The first time we saw the work of Los Angeles-based photographer Sadie Bailey, we knew that we had to feature her on the Magazine. She's one of those photographers that instantly lights a bulb in your creative mind. How does she get those tones? What serves as her inspiration? What makes her images so engaging? These are just a few questions that hounded us and we just had to get the answer straight from her. Luckily, Sadie is a cool person and a generous artist who is willing to share her work with us. Rambling is what happens when we're excited about an artist so before it gets out of hand, we give you Sadie Bailey and her mesmerizing world in monochrome.
Hello, Sadie. Welcome to the Lomography Online Magazine! How did you get started on your photographic journey?
Funnily enough, when I was 14 years old my mother bought me a Lomography Fisheye camera — it was green. I took it to the skate park with me everyday and from there I just started taking photos of everything I saw and everything I did. Full circle. Thanks, Mama!
How would you define photography?
That’s a difficult one to answer because photography, much like every other art form, is completely open to interpretation. It’s subjective and, in some ways, it’s indefinable.
What's your favorite thing about it?
Photography has the power to inform, to move, to change, to question, to make you feel love and to make you feel hate. My favorite thing about photography is being able to see the world through someone else’s eyes. We’re all experiencing it differently. We’re seeing different places, we're feeling different things, and living different lives. The fact that we have a way of sharing that with others, well... I think that’s just awesome.
Diversity is something we admire most in your film work. You can go from portraits to landscapes then stills, just like that. But if you have to choose, what area of photography would you like to concentrate on?
I don’t think my portrait work is as strong as I’d like it to be and if by stills you mean still life then definitely not. I just photographed my old skate trucks “for fun” and just stressed out during the whole process. If I had to choose it would definitely be (beach) landscapes.
We love your black and white work. The tones are just eye-popping. What would you say is your favorite thing about black and white film?
I’ve self-processed all of my black and white film for the past year thanks to Matt Day’s tutorial on YouTube. There’s something very therapeutic about having control over every aspect of a photograph. Black and white film has taught me how to read/understand light and shadows in a way I don’t think color would.
There’s really only a handful of color photography that inspires me — the old west, rural Americana genre such as Jason Lee’s “A Plain View”. It's definitely something I want to try my hand at the moment I get the chance.
I had what some people would call a “failed attempt” in exploring the subject back in January. I visited Lone Pine, California on my way back from a trip to Mammoth but had just broken my wrist the morning before and was too Percocet'd out to even hold my camera straight. The following day I flew to Portland, Oregon with the plan to document the quirks of South East PDX — but having a cast and an immobile arm completely defeated that. I did manage to fire off a few shots (with the help of my cousin, Watson) but nothing close to what I had envisioned during my previous trip a few months prior. A week later I traveled from Portland to Austin, Texas with the lovely people of Wonderland Tattoos for the Star of Texas tattoo convention but neither time nor capability were on my side. It’s safe to say that I’m due another Americana trip (and might bring some color with me) so stay tuned for that.
Your photos have that cinematic look to them. The atmosphere is just so moody and stylized, we can't help but obsess over the details. How do you create your shots?
I find comfort in solitude which is something I try to portray through my photography. From lonesome buildings and quiet skate parks to solo surfers and serene palm trees — I want you to feel like it’s just you and my photograph. And although I do admire it completely, I’ll never be able to be a successful street photographer. Everything is too hectic and busy for my liking.
It’s very rare that I’ll plan a photograph in my head before I take it. The majority of my artwork is based around immortalizing the things I do, places I go and people I see as soon as I experience it. I’m very sentimental and photography is my way of easing that.
I use a range of different cameras in both 35mm and 120 format and it’s starting to become a burden. I’ve contemplated simplifying my gear for a while now. Sticking to one 35mm camera, probably opting for a rangefinder over an SLR, for everyday documenting and then going for one medium format set up for project-based work. The more I shoot the more I start to understand where I want my photography to go. It’s becoming less about the gear and more about the photography itself.
Another thing that drew us to your work is the energetic vibe from your lifestyle photographs. They have music, surf, skate, and Americana in them. So many interesting things going on. What do you look for in a photograph?
It's interesting you said that because the freedom I find through music, surfing, skating, traveling etc brings me tranquility rather than energy. However, I do understand where you’re coming from. The fascination within these subjects is shared worldwide and constantly brings waves of inspiration and excitement to a lot of creatives alike.
And in the most simple way — they’re cool. And they make cool photographs.
Describe your style in five words.
It’s all trial and error.
Or maybe proving to myself that life is worth living. That’s 8 words but f*** it.
For you, what makes a good photograph?
I’ve always said that a good photograph is one that makes me jealous that I didn’t shoot it.
What inspires you to shoot?
The sun! Nothing makes me want to get out of bed and enjoy the world more than that.
Who are the artists/photographers that you follow?
I’m currently a member of a great photographic collective called “AllFormat”. It’s made up of 15 extremely passionate photographers who inspire myself (and many others) daily. I might be wrong with this but I think Cameron Hoerth (@hello_euphoriaa) and I are the youngest out of the bunch. It’s genuinely a privilege to have the opportunity to be mentored by the likes of Kit Young (@kityoung135) and James Moreton (@go_jmo) - two extremely lovely and talented photographers / darkroom printers - alongside the rest of the collective.
Apart from that — my good friend Yentl Touboul (@yentlt) is someone who constantly blows me away with every project he works on. We’ve known each other for years and have piles upon piles of stories about our Euro travels that I’ll save for another time. He can tackle any idea with any medium and hit it out of the park.
Another photographer I’m obsessed with is Josh Bordelon (@joshbphotog). It’s hard to find the words to truly describe my love for his photography, but his use of light and shadow leaves me in awe. I’d happily have a whole apartment full of his prints. Cole Flynn Quirke (@devils_point) is another great photographer. We recently worked on a zine together entitled “Sickest Day” which features a selection of my 35mm work both inside and on the cover. Austin Shafkowitz (@austinshafkowitz) has amazing large format work. One of our first interactions came from me writing something incredibly soppy about how much I loved his work.
There’s a bunch of photographers that keep my fire burning — I can’t for the life of me begin to list them all. A good trick I’ve learnt that helps me discover new photographers is following certain photography-based hashtags on Instagram (such as #allformatcollective, #doyoudevelop, #subjectivelyobjective, #filmphotographic, #back2thebase etc.). But maybe just check out who I’m following on Instagram and drop them all a follow? Haha.
Lastly, what's next for Sadie Bailey?
I’m moving back to California in 2 weeks after living 9 years in London. The excitement consumes me.