Meet Rosaline Shahnavaz, London-based photographer who fell in love with film photography at an early age. Today, Rosaline makes outstanding portraits and works with some of the best known brands in the world. In this interview, Rosaline reveals what drives her inspiration and gives insight what does her day look like when she is not busy shooting new projects.
Hey Rosaline! Welcome to Lomography Magazine! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey! My name is Rosaline and I am a photographer from London. I first got into photography through photographing my friends and whatever was around me. It became a bit of an obsession and I would never be seen without my camera. I started as a fly on the wall, documenting my friends on road trips and at parties. But then there was a bit of a role reversal, and people began to approach me to photograph them! Today, I work with a wide range of clients including magazines, fashion designers, record labels and musicians amongst many others. I also spend any time I can doing personal work, as this is what really got me into photography in the first place.
When did you start working with film? What attracted you specifically to analogue photography?
Although it was never my dad’s profession, he took a lot of beautiful photographs and I used to spend hours leafing through them as a kid. He gave me his old Yashica camera which he had taken all his photographs on. I was fascinated by his kit, and couldn’t wait to use it. I had never really touched an SLR before then. I taught myself how to use it and started shooting B&W film my secondary school teacher would give me, and he taught me how to use the school’s dark room.
I remember working under the red light, and seeing my first photograph appear in the developer. It felt like magic and I became obsessed with the process. I went on to study Photography at the London College of Communication, which is where I discovered the color darkroom. I haven’t looked back since.
Among other things, you enjoy taking portraits. In your opinion, what is the most crucial thing when taking photos of people? How do you succeed in making your portraits stand out?
I have never fussed over kit, or location or anything. I like everything as stripped back as possible. I just want my subject to feel relaxed and trust me. It’s only then that I can feel like they are ready.
What is it that inspires your work the most? What do you turn to when in need of inspiration?
People, I love people. And especially our relationships. I am not looking to create ‘perfect’ photographs, I am actually much more drawn to the in-between moments. My best photographs are when I’ve really captured someone’s essence. For my personal work, I love to spend time with different women and document our relationship.
I strive to build this connection even when I’m shooting for a commission. I might only have 1 hour to shoot a story for a magazine so it’s much more fast paced but there’s an adrenaline rush and I find my way of making it work.
You’ve managed to establish a really unique photographic style. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a photographer?
Don’t go searching for ‘photographs’. Photograph what you know, and what you love. Don’t look at other people’s work too much either, it can be distracting.
When you look at some of your earlier work, how does it make you feel?
It’s a reminder of why I first started photographing. I am terrible at drawing and painting because I’m so impatient. Photography has this wonderful immediacy and I was able to do it all the time. I didn’t think about it; I just did it. I love the naivety behind my earlier images. They have intimate and raw quality to them.
What photographers inspired your work in the beginning?
My favorite photographers during school were Bill Henson, Corinne Day and Juergen Teller, Rineke Dijkastra… and they still are now!
What does your day look like when you are not busy shooting another project?
I guess the nature of my work means I don’t really have a typical day. In between shoots I tend to work on edits, emails, going to meetings, researching new ideas, seeing new shows…I love what I do so sometimes I don’t really realize when it’s work or pleasure!
You worked with so many popular brands, such as American Apparel and Coca-Cola. Your work has also been published in numerous magazines. What is the next thing you want to accomplish in the future?
It’s funny, I always feel like I’m right at the start! My schedule is so busy so I rarely take the time to sit and think about all the ground I have covered. It’s quite exciting when I do look back on it! I want to keep up momentum and just continue to take photographs and work on new projects. I have almost wrapped up a new book, so keep an eye out for that next month!