Millions of pictures of New York are taken each day, but no two pictures are the same. For Toronto based photographer Chelsea Hirons, the City has been an endless source of inspiration. She spent a week in Brooklyn during January as a photographer-in-residence at the Habitat, founded by Lauren Roche. Through this pop-up artist residency created by the Habitat, a New York-based offline and online photography community, in collaboration with Lomography, Hirons wandered through the city with a camera and some Lomography Color Negative 800, ready to capture what the city had to offer.
Welcome to the Lomography Magazine, Chelsea! Can you tell us about how you got started in photography, and with film in particular?
I fell into it when I inherited film cameras from family members and started shooting out of curiosity. The texture of film is so beautiful, I’ve never been able to make the switch to digital. The personal value of the image increases when there are a limited amount of frames and you can’t see your photo right away.
Can you describe a day as a Habitat resident?
Wake up early enough to catch the pink sunrise, ride the subway or ferry into Manhattan and spend a few hours wandering the streets of Chinatown. Grab dumplings for lunch & head up to the East Village for more people watching. I tried to be out as much as possible during the day and had my camera in hand at all times.
Your pictures are very ethereal: they’re very human, yet you don’t need to show people in them. Is it a conscious choice?
This is definitely a theme in my work however I don’t think it is a conscious choice. I think I end up with these images because I like to take my time when framing pictures and get the proper exposure. This is a lot easier without moving subjects or people. They end up having a calming and quiet look to them.
What moments make your photographic heartbeat, and your finger press the shutter?
Sometimes it’s just a color that I obsess over and want to see how it translates onto film. Lately, I find myself looking for harsh lighting and shadows on still life subjects. When it comes to shooting people I focus in on one person who either has interesting style or looks like they are having a nice moment.
The Lomography Color Negative 800 is very high-speed film, great to use in low light situations, but a lot of your pictures are taken outdoors or with natural lighting. What did you think of the versatility of the film?
I was very pleased with the warm tones and soft colors that the film produced in outdoor lighting. When you are shooting in multiple locations it’s a good feeling knowing that regardless of the lighting situation you’re going to end up with a nice photograph.
When do you feel like that you work best as a photographer?
I take my best images when I’m traveling alone. I’m much more observant and seeking out photographable things. New surroundings are visually engaging, you can find more details that you wouldn’t necessarily be looking for in your own city.
Are there any future projects we should be on the lookout for?
I’ll be headed back to New York in the summer to continue shooting my Coney Island series.