AN INTERVIEW WITH SARAH MOON
I’m sitting in the middle of the exhibition chaos. The opening of The Red Thread is in just a few hours. There are some women (and sometimes men) who mesmerize the people around them, sometimes with their bare presence and sometimes with their hard work. Sarah Moon does both. She captures her audience through photography and lets us have a glimpse into her own personal universe, using the lens to show us an alternative reality, often with a lack of sunshine and blurry captures.
So when I meet her at the at Fotografiska, the Museum of Photography in Stockholm, among the tumult of art pieces, curators and drills, I feel somehow privileged. She looks cool and cultural, like someone who would be friends with, for example, Yoko Ono.
How was it when you began your photography career in the 60s? MM
SM Like for everybody, you need to please more. I was still modeling when I began and back then there was less photography and there were fewer photographers available. People were curious to see what a model could do. I was lucky.
MM I know that at least here in Sweden, which some say has one of the most gender equal societies, even today a lot of women struggle in the photography world. It’s harder for women in the business to make it and the agencies aren’t helping by only recruiting male photographers...
SM I was very fortunate with that. I never had that feeling because I was a part of that story already when I began. There was more curiosity and maybe some paternalism, you know, they wanted to see what this young girl could do, but at the same time they gave me an opportunity. It wasn’t hard for me but I know other women who’d had to struggle. But nowadays in fashion there are many female photographers.
I guess the fashion industry is somehow a woman’s world. MM
Yes, I think there’s a female solidarity. SM
I ask about the urge of inventing a new reality, of bending the world as we normally see it. But she’s not trying to create something new, just capture what she sees herself. The goal is to express something that she feels at a certain moment. I wonder, are there any statements in the art, and is she political?
I think I’m political, everything is political somehow, you know? I mean, even feelings are SM
political. Is it political to enhance a feeling of a woman? If so, I am political.
Do you prefer to shoot women or men? MM
SM In fashion I prefer women, I shoot men too, but there’s more capacity of “making up” with women. It’s easier to create a story with a woman, since there are so more ways of being different, it’s more fun. I like to take men’s portraits but not necessarily in the situation of fashion.
Do you have any favorite models that you work with over and over again? MM
SM I do, I like to work with the the same models. The shoot becomes a team effort and it does help when you know somebody.
Sarah points at one of the pieces hanging on the cardinal red painted wall and tells me that Avril, the girl in the photo, she knew since she was four years old. She’s now an actress.
MM For me, looking at your images, they somehow seem very dreamy, I wonder when you dream, whether you see your own images? Do you dream in black and white?
SM No not necessarily... they’re not so dreamy to me... But I always think one shuts her eyes before opening. A dream is a mixture of memory and desire. I think I see more in black and white even though sometimes color imposes itself and you can’t escape, it’s the color that dictates. But if I go out and around, very often, black and white is enough.
Do you think that if you hadn’t become a photographer you would have kept being a model? MM
SM Well, you can’t be a model all your life. Maybe I would have been a painter, but you can never know, it’s one step in front of one step.
I get the obvious idea that Sarah’s not a woman who thinks too much about the past or what could’ve been. Sarah’s strongly anchored in the present and mostly interested in what’s going to happen in the future. She recently finished a job for Chanel while working on her more personal pieces and exhibiting her work at multiple places around the world. She says, time goes by quickly so she just wants to do as much as possible, always.
Are you ever at home just relaxing? MM
I don’t know what that is and at home you never relax because there’s always so much to do. SM
Do you have any favorite designers whose pieces you prefer to wear? MM
Oh, I love the Japanese ones, Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto. SM
She says my coat looks like Yamamoto or at least Japanese. It’s a bit funny since I’m wearing my Odessa coat from Swedish designer Rodebjer. Sarah asked me earlier what good Swedish designers there were and Rodebjer was one of the ones I told her. She says it’s lovely. I also find out that she’s got a cat and that because of her Japanese look, was named Haiku.
Do you travel a lot to Tokyo? MM
Mostly I go to Paris. I go to Tokyo occasionally but haven’t been there in a while now. SM
I ask Sarah if she takes any photos on her spare time, what about vacations?
Well it is vacation each time I take a picture because then I am somewhere else. SM