I had the privilege of emailing photographer Amelia Fletcher some questions:
1. Tell us a bit about yourself..
I am a photographer and artist currently living in Chicago. I grew up on a farm in the Appalachian mountains and am greatly influenced by natural elements, personal histories, and the idea of home. My roots are a huge part of who I am and what inspires me to create.
Last year I started a 52 week project, so right now my focus is portraiture although I want to experiment more with many other forms of photography. I have an unhealthy addiction to chocolate and a pet everyone calls cat-face but that’s not really her name.
2. What is the appeal of photography and how did you become a photographer?
Ever since I was a child I wanted to become an artist, even though I didn’t really know what that meant. Out of all the activities, sports, and hobbies my parents put in front of me art was the only thing I ever stuck with and the only activity in which I felt I could keep up with my peers.
As I got older I began to develop a fear of losing my memories, so I shot photos of everything I did with my friends and family and filled up a scrapbook so I wouldn’t forget any of those important events. When I entered college photography seemed like the only logical path to follow, and I was so blessed to have incredible professors that pushed me in the best ways possible.
I completed an internship with Aaron Nace for class credit in 2011, and the following year moved to Chicago to continue working for him and Phlearn. That was another pivotal point in my life and career, I owe so much of what I know now to him.
3. I think that your image Til We Are Gone is absolutely stunning. Can you tell me a bit about the story behind the image and the process of shooting it?
Thank you! It was around Christmas time and I wanted to create a large headpiece that had some symbolism of the holiday without being too literal. I was fascinated by many of Juha Mustonen’s images, especially the white on white portraits. The lyrics that go along with that image explained perfectly how I was feeling at the time, a little worn down but looking forward to the time I would soon be able to spend with my family. One of the lines is “keep on going til we are gone,” and I wanted the flowers to represent that, the beauty of the moment that you know will soon wilt away.
The poinsettias were purchased at a craft store and pinned into a styrofoam shape using wire, along with the branches. It was a huge mess as the flowers have a sticky white sap that leaked all over the place, it was in my hair for days. I used white clown makeup to make my skin and lips lighter and less saturated.
86” octobox as the main light for that photo and a long throw reflector fired into the ceiling for fill. I added a little bit of blue to the background and a texture in post processing.
4. What camera/ equipment do you use?
A Canon 5d Mkii with a 50mm 1.4 lens are what’s in my bag right now. I’m hoping to add an 85mm to that sometime soon!
5. Do you think that you need the best equipment to create the best images?
Absolutely not. To be honest I am not very interested in equipment, I figure out what I want the photo to look like and how I can achieve that effect and that’s all that matters to me. I don’t really care what’s new or popular or expensive… I just want the final image to be as close as possible to the idea I have in my head.
I don’t have a smartphone, but I see so many amazing images coming from them these days. It’s really impressive, and proves it’s not the camera that makes the difference. As tempting as it is to want the best or newest product its almost always not what makes a photo great.
6. What is your favourite image that you have taken and why? (Please include a small jpeg of the image or a link to it)
That’s a hard one. I think “Of Grit and Grace” is my favorite. Even though when I look at it now I see a lot of little things that I would change in editing, it was so much fun to shoot and means a lot to me. My sister came to visit and I covered her, and then myself in the glitter which was literally everywhere. I used glitter to make us look more like each other and different from everyone else, since siblings often have a mutual understanding and bond that no one else can come close to.
“To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember feuds and secrets, griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” – Clara Ortega
7. Do you think that self portraits are a “default” route into photography and can someone have a career off creating them?
I think it just depends on the person/photographer. Self portraits weren’t how I got started, but they were a huge learning process for me and changed the way I make images. They are easy because you’re always there, you’re always willing to push your limits for the photo, you know what you want the expression, pose, etc to look like. You want the photo to work out of course, but if it fails you’re not letting anyone else down.
They are difficult because you can’t see yourself through the viewfinder. You can’t see that it would be better to tilt your chin slightly, or move the fabric that way instead. You might not like how you look. And if you dedicate yourself to doing them every day or every week you are probably going to get very, very tired of it.
I’m sure someone can have a career off creating them, the first person that comes my mind is Joel Robison (http://www.flickr.com/photos/joel_r/) who has been doing them daily for years. They are incredible.
8. What is your dream photoshoot if you had no restrictions with money, time, location, etc?
I would travel somewhere beautiful. The first place that comes to mind is South America. High fashion wardrobe and a few amazing models willing to do crazy things for a photo. Ideas that I knew were original, creative, reflective of me and my work. And all the time and patience in the world to get it right.
9. Is there an overall theme that link your images?
Yes, I think the red threads would be personal histories, memories, natural elements, and the idea of home.
10. Where is your favorite location to shoot?
My parent’s farm. It is so peaceful and beautiful. I spent my whole life trying to leave and now I just count down the days until I go back to visit isn’t that silly?
11. What kind of music do you like and does it influence your images?
I was raised on southern Appalachian bluegrass and folk music, so while I like a lot of different types of music those genres stick out the most as far as influence goes. Songs about love, life, heartbreak… songs that make me feel something.
12. What is the best and worst part about being a photographer?
The best is when I create something I’m proud of, that feeling of accomplishment makes me happy for days. The worst part is that its not just about taking pictures and having fun, it’s networking, marketing yourself, social media, and dealing with a lot of self-doubt. It involves a lot of things I’m not very good at.
13. If you could photograph anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Jesus. No one else has a photo of him and wouldn’t that be crazy?
14. Who or what inspires you and your images? Who is your favourite photographer?
Music, life experiences, stories, dreams, memories, emotions, movies.
Let’s see, Keith Carter, Sally Mann, Tom Chambers, Katerina Plotnikova, Crewdson.. it changes all the time. I don’t think I can choose one favorite.
15. On average, how long do you spend on editing your images?
Probably around 5 hours on average. Most of the time I edit over a few days, tweaking and changing little things long after I thought it was done. There’s always something that I notice after stepping away from it for a little while.
16. Do you/ have you ever thought to create editing tutorials?
Right now I feel like my editing is all over the place, I do things out of order and could use different tools more effectively. I also don’t like the sound of my voice ha! But possibly someday.
17. How do you know when to stop editing an image?
I never know! But when my eyes start hurting or its usually time to step away from the screen. Then I come back later and see what could be changed.
18. In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?
An image that evokes emotion from people, just like what draws me to music or other forms of art. It’s got to make you feel something.
19. Is there any photographer that you would recommend to be feature on this blog?
Yes, Kevin Russ, ask about his equipment.
20. Describe your work in 3 words…
21. Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
Find what inspires you and what you are drawn to, then figure out why. Is it the subject matter, the colors, the concept? Then shoot whatever those things are over and over and over. Immerse yourself in photography and improving. Learn as much as you can. If possible, take a class or better yet assist a photographer who you admire. Know that you aren’t going to get better overnight and it’s a long process. Know that it is going to be much harder than it looks. Know that you’re doing it because it’s what you love, and that makes it all worth it.