Vanessa Green is an Auckland based documentary photographer and self described observer and an explorer. Green's work is captured using a range of film camera mediums. We caught up with her to get an insight into her work.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you usually photograph.
I'm 36 and live in Central Auckland, although, I'm originally from Kelston, West Auckland. I believe my younger years in Kelston has definitely influenced my eye as a photographer and my eye in life in general. We had a simple life in West Auckland, it definitely wasn't lush by any means and I think that simplicity and appreciating those smaller moments of beauty is reflected in my current work and what I choose to photograph.
I've always been an observer, a people watcher, an explorer. I have at least one camera with me pretty much everywhere I go so I can capture whatever catches my eye. I guess I document what ever is around me - whether that be landscapes, environments, people, spaces - if its something I take a second glance at than I feel the need to capture it. I will always try to see the beauty in the everyday and this influences my photography a lot. I always aim for my work to be honest, authentic and real. And my aim is to produce work that makes me feel something personally - its not so much about making others feel, its more about how it makes me feel. Although I share my work a lot via social media I mainly shoot for myself so you will often see personal images of my family and those closest to me or places of significance to me. In a way my work is my diary - a visual diary of my world and my thoughts. You can often tell what I am feeling by what I am sharing on my insta feed. And most of the time my images don't come with words - I like to leave it up to the viewer to interpret the image for themselves - to take what they need from it rather than being spoon fed my spin on the image.
How did you get into photography?
As I mentioned earlier, I've always been an observer and an explorer - I think my strongest sense is my sight - I am a visual learner, I have strong attention to detail, I remember faces and sights much easier than names and stories. Photography started to become a big thing in my life (ok - so it pretty much took over) around 2013. Before then, I had always had some sort of average digital camera for my travels but in 2013 I took a photography elective at Unitec and re-discovered film. It came at a time in my life when I had space and time to dedicate to learning and at a time in my life when I desperately needed a creative outlet - so I think that concoction of things ignited something in me. It was all I wanted to spend my time doing! And from there its just become a part of my daily life and I really can't imagine my life without it.
There seems to be a hint of political motivation in some your work. Can you tell us about that?
You Shoot film for the most part. What are some of the reasons you prefer film to digital?
I'd say I shoot analog about 99% of the time. On the odd occasion I will shoot digital and its interesting because I instantly feel disconnected from what I am shooting. Thats not to say that I don't appreciate digital photography and what it offers, I really do, but for me personally it doesn't deliver what I need as a photographer. And in saying that, its not really even about the end result but more about the feeling of shooting film. That moment of light hitting a layer of silver halide crystals is magical - I love that idea! I love that film creates something tangible, my negatives are everything, I often find myself going back through them to find images I may have missed. I love the pace I shoot at with film - it slows me down to a point when I see rather than just look, if that makes any sense. I love the feel of my old cameras in my hand, I love that they've had a life before me, I love the sound of the shutter release, I love that I have to wind on a new frame. I love that shooting film forces me to accept my mistakes - I can't just delete a bad image - its forever on that negative. I love that it allows me to feel connected to my subject and not distracted. For me, shooting on film is photography! It feels honest and simple and that is how I want to shoot.
What are some of the different shooting technics you experiment with?
My photography is quite simple so I don't experiment with too many shooting techniques. I will quite often shoot deadpan, straight on - I like that look. I only use natural light - I guess that links back to my idea of honesty in my work. I often switch between colour film and bnw film - that'll just depend on the mood I am on that day and I don't want to restrict my self to just one look. I'm not a very disciplined photographer or a very technical photographer. I'm much more inclined to go off a feeling rather than what is technically right for a shot.
Talk about some of the challenges you face when photographing your subjects.
I think my biggest personal challenge is being confident enough to photograph people (not so much street photography but a dedicated photography session with a person). I love to do it but its such a fear of mine. I guess it scares me because when I am shooting another person the work is no longer just mine - it becomes ours - and there are these expectations I put on myself around whether my standard is "good" enough for that other person. Its such an intimate thing to photograph another person and I feel its such a big thing to do that person justice, to photograph them honestly. Its something I'm pushing through though. I think this is often why you'll see portraits of my family because that family bond instantly allows for a more honest photo.
Is there anything that informs your creativity outside of photography?
Hmmm... Thats a tricky one for me to answer. I feel like everything informs my photography. My upbringing, my travel, who I surround myself with, what I choose to spend my time on, what conversations I've had, what fascinates me - it all influences what I choose to capture. I guess when you're photography is just a visual diary of your life you can allow for it to be influenced by just life in general. I often find myself immersing myself in other things outside of photography with the hope of documenting it on film one day. I like the idea of being immersed in something, or so comfortable around something that your images can be nothing but honest.
Which part of photography do you like best ie. Shooting, editing etc?
Well, that changes often. Some weeks I don't take a single frame and other weeks I'll burn through rolls of film. And sometimes I don't develop for a month and other times I feel the need to develop as soon as I've shot a roll. I'm ok with that though - I just let it flow as and when it feels right. I know it'll always be something I go back to. I never push myself if I'm not feeling it. And I'll never limit myself it I feel the need to do it everyday.
What’s your dream project?
I used to want to travel to small remote places around the world and document these beautiful and amazing cultures (well, I still do) but recently I have been more inclined to want to stay on our own home soil and document the beautiful cultures and people we have in Aotearoa - to document it in a simple and honest way. My dream project would be to move back home, close to my marae in the King Country and document my people - just capturing their everyday lives and their surroundings - nothing fancy, just honest.
Has photography made you any wiser or simplified anything in your life?
Photography has definitely connected me with a lot of amazing people and opened up some doors that I would never have imagined. I definitely wouldn't say that its simplified life in any way - it absorbs so much of my time and focus but I guess thats what happens when you're passionate about something. I love that I can use photography as a base to continually learn and develop - its never ending. And I love how I can use it to push me out of my comfort zone and to grow. For me, its much more than just snapping some pics - its much bigger than that.
As an artist what are there things that you dislike about the photography community/scene?
There isn't too much I really dislike about the photography scene otherwise I wouldn't be a part of it. If I had to say a few things that I don't like then it'd have to be around some of the big ego's you meet along the way but thats just a dislike in life in general. I'd love to see more female photographers taking the lead too - it sometimes still feels like a bit of a boys club but it feels like thats changing which is great.
What kind of gear do you shoot with?
I have a few film cameras in my collection but my favourites are my Mamiya 7ii - its a medium format camera but portable enough to carry every day and the glass is amazing! And my Nikon F3 - a 35mm camera - I love how solid it feels and it allows me to produce some beautiful images. What I do love about my gear is that each film camera has its own personality - they each have their strengths and weaknesses and its very much a down to how I'm feeling on the day as to what I choose to shoot on.
Check out more of Vanessa Green's work: