As Peter said, it was cold as hell in Coney Island Thursday night. So cold my freshly charged battery died after 4 shots. I think I need to get a new battery to keep warm in my pocket. With 30mph winds and temperatures near zero, my battery wasn’t the only one dying. It was kinda creepy to be the only people out in Coney Island with the near full moon. The wind was creating a sand/garbage storm that made this shoot feel a bit like warfare. Get in, get your shots and get out alive.
During this week’s Feature Fridays, we’re excited to bring you Claire Voelkel, whose recent black and white film work amazes and inspires us, especially in the unique way she sees light. Claire took some time this week to answer some of our questions, and we’re extremely grateful for her insight and thoughtfulness. Check out the interview below!
Make sure to check out her Flickr photostream here!
For the Love of Brooklyn: We see Brooklyn all over your work – where do you live? Where are your favorite places to shoot?
Claire Voelkel: I live in Park Slope, though I rarely shoot there. Instead I love to walk west through Gowanus and over the 3rd Street bridge – possibly my favorite spot in Brooklyn. Beyond that I adore DUMBO, the bridges, the steps of the Brooklyn Museum and Coney Island when it’s cold and deserted. Actually, let’s face it, there are few parts of Brooklyn I don’t love.
LoB: What brings you inspiration?
CV: I was always surrounded by photography growing up. I considered my dad’s Leicaflex to be my untouchable little brother- it got almost as much attention and affection as I did. A few years ago my father went digital and passed on his camera to me. My ‘little brother’ has been with me and inspiring me every day since. Together we are constantly drawn to diagonal lines, light and shadow, crosswalks, reflections and stairs. We love to go to museums and capture how people interact with art and architecture. As an only child, I’m finally realizing the benefits of having a little brother.
LoB: Your recent work has been primarily film-based and self-developed. What do you find satisfying about the analog medium? Any advice for digital photographers transitioning to film?
CV: Advice? Yes, do it! And prepare to be revolutionized! I strongly feel that analog and digital photography are two separate mediums. They both have incredible benefits and rewards. From the digital world we learn to be rebellious, to take risks, to stretch our ways of thinking and to see compositions as something flexible and transformative. I think once you’ve explored the digital world to the point that you know well your own style, making the switch to analog is invaluable in really fine tuning your sense of composition and thoughtfulness. Particularly when you do your own developing and printing and are involved in the beauty of the entire process (and can revel in those darkroom smells), you are very aware when out with your camera that every press of the shutter is a thoughtful decision, a conscious statement about how you see the world.
LoB: You’re also an accomplished knitter! [ed. note: Check out her knitting blog here!] What is it about fiber arts that brings you satisfaction? Is it similar in practice to photography?
CV: There’s nothing nicer than getting some colorful yarn in your hands after a stressful day at work. It’s a great way to unwind and it’s so satisfying to actually create things that bring warmth and cheering to others. I actually think the two practices are quite different though. Whereas knitting gives me time to relax and relish in the comfort of a pattern and the quiet of home, photography gives me time to hit the streets, create my own rules and relish in the vibrancy of the city.
LoB: What’s the craziest photo story you have while shooting in NYC?
CV: Hmm, I don’t know that I have any particularly crazy stories but I certainly do have a favorite one. Back when I was taking my first photography class, our professor gave us an assignment to approach and take portraits of strangers. This wasn’t exactly within my comfort zone and I spent many an hour on the street unsuccessfully building my nerve. On one such occasion as I was hanging out on a street corner on the Lower East Side, a man jokingly yelled to me, “Hey baby, it’s my birthday. Come over here and take my picture!” He had no idea what a favor he did me. Gotta love New York!
Thanks so much to Claire for the interview, and have a fantastic weekend!
Scenes from a Coney Island Thursday night. Since neither Matt nor I have been shooting in Brooklyn at night recently, we decided to take a drive to Coney Island. We really underestimated the wind. It was about 20 degrees out, but close to zero with windchill. We didn’t last long in that weather (mainly on account of the sand flying into, and getting stuck in the cracks of the lenses and camera gear), but a few photos were snagged before mother nature got the better of us.
One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2010 is to become a bolder photographer, especially when it comes to street portraiture. It’s not always easy to capture the unwitting (and sometimes unwilling!) on film, but fortunately there are zoom lenses until I get up enough nerve. Thanks to my fellow Love of Brooklynite Kruger for letting me borrow this crisp, vintage 135mm lens — it’s the perfect solution to shyness on the street!