Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m a photographer and curator, and recently starting to make some films too. I had a magazine, Dossier, for seven years, which I closed up last fall. I’ve been working on a new online journal called Double or Nothing, which will be launching in the next few weeks (doubleor.com). I travel a lot for work, and when I’m not on a plane I live in Brooklyn with my partner and our two kids.
How did you get into photography?
My mother is a very serious amateur photographer, so I grew up with a camera pointed at me. I think I got my first camera at the age of four. I started taking pictures more seriously when I was seventeen, but I didn’t think it would be my job. My parents and all their friends were artists who had other jobs, and I knew I wasn’t interested in being an artist like that, so I studied political science in college and decided I was going to go to law school. Then, the summer I was 21, I went to Paris to visit my boyfriend. He was working on a movie and shooting long days, so I decided to get an internship to fill my time. I ended up interning at Art and Commerce, and it was the first time I was exposed to photography as a viable career. I really jumped on it once I saw that possibility. I quickly got another internship at a photo studio, and from there started assisting. I didn’t come back to finish school and I stayed in Paris for the next six years. By the time I left I was a working photographer.
What was your dream job as a child?
When I was little I really wanted to be an astronaut. I don’t think I realized how much math and science was involved – neither is an area where I particularly excel – and I loved the idea of going to space.
What means photography to you?
One of the appeals of photography for me is definitely its relationship to memory. I think that’s why the snapshot aesthetic was so appealing for me immediately, because people were capturing seemingly banal moments and immortalizing them, preserving the memories of something they would otherwise almost certainly forget. I’m also simply a visual person, so I love being involved in making something beautiful out of something you may not otherwise see that way. Even in my commercial work, I try to capture a moment, a little feeling. I love the way photography can make you feel something that the photographer was feeling, nostalgia or melancholy or excitement or lust. And it’s universal. An image transcends culture and language and age in a way even the best translated words just can’t.
What type of photography do you like the most?
My first and biggest influence was the snapshot aesthetic pioneered by Nan Goldin, who I ended up working with, as her studio manager for four years. I was so moved by the everyday moment, the beautiful and the ugly both, being turned into something poetic and presented as art. That kind of photography still very much influences mine, but I feel like as I’ve progressed I’ve been more drawn to a thoughtful and considered approach, such as the work of Edward Weston, David Armstrong, Peter Hugar, and Robert Mapplethorpe.
How would you define your style?
I usually say that I shoot in a reportage style. I kind of stumbled into commercial fashion and lifestyle photography, but I probably should have been a photojournalist. That’s really more my skill set, stepping back and quietly capturing a moment, rather than fashion photography where you need to manufacture it.
What’s your secret recipe for memorable photos?
A big part of it is luck, just clicking the shutter at the right time.
What drives your creativity?
My father once told me an artist is someone who, if they were locked in a room with nothing, would eventually find a way to make something, because they have no other choice. He said that unless I felt that way I should go ahead and be a lawyer, because it would probably be an easier path. I have to say I’ve found that I agree with him. I have a three year old daughter and when I think of what she’ll be, some part of me hopes she won’t have that need to create so she can go have a happy life doing something more practical and less ephemeral than what I do. I’ve found it to be a mixed blessing, being constantly driven by the need to make stuff.
What is success to you?
Success seems to be something that constantly recedes as you approach it, doesn’t it? When I was 20, if you had shown me my life now, I would have called it very successful. I’ve spent my whole adult life working as a photographer, not sitting at a desk all day, getting paid to travel and take pictures, both of which I would want to spend my time doing anyway. But we always want more – at least I do.