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Interview with photographer Philippa Stannard

Philippa StannardPortfolio, Side B

“I am interested in the concept of space – how we inhabit it, how we occupy it, and how we interpret it.”

Philippa Stannard addresses the idea of space, and how people can be viewed within various spaces. I asked her what compels her to make images photographically, and she responded, “I love different aspects of photography. Seeing, exploring a subject with my camera, working on the most effective way to communicate a thought or idea visually… I love the challenge.  I like the process… from shooting, to developing or uploading, editing and printing. It has also taught me to be present and “see” the world I live in from different points of view.”

For her Side B portfolio of images, Stannard’s statement also addresses her method of expressing the concept as such, “In this series of photographs, I sought to capture people and the space they inhabit, consciously and unconsciously.  The way we occupy space often happens without our realizing or appreciating it’s uniqueness and beauty.” 

For the images in Side B, as well as other photos of hers, I asked how Stannard addresses the idea of space. She said. “When we step onto escalators, we are in a well-defined space for a specific amount of time. What do we do with this time? How do we inhabit this space and hold our body?  Are we with someone, and if so, what is the space between us? How are we using our body to communicate?  What are we communicating?  We may not think much about how we use this space and time, but each individual is unique in what they express and transmit.” Stannard continued, “I am fascinated by the subtleties of human interaction and expression, on both conscious and unconscious levels.  And that’s only half of it;  The other half is noticing our own reactions to this visible and invisible language. Our perceptions and the meaning that we give to them says just as much about us as it does about our subjects.”

“This body of work [Side B] is a further study of human interaction that is present in my Distance portfolio. In that body of work, I explored the idea of distance through a series of photographs of people using phone booths.  I sought to capture communication with others remotely (with use of a telephone)  and physically (the space they occupy consciously and unconsciously with themselves and others in the phone booth).” 

I also asked her who her photography inspirations have been – or how do certain photographers inform her body of work. She listed a number of people for specific reasons: Franco Fontana and Robert Mapplethorpe, I admire their striking use of line and form, shadows and lighting. Vivian Maier and Gary Winogrand for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Sally Mann for her artistic skill in documenting her everyday surroundings and home life. And Lorna Simpson for her ability to tell a story within the framework of similar connected images.

I then followed up by asking if she strives to specifically distinguish herself from her influences? “We are the sum total of our experiences”, she said.  “It is inspiring to look at such skillful and talented work. If I’ve seen it, it will become part of me, I will internalize it. As a result, I will be influenced by it, even if I am unaware of the process. I try to focus on what I am trying to say, and how that might best be accomplished.  If I’m concentrating on finding my own voice, the influences will be just that, influences. I feel like it enriches my vision and enables me to see how other artists present similar ideas and subjects.”

Lastly, I asked what new work or projects are coming from her. “I’m currently working on a few different projects;” Stannard replied. “I’ve been photographing my daughter and my experience of motherhood for the past 6 years (my daughter Lisa is 6 years old).  It’s a ongoing project, and it’s a real challenge to be objective and choose the right photographs to make a cohesive body of work.   Betty Press and I are currently working on another photographic project together (they published a book together in 2013).  We drive and walk around in the Umbrian countryside with our Holgas.  It’s fun to see how we photograph similar subjects and/or how we will be drawn to photograph completely different things although we are taking photographs in the same place.  I continue to photograph people in urban spaces, specifically, on steps.”

The photographs of Philippa Stannard have been published and exhibited in Europe, United States and China. She has been awarded Winner in the category Street Photography and Cityscapes in the 7th Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers. Other awards include Jurors Choice award at the PH21 Gallery in Budapest, Hungary, and the Photobook Award at the Davis Orton Gallery in Hudson, New York.

To see more work by Philippa Stannard, visit her website: www.philippastannard.com 

About Cary Benbow

Photographer, Writer, Publisher of Wobneb Magazine

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