Featured Artist: Marie Smith
Artist: Marie Smith
Location: London, UK
Featured Series: 28-09-2017
SFUK: Tell us a little about yourself and your background in photography?.
MS: I'm a London based visual artists, I studied photography at BA level and implemented this medium into my practice but not to the extent that I would have liked to. It wasn't until I started my MA History of Art with Photography two years that I began to develop an understanding in photography. I initially worked in digital format which I found restrictive despite the opportunities that digital format gives you. I felt frustrated and unable to articulate myself. It wasn't until I started shooting film this year that I felt engaged with photography and developed my own style and gaze. My MA gave me more confidence and foundations to understand the history of photography which has definitely informed by visual language. I've also enjoyed learning how to engage with the camera and this influenced my approach to my ideas. My passion for photography has definitely captured me, I now only shoot in film, mostly 35mm but I do enjoy the expansiveness of 120. I now carry a camera around with me everywhere, usually my Minolta Riva 140 or Olympus Stylus.
SFUK: Can you tell us about your project '28-09-2017'
MS: This project is very personal to me but my intention was to use my own experience to address themes around death, home, mental health and memory. Two years ago on 28-09-2015 my mum died suddenly, this came as a shock to me and my family. This year was the 2nd year anniversary which was felt more acutely as I completed my MA dissertation the day before the anniversary of my Mum's death. I felt that I had to remove myself from my usual context to question myself so I went to Berlin to stay with a friend to reflect on everything that had happened to me over the past couple of years. The weather that weekend was sunny, warm and nourishing, this juxtaposed with my state of mind and I wanted to focus on this for this series. The use of text is important to create context with the series, not to overly explain or to compensate for anything but this was my way of acknowledging the purpose of the series. I feel that my trajectory into photography and my mum's death has been intertwined and having a creative outlet has helped with my mental health.
SFUK: The series is a collection of portraits, interior shots and views from windows, can you talk us through a couple of these and what they represent?
MS: I've always been intrigued with the concept of interior and exterior, the architecture of Berlin differed a lot to what I was used to and the light and space that illuminated the flat really inspired me. I felt that as this was a personal project that it was necessary to place myself at the center of the work to address my memories of my mum's death but also my own mental health problems. I suffer from anxiety/depression, the interior space can be a place of safety and also a place where you can feel trapped and I was having waves of anxiety at the time which meant that I felt the only way I could access human contact was by looking through the window. However, I was motivated by the light, in particular the shoots from the kitchen and the last image of the staircase. The interior went from being a claustrophobic space and the windows looking outwards became a metaphor for my life.
SFUK: How do you feel photography has helped you tell your story to others?
MS: Photography has allowed me to articulate ideas that I have been unable to do so via any other medium, for years i struggled to find my creative voice and I believe that photography has given me the confidence and visual language that I have been seeking. My work is autobiographical and I've been able consider and address ideas that I've had internalised for a while, for example mental health, home, memory and identity. I feel very passionate about photography, film in particular! I have many projects and ideas that I'll be working on next year which makes me feel excited.
SFUK: Do you think using film changed the way you approached the concept?
MS: Definitely! Working in film slows down your process but in a good way. I have less opportunities to shoot so each frame must count. Mistakes are made, this is unavoidable. However, I feel that working in film has made me more considerate in my working process. Now I definitely do consider before shooting a frame, that moment to reflect before taking a photo has made me more disciplined. The clarity and cleanness of Kodak Portra 400 film meant that I was able to really focus on the light and I didn't have to do much editing to the final images. I used 35mm for this series, the intimacy of using 35mm lent itself well to this series, and I felt less pressure when i was in front of the camera. I knew what I wanted to capture for this series and I believe that working in film meant that when I came to do this series I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
SFUK: Are you currently working on any other series of work we can look out for in the future?
MS: Yeah, I'm working a new series about my dad, who was an artist and introduced me to art by taking me to galleries and museums when I was little. This series is a work in progress and I'm still trying to get my head around the initial shoots that I took a couple of weeks ago. Forthcoming projects will be hopefully taking me outside of UK as I planning a trip to New York. I'm also interested in landscape photography and my position in nature as a black woman. English landscape is only familiar to me through stereotypes and romanticised imagery. I plan to do more work in 120 film as I enjoy working in that medium but I feel that it's more of a luxury to work in. I think any work I do about landscape photography or whilst I'm in New York will be in 120 film. I'd like to explore books and zines as well and would be very open to collaborating with other photographers.