Ma­reea Ve­gas speaks with pho­tog­ra­pher Frances Carter about re­turn­ing to New Zealand af­ter spend­ing time in New York, and her pro­gres­sion in the fash­ion and por­trait photography in­dus­try

New Zealand D-Photo - - CONTENTS -

Ma­reea Ve­gas speaks with pho­tog­ra­pher Frances Carter about re­turn­ing to New Zealand af­ter spend­ing time in New York

Three years ago I was struck by the very first por­trait I saw by Frances Carter. It pos­sessed a level of ma­tu­rity, el­e­gance and emo­tional depth that seemed be­yond some­one still in their teens. Now, at 23 years old, Carter’s fash­ion and por­trait port­fo­lio boasts a steadily grow­ing list of lead­ing New Zealand la­bels and mag­a­zines, her work seam­lessly and thought­fully blend­ing the line be­tween art and fash­ion. An AUT grad­u­ate (Bach­e­lor of Vis­ual Arts), Carter has re­cently re­turned to New Zealand af­ter 13 months spent liv­ing in New York City (NYC). We caught up for a chat in Auck­land to dis­cuss her lat­est por­trait works, and her on­go­ing quest to truth­fully de­pict those in and around her world.

D-Photo: Do you feel that the time spent in NYC in­flu­enced your photography in any way?

Frances Carter: Ac­tu­ally I hardly shot any­thing in New York; I spent much more time just look­ing around me. But now that I’m back in New Zealand, and with the huge priv­i­lege of stu­dio ac­cess (thank you, King­size Stu­dios!), I’m work­ing out how to put all that I saw back into my im­ages.

How do you put el­e­ments from the past into im­ages that you are cre­at­ing in the present?

It’s more prac­ti­cal than it sounds — look­ing for cer­tain colour com­bi­na­tions for ex­am­ple, or work­ing out how to cre­ate my favourite types of light. I guess, like with por­traits, I need to know the sub­ject be­fore I can shoot it — and it takes a long time to get to know New York. If I went back I’d def­i­nitely have my cam­era out more.

How do you see your work in re­la­tion to that of other pho­tog­ra­phers work­ing pre­dom­i­nantly with por­trai­ture?

I like to think that I’m work­ing along­side a grow­ing group of por­trait pho­tog­ra­phers who have ties to fash­ion, but are mo­ti­vated by a drive to rep­re­sent a broader cast of char­ac­ters. With­out ty­ing our­selves to well-mean­ing, but of­ten to­ken, terms like ‘di­ver­sity’ or ‘real women’, we’re try­ing to nor­mal­ize the pos­si­bil­ity that two his­tor­i­cally sep­a­rate groups — the peo­ple we pho­to­graph and the peo­ple that fill our lives — can and should over­lap as much as pos­si­ble.

Is there then a dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween your per­sonal work and com­mer­cial work, or are they one and the same?

There is def­i­nitely a sep­a­ra­tion. When mak­ing com­mer­cial work I’m at the mercy of the client’s cre­ative di­rec­tion, which isn’t a bad thing. I like the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing to some­body else’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions, be­cause it means I can fo­cus on per­fect­ing the tech­ni­cal as­pects of the im­ages. In my per­sonal work I don’t have to think about what

we are try­ing to sell, the fo­cus can be com­pletely on the sub­ject rather than a prod­uct.

I find your por­traits ex­tremely per­sonal. It al­most feels as though I know th­ese peo­ple. Is this in­ti­macy some­thing that you strive to achieve in your work?

I con­sider it an hon­our to pho­to­graph the peo­ple I do, and I have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to truth­fully rep­re­sent them. I’m try­ing to bring out some­thing that I see in the sub­ject, but I want them to re­tain con­trol over the fi­nal im­ages. I think this is es­pe­cially im­por­tant in the dig­i­tal age. If some­one doesn’t want me to pub­lish an image, I won’t pub­lish it. If some­one ap­proves an image and then later de­cides they’re not com­fort­able with it, I’ll take it down. So, my hope is that the im­ages you see have a con­nec­tion with the way the sub­ject wants to rep­re­sent them­selves, which ide­ally re­sults in that in­ti­macy you men­tioned.

Do peo­ple need a sense of your sub­jects’ back story to fully un­der­stand or ap­pre­ci­ate your work?

It’s im­pos­si­ble for me to say, since I al­ways have that in­for­ma­tion. But I don’t shoot purely for aes­thetic ap­peal when I’m mak­ing per­sonal work,

so it prob­a­bly does make a dif­fer­ence to know some­thing about the per­son in the image. I’m shoot­ing less for the present and more for the fu­ture, so we have a doc­u­ment of the peo­ple who are shak­ing the world up (or my world, at the very least). I like the idea of shoot­ing for pos­ter­ity’s sake. Are there pho­tog­ra­phers who you ad­mire who have doc­u­mented pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions? Nan Goldin will al­ways be my num­ber one in that genre. Do you be­lieve that you re­late more closely to film, in your process, than dig­i­tal? I don’t have any loy­alty to film, al­though I can ap­pre­ci­ate why peo­ple wax lyri­cal about it (and I don’t want to see it dis­ap­pear). I think what­ever medium you use, it’s al­ways just a tool. I do like the process of shoot­ing on medium-for­mat, and I can’t repli­cate those re­sults on my DSLR, but I wouldn’t trade the level of con­trol I have over the

dig­i­tal RAW files for 35mm film. Can you talk about how your photography has evolved from stills to mov­ing image? Hon­est an­swer is that the fu­ture of the pho­to­graphic in­dus­try is pretty un­clear, and I want to have a few dif­fer­ent skills un­der my belt, just in case! I’m en­joy­ing the learn­ing curve, too. Be­cause we all want to know what you shoot with, what’s cur­rently in your cam­era bag? Mostly tools, ac­tu­ally: gaffer tape, clamps, gel scraps, Leather­man, Sekonic, bat­ter­ies, card reader, cable ties, grey card, etc. Cam­era-wise, I have a Mamiya RZ67 that I should re­ally use more. For dig­i­tal, it’s a Canon 5D and 24–70mm [lens] — I like to get peo­ple mov­ing around so a mid-range zoom suits me best. And, lastly, where would we find Frances at 10pm on a Fri­day night? Prob­a­bly home alone — al­ways have to wake up early for shoots on Satur­days!

Ma­reea Ve­gas is an Auck­land­based pho­tog­ra­pher and mu­si­cian. Each is­sue, she talks to a new pho­tog­ra­pher bring­ing in­ter­est­ing artis­tic ideas to the field of con­tem­po­rary pho­tog­ra­phy. Through these dis­cus­sions, she hopes to in­spire D-Photo read­ers to...

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