I am excited to share with you all the work of Rhianna May, a photographer currently residing in Italy. In this collection of photographs, every image shows a small grainy detail, which is what a lot of us love about analogue photography. This post is as much about visual narratives as it is Rhianna’s words and thoughts on photography.
On Photography with Rhianna May
Your photos tend to capture a sense of curiosity through classic film textures. What are you trying to convey?
I’ve always wished I could capture moments by blinking my eyes, that I could somehow commit these beautiful scenes I come across in every day life to memory just by seeing them – and then share that point of view with the people around me. I think photography, for me, was just the obvious way of achieving that.
Last year, I was in Japan visiting my oldest brother, and I was constantly stopping to take photos. At one point, I stopped to take a photo of a bundle of vegetables wrapped in newspaper and stacked on a cardboard box, and I think it was the final straw – he just gave me this look and said, “you take photos of really weird things.” I remember laughing at him and keeping on keeping on. A few weeks later, after I got the negatives developed, he was like “woah! You’re actually good at that!”
And it’s not just one-sided! I’m constantly trying to get my friends to take photos as well, because I want to see how they see the world. Let’s make it a two-way streak!
How do you travel through an image?
Just by allowing myself to be lost in the image. I try not to think too much when I’m looking at travel photos, just to enjoy the capture. I have a bit of a wild imagination though so usually while I’m doing that my brain is filling in the details with everything else that might have been happening in that moment – how the weather was, the way that would feel on my skin – sticky humidity or layers of fabric to fend off the cold, the smell of street vendors or pine forests, the sounds of the city or the ocean, all the things not included in the photo but that were happening all around it… whatever it is! I just do my best to let the image take me to that place and by the end of a travel blog or a book of travel photos, it feels like I’ve been to another world.
Which elements kick in to give a photograph impact: the moment, the expression, the gesture, the movement, the pose and position, the lighting and more…color harmony etc.
Everything! It’s all of it! At the moment though, my favourite things in photos are movement and texture. Texture has always been a big thing for me though – I don’t always like it when a photo is too flat, because the world isn’t flat. When you’re in a place, you’re touching things and tasting things and smelling things. A photo can’t quite do all that, but texture can hint at all those senses & feelings, make it feel more real and give more impact. I think it gives more of an impression of the moment if you can imagine how being in the scene might feel. And for me, that’s where the impact is – transporting somebody someplace else through a photo.
In writing, the aspect of legibility for instance, “type design and layout clearly affect the legibility of the text”, has a big impact on the overall quality, how do you think this translates to photography? or does it at all? does photographic legibility matter?
I think it matters – I think I’d need to to some serious study of design theory to answer this articulately though! In my mind, if a photo has no clear subject or no clear purpose, so if it was illegible, it would lose impact and become confused. At the same time though, having multiple subjects or multiple different points of focus can create photos with a much greater impact – it’s more challenging than say the minimal style that’s grown so popular in the last few years and definitely harder to do well, but that complexity, while perhaps harder to ‘read’, is also more likely to push us and make us think.
In your opinion, why do photographs impact us so deeply?
I think because, photoshop aside, photographs represent a reality – it may not be our reality, but it’s someone’s reality, and so we can’t deny the experience or existence of whatever is being shown. We can interpret differently and fill in the details around the photo however we’d like, but we can’t categorically say ‘that didn’t happen’.
Even when it has been photoshopped actually! A few weeks ago, a friend tagged me in an image by Robert Jahns of a whale swimming through the Venice canals, and it took my breath away. I knew it wasn’t real but a little part of me still likes to pretend it is, because it’s just so beautifully done, and such a powerful medium for showcasing our imaginations or our dreams or the way we see the world.
Lastly, what are some things you are currently into?
Nothing particularly different, but since you asked!
Coffee – always!
Travel – I’ve decided my goal for 2017 is to always have a flight booked or a trip planned, and to take on a project in each place I go, which I can’t afford at all, but travel is such a big motivator for me and I really want to keep challenging my perception of the world and the way it works. It’s good to be constantly reminded I’m not right, and my way of doing things is just one person’s way of doing things.
Learning to live life according to my values – I’m working to convert my business so that it’s sustainable and has a minimal environmental impact, which is proving to be a much bigger challenge than I originally thought.
Conversation – I’ve been going out of my way to meet new people lately. I probably freak them out with my million questions, but I’m just so fascinated by how everybody else experiences things. I think it’s part a symptom of boredom, part curiosity, part the sad realization that I cannot possibly experience everything ever that the world has to offer (I really tried to for a while there!).
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