Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview with Sarah Abraham

Sarah Abraham is a photographer based-in Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA. She's a big fan of film cameras, and usually shoot with a combination of film and digital.
"Film may be a dying breed, but I want to keep it alive for as long as possible. It’s got soul. I’m forced to slow down and really see (and feel) the world with film. For that reason, it’s worth more than gold to me."
Now take a look into the interview between us and Sarah to find out more about herself and her passion in film photography.

Hi Sarah, can you tell us more about you?
My name is Sarah Abraham and I recently graduated with a BA in English literature in the Spring of 2012. Writing is something I've sort of always done, so studying literature in college seemed like a logical step. I currently live in rural Pennsylvania where I write poetry, make photographs, and work. Great company and good wine are two of my favorite things.

How did you first get into photography?
I first got into film photography in the winter of 2011. It came on the heels of a trip to Africa that I had taken six months earlier, and I was looking for a way to express, without words, all of the different thoughts and feelings I had about life at the time. Africa changed my life in a lot of ways, and I won't go into all of them here, except to say that I haven't taken the small moments for granted since I got back. Because the small moments are the ones that make up the bulk of our days, and if you don't realize how important they are when they're happening, you end up missing these huge chunks of your life. They add up. So yeah...anyway, I got into film because writing wasn't enough for me anymore. I needed another outlet, creatively, and film was a way for me to share with people the way I see the world.

In this digital age, why you still shoot film?
I think that if you want to appreciate any sort of art form you have to go back to its roots. I still shoot film because it makes me slow down, primarily. In our fast paced world, especially in America, all we do is go, go, go, and we never sit still, and breathe, and think. It's almost as if we're afraid to be alone with our thoughts. We don't like going places by ourselves. What are we so afraid of? We can learn so much about ourselves (and about life) when we live more deliberately and slow our pace. I noticed that with film I started to see things, really see them, for the first time. A summer night smelled sweeter. Sounds were more pronounced. Sometimes I go to the woods and I'll wander around for a few hours before I find the right light - it's a waiting game. And before, I would have probably started shooting with my digital camera all willy nilly just because it's like this immortal thing that takes countless pictures, whereas film is more tangible, and human. You only get so many shots in a roll. You only have so many rolls in your bag. Make them count. And so, really, at the heart of it all, with film you learn to make it count.

What camera did you start with? And what are film cameras you use now?
I started with a Canon AE-1 and a 50mm 1.8 lens. Great camera. I recommend it for anyone looking to get into film - eBay has some fantastic deals. Currently I shoot mostly with my Minolta X-700 and two medium format cameras: a Rolleicord III and a Mamiya c330.

Tell us about your influences and what inspires you?
I'm inspired by so many things, gosh. Music. Sometimes I listen to music when I write, and when I go out and make photographs. Edgar Degas, one of my favorite artists, once said that "it's very well to copy what one sees: but it's much better to draw what one can only see in memory." And how true that is! I know for me personally, my favorite forms of art are always the kind that make me feel a little heavy, a little nostalgic. Brian Ferry, a fantastic photographer, mentioned that heaviness in a recent interview and I couldn't agree more. There's a certain weight to the beauty that you're taking in, but it's not a bad heaviness, at all. The darkness mingled with the light makes the light more tangible. It's like this ache you get when something beautiful is so fleeting & you wish you could make it last longer. Or when you see something - a painting, a photograph - and it triggers a memory for you that you thought you'd long forgotten. Sometimes I even feel nostalgic for all the lives I've never lived, for memories I've never had. It's hard to explain.

Any message for other film photographers? Or maybe a tip you would like to share?
I'm still pretty new when it comes to photography, it's only been two years since I began this whole journey, so I don't have it all figured out by any means. But I think my advice to anyone looking to get into film is to just go with your gut. Don't let anything inhibit you from making the kind of photos you want to create. People might stare at you, let them. You'll most likely never see them again anyway. And don't be afraid to try a lot of things until the vision you have in your mind starts to translate well into the photographs you're making. It's just like writing - it's really tough to get down on paper all of the things you want to say in your mind. They always sound and look so much more beautiful stored away in your brain, and it takes a lot of work (and thrown out drafts) to translate them well into words. The same is true for photography. Try to shoot as much as you can the way a scene makes you feel. Don't worry overly much about composition. People need to be able to relate to your work, or it becomes meaningless. That's why light is so important - our emotions respond differently to various kinds of light. But if you can make somebody feel something when they look at something you create, you've done your job, and done it well. Just remember that you can't expect someone to connect to a photograph that you didn't connect to when you made it, which is where the deliberate thing comes in again. Slow down. Be deliberate.

Sarah, Thank you for the interview.

More of Sarah Abraham's work can be found here:

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