Violet Forest is not just ‘another film photographer.’ To her, film photography exudes a sense of purity and truth. She prefers to captivate natural phenomenons instead of staging photographs. Read more about her analogue endeavors and take a look at her masterful series, right after the break.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m a 22-year old artist. I started making art consistently by photographing and I’m venturing into other mediums like video art and music. I’m also in the process of having my photographs shown in some Miami galleries, so I’ve been busy with presentation like framing and matting, and paving a path for myself outside of college, which is pretty nerve-wrecking.
How/When did you begin taking pictures? What was your first camera?
After doing two years of a technical Web Development degree I was dying to take a Fine Art class. I started taking black and white 35mm photographs in my Intro to Photography class in Community College. I’ve been doing 35mm for almost four years now and have been pretty consistent with the Canon AE1 and a 50mm lens. I switch to wide angle 24mm from time to time, and lately I’ve been shooting medium format.
Describe your style in photography. What are your usual subjects and themes?
I don’t remember the last time I staged a photograph. I prefer to see my days unfold and let my camera document what is presented in front me. I guess it adds some kind of truth to my practice, to know that certain event, habits, natural phenomenons will go on without my control. And when I go through my negatives in the future I can see how I reacted to my environment and the conditions of what I was going through at the time, and the people I was involved with.
Sometimes I don’t want the person to know I am watching them, because once they find out, they change their demeanor and therefore my initial vision, like they react to an invasion of privacy.
This photograph is part of the Vickie series, a body of photographs I’ve been editing for over two years now. I would visit her at her apartment with my camera and an extra change of clothes to spend the night. Our relationship grew over time as I got to know her better in an intimate setting, where I watched her like a guardian angel, getting to know her strengths and weaknesses, which required a great deal of empathy. The project naturally enfolded into an epic poem, with Vickie as the hero and her own enemy, as both muse and martyr.
Lately I’ve been working with disposable cameras to let go of my rigidness and increase the confidence in my practice. Since they are fixed lens I can extend my arm toward my subject without looking at the viewfinder, kind of like pouncing on prey, where my subjects don’t know its coming. Ideally this needs to develop with a Yashica T4.
And then there are times when I’m alone and studying phenomenons that are beyond me.
What is the soundtrack for your series of photographs?
I would guess the soundtrack depends on the ambience of your surroundings when you are looking at the photograph. Which makes the internet a great thing, because every individual can have his own soundtrack when he looks at the photographs on their computer screen. Galleries are interesting because the same ambient soundtrack is shared by everyone who is in the room at the same time.
We all have our idols, which photographers do you look up to? Who or what influences your photographic style?
I know more about photobooks than the oeuvres of photographers. Robert Frank’s The Americans is great because of its epic narration. There is no gimmick, only a sequence of great photograph after the next. Which is kind of the same as the The Ballad of Sexual Dependency by Nan Goldin. Both deal with sociology, but I would say Robert Frank’s has less to do with a subcultural, social realism and more with constructing a mythological symbology of the essence of 1950’s American culture as a whole.
As far as contemporary photographers, I found Canadian Dimitri Karakostas here on Lomography and was excited about how authentic I felt his photographs were.
Amongst your numerous film photographs, which is your favourite?
I just printed this image 20 × 24 and I could spend hours staring at it. I think the aesthetic experience is at its richest. My eyes never get bored flowing from each grain to the next. I guess I was so enthralled in the experience that the camera as a medium was successful in translating that.
If you could take anyone’s portrait using film, can be living or dead, who (would it be), which (camera would you use), and why?
I already created a contemporary photographic mythology out of Vickie. I want Alice Glass to be the main character of my next epic poem.
Analogue vs. Digital. What makes analogue/film photography more special than digital?
The more mediums you go through, the more information is lost, and I think there is something more valuable in an experience that is rendered more purely. A digital image is just a binary code, decoded by a computer. But when light hits the grain on film, the photons of the light chemically react with the grain to make metallic silver. There is a sense of purity, or truth, to me at least, that the actual photons of light that bounced off my subjects are now in my negatives, in an evolved, not substitued, silver metallic form.
Do you own Lomography cameras? Which is your favourite? / Which Lomographic camera would you like to have and why?
I did use a Diana F+ for about a month. Lomography cameras are a great bridge from the digital world to the analogue world. It’s easy to feel intimidated by film, but Lomography cameras make the experience fun and comfortable. Here are a couple of 35mm images I used with the Diana to give it the panoramic feel. I also bumped up contrast:
A lot of people are into photography today, what would you say to them to inspire them more?
Do you what love. If you don’t know what you love, try things until you find out. Follow your intuition. Don’t stop. Make it your life.
“It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.” — Wisdom of Confucius
Aside from your website, do you have other creative online/offline projects? If none, what other creative pursuits do you wish you could explore?
I have so many… As far as visual, I’m working on a video art project that investigates the same concept of the analogue VHS tape versus the digital DVD, except it involves the moving image instead of the photographic image. So I’m getting old VHS tapes from Goodwill and editing them on VCRs and video mixers instead of Final Cut Pro, and I’m finding ways of projecting them on walls. I also got invited put some photographic work in an issue of the zine Blood of the Young. And I’m still actively photographing, but this time with a medium format Mamiya 7, and I’m dying to buy a Yashica T4.
For more information on Violet Forest, you may visit her website at violetforest.com.