleased with the allurement that this created, and it dawned on me how much more I valued these 24 images than I ever could have before.
How would you describe your photographic style? What inspires you? Why do you choose to shoot film?
I am inspired by so many things: nature, forests, rivers, rocks, deserts, mountains, time, the past, memories, loved ones, adventures, stories, or fairy tales. I think my photographic style is made up of all of these elements and how they relate to the life that I live. I shoot film because there is just something so nostalgic about a single film print. The way it knows exactly how you felt in that moment when the photo was taken, and how it captures the atmosphere in a way that a digital photo never quite could. It gives each photo an ageless or abiding feeling.
You’re quite young! Most people your age would shoot photographs a bit different from yours, which usually veer on the surreal and dreamy. What is it about nature that inspires you?
When I am walking in the woods or out camping the wilderness, it is impossible to decipher what time period or place I am a part of. Nature is dateless and the trees and rivers are eternal. I think many pagan beliefs are still embedded deep inside the essence of human beings whether we are aware of it or not. I often get very upset for being born into these modern times and have wondered numerous times how I ended up here. I detest what the world is becoming and what human beings are doing to it, but when I’m outside I get lost in my own world and none of those things exist anymore.
We’re pleased to find out that you’re a fan of Lomography! Do tell us about your experience with taking photos using our cameras!
One of my first ever film cameras was Lomography’s 35mm point and shoot Fisheye camera, which I still use on occasion during concerts or other nighttime activities. I also use Lomography’s Color Negative films every once and a while, which gives my images a particularly nice luster.
What are the cameras that you use? What’s your favorite, if any, and why?
My Pentax K1000 has been my one and only for a number of years and it remains to be what I use today. It is beat up and durable, the lens is bent and covered in scratches, but after all that we’ve been through I can’t imagine replacing it.
Are there any photographers and/or artists that you look up to? Who are they and why?
I have met so many inspiring individuals on Flickr, and it is hard for me to begin naming them all… On those days where I feel down or am overloaded with work, I always enjoying seeing the photos by Nicola Odemann and Randy P. Martin. Both of these photographers inspire me to get out and create adventures for myself, and I find that this is a very positive and helpful way to feel!
What’s your favorite project that you’ve done so far? Any interesting and memorable story? Please tell us about it!
Two summers ago my companions and I traveled across the US to the mountains of Colorado and the deserts and canyons of Utah for a couple weeks of backpacking. This experience really opened my eyes and greatly increased my desire to travel and to experience new places. The photos that I took in this journey mean very much to me, and I am very pleased with how they turned out. I can’t say that it’s my all-time favorite project, but it was definitely a beginning to many more adventures and projects to come!
Your dream project?
I would love to travel through New Zealand and create a photo journal of my experiences there! I have been very intrigued by New Zealand ever since I saw the first “Lord of the Rings” movie when I was about 8 years old and have been dreaming about going there ever since.
Aside from photography, is there anything else that you do?
I find that my thoughts are greatly in balance when I go on backpacking excursions. I love breaking my troubles back down to basic human survival needs. I find it very comforting to know that everything I need can be carried on my back.
What has been keeping you busy these days? Any ongoing/upcoming projects that you’d like to share with us? Exhibitions you’d like to promote?
Sometime in the near future I am hoping to publish a book of my photographs, I just need to find the time!
Any advice that you could give to aspiring photographers?
Follow your own distinct style. A genuine moment cannot be forced.
Anything more you’d like to add?
I would just like to say thank you once again for taking the time to interview me! I am honored and excited to be a part of Lomography’s website!
All photos were taken from Renee Ackerman’s Flickr photostream with permission.
Related article: Surreal Film Photography by Renee Ackerman