Artist Interview: Erin Goldberger
Today we have an interview with Erin Goldberger, the first of our 2010 Portfolio Project contest winners. Erin’s winning entry was a beautiful, meditative shot taken in the South of France. Erin is a freelance photographer and writer living in New York City.
- So, firstly, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me. Your entry into the contest was one of my favorites.
- Thank you!
- Could you tell me about the picture? It was taken, I believe, in southern France, right?
- Yes it was taken in Collioure, France. I was on a trip with my two best friends from college to Barcelona, and we rented a car for the day and drove there. It was a great little local beach town with virtually no tourists in sight.
I originally took the photo in color with my digital camera, and then realized I had to take a second copy with my 35mm in black and white.
I think this photo perfectly represents the town itself. It had such an ominous feel to it, like it had hundreds of secrets.
- It’s definitely very evocative. It feels sort of like a final outpost of the human soul.
- Haha yea, like one of the edges of the earth.
- When you see a scene like that, does it strike you right away as something you need to photograph? Or, did it take seeing it on your digital camera to recognize the aesthetic that you described?
- I remember as soon as we climbed over some rocks, I saw that scene perfectly and knew I had to capture it. Sometimes, however, I like to experiment with both color and black and white to find out which would be the more successful photograph.
- I see that in your website, which has lots of images both in color and black and white. It’s cool to see your ability to distill the quality of the scene and make it carry from one to the other.
Can you talk about the differences, something like the “pros and cons”, you’ve found in working with digital versus working with film? And how does that affect your overall project?
- I think film trumps digital 95% of the time, for me. Film gives off more of the emotion I felt when I took the photograph. Whether it’s the contrast or the slight graininess of the photograph, I think film is able to recreate the moment more realistically.
With digital, I find myself looking at the photo and criticizing myself three minutes after I took it. You don’t have to trust yourself as much, you can just click and click. I don’t put in as much consideration or care for my subjects. I like picking my rolls up and having only 24 or 36 to choose from. Seems more romantic.
I do appreciate digital for those head shots or concert photographs I take, however. That’s when it’s more realistic. I just don’t have the same relationship with my digital camera as I do with my film cameras. Like, they are small people or something, haha.
- Yeah, and the 35mm is just a more authentic small person.
- Oh and Polaroid is a whole other trip, I use that sometimes too.
Yea the 35mm is like a good friend who you stay up late with. Digital is someone you go out to drinks with and bail early.
- Ha, I like that.
One thing I really like about your pictures is that they seem to all have interesting composition. That is, they don’t really partake in the standard, rule-of-thirds framing rituals that a lot of aesthetically pleasing photography uses. It’s almost like they’re offset in a strange way, but work really well that way. Can you talk about how you know a shot is a “good one” when you’re looking at them? How do you judge?
- I guess I like to create my own sense of balance in a photograph. The photographs I like best are usually the ones that replicate what a scene looked like to me with my naked eye. I want to capture what exists, not what would be aesthetically pleasing. A lot of times there may just be one part of the photograph that initially caught my eye (like the color of something, or an expression). The most successful photos are when the thing I wanted to capture works well with everything else in the photograph, as if everything else had a purpose for being there as well.
Does that make sense? It’s hard to verbalize honestly. Half of the reasons only my eye understands.
- Yeah, makes sense to me. And we’re talking about something that probably pre-linguistic, so it makes sense that it’s tough to explain.
- Exactly. I was taking these photographs long before I actually had a camera in my hand.
- Do you take your camera with you in your day-to-day life, or do you go out on photo-hunts?
- Sometimes I have specific objectives. Like right now I’m working on this series where I’m taking photographs of tourists. It’s coming out quite quirky and cool so far. So, for that, I plan out a place to go and have a mission. Most of the other days I just try to have it on me and if something catches my eye, I shoot it. The days I don’t have my camera are the ones when I see the greatest shots. I still remember a few photographs I wasn’t able to take and it drives me mad.
- Ha, the one that got away.
- Yea. These cows in some muck in Vermont. Ugh, I still think about them.
- Awesome. You mentioned to me earlier that you are thinking about maybe pursuing photojournalism as a vocation. Do you think of this as continuous with your current work? Or how does it relate, generally, to your current concerns and projects?
- Well, I think a lot of what I photograph could be used, in one way or another, in a journalistic way. I seem to have a story about most of my photographs, and when I look back at my older ones I still remember vivid details about that day and how I was feeling. I would love to be able to take what I photograph and extend it into more social commentary with written word.
Some photographs of mine, if put into a different context, could create great stories I think. For example, taking the photograph you chose, putting the others I took that day in there with it, and making a photo essay on small European sea towns. Interesting stories people would want to read and look at.
- That sounds like a good idea. Are there any photographers or photojournalists/writers that you consider especially important influences?
- Mary Ellen Mark, Stephen Shore and Henry Horenstein are some of my favorites. They are all very different from each other, but there are things about each of them I aspire to.
Mary Ellen Mark, especially. She has these great series that just pull you in. I remember spending hours reading about this one specific family she had followed around and photographed. She really cares about the story behind her photos. This is my favorite of all time.
- Wow, that’s great. Is that girl smoking a cigarette?
- Yea and she seems to be about twelve. Not only is the photograph great, but I could sit and think about the naivete of that girl and her chubby companion for a long time. I also wonder where they are now. It’s hard to imagine they aren’t just stuck in that photo.
- Yeah, and what’s the story with the person taking it? That’s great.
- Yea, like how did she find these people. What did she say in order to grab this photo. I think she’s just mastered it.
- Well, I think I can see the influence of something like that in your work. Because you seem to capture these shots in which the viewer’s relation to the scene is ambiguous, and often leaves questions of context unanswered. And are thusly engaging.
Does that make sense?
- Yes!! I love the feeling of being intrigued by photographs or other types of art, but not knowing exactly why. So, if my photographs can evoke that type of feeling as well, I’d consider it a success.
- Very cool.
Alright, well I think that wraps it up nicely from my angle. Anything else you’d like to add?
- Nope. Thanks for this great opportunity!
- You’re welcome, and thanks again for taking the time.
One more question I like to ask: when you look at the Duckrabbit logo, which do you see first, a duck or a rabbit?
- A duck. But it also kind of looks like a chicken wing.