The girl is Melanie Watkins! The photographs are shot on film! Documents of a life lived in London and now Sydney, these images depict a sense of home, wherever that may be. There's a familiarity about them, something relaxed and welcoming.
Mel has just recently opened her Print Shop as well. It's where you can find 6" x 8" professional prints of her work for a small cost so you can put them on display in your home or give them to loved ones as gifts - HINT.
I had the privilege of doing an interview with her recently, as a way to introduce her work and her practice and find out why she does what she does.
HM: What and who inspires the aesthetic approach to your photographs?
MW: I’m inspired on a daily basis, through everyday experiences, through art and design exhibitions, film, music, fashion, food, friends, the way the light may fall or small details I come across. I always carry a camera with me as I find beauty in my everyday life that I must capture on film. There are so many artists and photographers that I adore and who inspire me, well known people and also people I’ve come across through photography and art blogs.
HM: When did you first pick up a camera and realize that photography and taking photos had a resonance with you?
MW: I was given my first camera for my tenth birthday. It was a point and shoot film camera by Kodak. I absolutely loved it. I took photos of everything, sometimes of the same subject but from different angles. I remember asking my dad whether I could take photos with his camera when we went on holidays as well. I have memories of sitting and just holding my Dad’s Canon camera, it was heavy and it made a terrific sound when the shutter closed.
I was also lucky to go to a High School that had a B&W darkroom and we used this from about year 9 onwards. I really enjoyed being in the darkroom. There is something quite magical about seeing your photos appear in the developer bath. I then went to University at Sydney College of the Arts and majored in photography and fell in love with colour film and the colour darkroom.
HM: What does it mean to you to take photos and capture a particular moment in time? How does the process make you feel?
MW: I think it’s important not to get too wrapped up in documenting a moment that you end up experiencing it through your camera. Sometimes it’s nice to have memories that are captured in your mind’s eye, rather than on a piece of paper or on file on your computer. But that said, sometimes I will see something so beautiful that I feel the need to capture it. As I know that moment will probably never present itself again. There have been times when I’ve seen something and not had my camera and kicked myself. Or sometimes I’ll be walking and I’ll pass something and then have to turn around a few seconds or minutes later to go back and take the photo I almost missed. One of the reasons I love shooting on film, is that I’m more discerning with what I capture. I think about the photo before taking it. I think with digital cameras you take more photos but the quality isn’t always as good. I also love that you have to wait to have the film developed to see how the images turned out. Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised and other times you might be disappointed. That’s the beauty of film and it’s process.
HM: How has your work evolved since you first started taking photos? Has the imagery always been the same? How have things changed from a technical perspective?
MW: I guess thinking back to the photos I took at High School and University, the images that I produced were quite often staged. I would come up with images in my head, make a list and then go about setting them up. I guess I thought more directly about the narrative in each image. For a number of years throughout Uni and after leaving I was really interested in personal memory and how I could capture or trigger past memories through my imagery.
Then I had a break from photography, life got busy and I stopped making work, I didn’t make time for it. Moving to London re-inspired me, I started my blog and this gave me a push to start shooting again. I gave myself deadlines for the blog and tried to update every two days. Doing this, meant I started documenting my life through photography, I started carrying my camera with me everyday, seeking out images. I guess my practice became a little more organic; I wasn’t deliberately setting up photos or over-thinking the imagery. I let myself be inspired by things I came across, whether that was the food I was eating, beautiful afternoon light or my friends. I think the images I make now still hold narratives within them and I’m still drawn to similar aesthetics. But I feel I’m open to more, perhaps this just comes with age and travel.
Technically, I miss not having a colour darkroom to spend hours in. I still shoot on film, but use my computer as a darkroom these days. I still really enjoy using point and shoot cameras, as well as my heavier vintage Canon inherited from my Grandfather. I wouldn’t say I’ve got the best technical skills. This is something I’d like to work on, but I think I’ll always love shooting using natural light and film!
HM: You recently moved back to Sydney after spending time living in London. What affect has location had on your practice? Where is your favourite place to photograph?
MW: I lived in London for almost 5 years and was lucky enough to travel through Europe on a very regular basis. This was so great for my photography, it was exciting to visit new places, to be inspired by different places, details, faces and landscapes I would come across. I took hundreds of photos. So coming back to Sydney has been be a bit of a challenge for my practice, as I’m not travelling nearly as much as what I was. However, having been away for a decent amount of time, I feel like I’ve come back to Sydney with fresh eyes. Familiar places have a new sense of beauty and I’ve enjoyed discovering new places to photograph. I always carry a film camera with me and if something catches my eye I’ll take a photo and this process hasn’t changed since I moved back.
I don’t think I have any particular favourite place to photograph… over the summer I enjoyed taking photos at the beach, but also in the Blue Mountains. The landscape and the light are very different from the U.K and Europe, so that’s been interesting for me.
HM: What do you hope to achieve over the course of the next 5 years?
MW: One of my hopes in moving back to Sydney was that I’d be able to have more time to work on my practice. I hope in the next 5 years that I’ll be able to make some money from my photography. Whether that’s from having my work published, selling my work through exhibitions or through products that feature my work. I also hope to be working on more creative collaborative projects. I’ve got a few ideas/projects in the pipeline already – so you’ll just have to watch this space!