Streets of Auckland © Deb Young

International Collaboration is the work of three photographers.  Francisco Diaz, Deb Young, and Agnès Courrault.  Three photographers that formed an international “studio” thanks to the internet.

Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work and words of each individual photographer, as well as their work as the International Collaboration.

Today we bring you Deb Young from Auckland, New Zealand.

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a New Zealander, lived my whole life in Auckland, snapped my way through a bit of international blue-water sailing, collected countless pics of my kids growing up, and managed to weave some form of creativity throughout my life; from designing fairy grottos for school festivals to makeup artistry for fashion runway.

How did you get started with photography?

When I was a teenager, a photographer friend took snaps of my family.  Being the mid 1970’s we were dressed in muslin and flares and the shots were taken outside in the back yard.  Back-lit and black & white, I was mesmerized by the romantic, almost rock-star feel of those back yard, hippie shots.  From there I was hooked and bought a compact camera to take family snaps – forever chasing those rock star moments of ordinary life.  Shortly after, I moved to an SLR and snapped my way through raising two kids, school trips and parent luncheons.  But as my subject matter grew up, as the parent luncheons fazed into “the good old days” and everything turned digital, my snapping days dwindled to a small collection of undeveloped film and came to a grinding halt.  Then, just three years ago, I braved the move to digital photography, stepped out of my front door and began snapping again.

Which photographers and other artists work do you admire? 

My passion for candid photography and all things monochrome was always on simmer since childhood but discovering the website, American Suburb X, two and a half years ago made my heart skip a beat!  Hugely influential, this site provided a fast track of learning, inspiration and love – I fell in love with humanity and the documentation of it.  Photographers such as Ted Croner, Robert Frank and Daido Moriyama were hugely inspirational.

And what about their work inspires you?

Firstly, I needed discretion on the streets – my semi-pro camera was large and weighed a ton so I replaced it with a discrete and retro Olympus 35 SP rangefinder.  Switching from digital to analogue felt like coming home – I could relax into my shooting without getting caught up in technicalities.  Camera movement was forgiven and images seemed more poetic to me.  I loved the compassionate edge to Robert Frank’s work that seemed to be wrapped in the grittiness of film grain. The casual artistic approach of Daido Moriyama inspires me to explore the element of spontaneity – responding intuitively to the ordinary world with a sense of curiosity.  In Ted Croner’s images I feel the connection to emotion and psychological situations.

Streets of Auckland © Deb Young
Streets of Auckland 1 © Deb Young

When did you start to develop a personal style?

I’ve been shooting candid moments for two and a half years now and I would say that my personal style is in a permanent state of change but my processing lends itself to exploring contrast.  I enjoy deep blacks supported by murky greys.  I hope to portray a sense of compassion in my images – accepting the grittiness of life but rarely blowing out the highlights to maintain a sense of softness and humility.

If no one saw your work, would you still create it?

Of course!  There’s an inherent creative drive that needs a channel towards fulfilment.  Creativity opens up a sense of freedom and self-analysis that can help us to push personal boundaries.  My passion for photography extends beyond the creation of it – for me, it has become an art of living.  Responding intuitively to my experience of ordinariness has evolved into a personal visual diary. I’m addicted to looking, so creating images goes with the territory!

Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of photography is for you.

I’ve been exploring an informal approach to picture making where I don’t try to view the subject matter in a profound way – I simply snap and see; see and snap. The perfect day of photography would include walking and observing … I might not even take a picture – it’s about attendance; being present and responding to a moment with integrity, compassion, humour and curiosity.  And of course the perfect day would end with shared insights and passionate inspiration with a fellow photo junkie, an old classic movie and a bowl of popcorn.

What challenges do you face as a photographer?

There’s never enough time!  Working full-time compromises my passion for researching, pouring over my photography books for inspiration, exploring ideas and playing.  It’s a constant weighing up of priorities, and let’s just say that lawn-mowing is way down on the list.  And being relatively new to photography I’m in the process of initiation – identifying where I sit with my image making and how I’d like to develop it involves a lot of trial and error.  But one thing is for sure, limitations have a wonderful way of helping you dig deep and finding that moment of discovery is well worth it!

With the rapid changes in how people make and view a photograph how do you view this time in the history of photography?

It’s a time of seeing old things in new ways.  Whilst I love the organic process of shooting with film, I must give credit to the digital era of online sharing of resources.

The very nature of viewing and interpreting photography has helped to shape my experience as a photographer today.  The sources of inspiration available are phenomenal and the way photography is exploding into areas beyond my comprehension is mind-blowing.  The International Collaboration with photographer, Frank Diaz, could not exist in any other era which makes this a very exciting time for anyone in any corner of the world to communicate through visual language.

How do you over come a creative block? 

You have to allow freedom to play.  I can back off from the pressure unduly put on myself when I put distance between me and creativity.  The “20 Paces” game is one way I’ve learned to let go when I’m not in a receptive space for creativity to come knocking.  I grab my camera and start walking for 20 paces, stop and shoot … then count another 20 paces, stop and shoot.  It’s amazing how many random single shoots you find!  Other than that; books, the web, and bouncing ideas off other photographers helps to lift the fog.

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

I really think the two work simultaneously.  A few years ago I began practicing Vipassana meditation which helped me to see the world with compassion.  For me, observing the present moment became a way to engage with a certain amount of detachment – a non-judgmental view of life in the act of living.  I have a deep curiosity of humanity and I guess this drives my passion for looking at the mundane.  And my inclination toward that grainy sense of brooding, isolation and ambiguity drives me to hone in on areas of contrasting tones, shapes and content.

Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like to tackle?

In the last two months I have discovered and developed yet another way of seeing.  Recently, my connection with American photographer, Frank Diaz, through Facebook, highlighted the scope of sharing ideas within the diversity of talent and artistic expression.  Frank proposed a joint venture of collaborating together.  The idea of artists with such different styles from opposite sides of the earth pooling together to create a unique visual story was so intriguing I didn’t hesitate to accept Frank’s invitation.  This is such an exciting project and one of expansion.  Upcoming works will include collaboration with French photographer, Agnes Courrault and eventually others will be invited into the mix.  It’s an incredible journey to meld artistically with people you haven’t met!  Not only do we open ourselves to the creative challenge of working with each other’s vision, it’s about exploring potential within yourself as a visual artist.  Frank Diaz is a conceptual artist who uses photography as his medium for the discussion of ideas.  This is an approach that challenges my natural inclination toward casual documentary, and broadens my understanding of a deliberate, narrative approach to visual communication.

Thank you Deb for sharing your work and words. To learn more about Deb Young please visit her website. Diaz+ Young

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