Hi friends, I am back!!
I am sorry for the delay in this month’s Film Photographer Spotlight Feature. February got away from me a little too fast. Before I knew what was happening, it was already March!
Can you believe we are already 3 months into the new year? Crazy right?
Today, I am turning the spotlight on one of Little Bellows’ team members, Christina Mallet. Oh yes, the one that brings us weekly Wednesday Instagram Feature that you all love so much. It is one of the features on Little Bellows I look forward to read each week. Let’s get to know more about Christina:
Joyce: So first, tell us how you started your photography journey. How did you get into photography? What do you love about being a photographer?
Christina: I’m not really certain but I think my love of photography started at an early age by way of the book The Family of Man, which was a MOMA exhibition curated by Steichen. This collection of 503 photos from 68 countries and by 273 different photographers still amazes me. I grew up as the only kid at home, in rural setting and so it was me, my imagination, and my chickens.The Family of Man was a source of endless interest and I believe it was the beginning of my photographer path.
I drifted from that path after college and instead became a middle school teacher and then an ESL teacher to refugee adults. We moved to Boston in 2004 and I became an MIT professor’s assistant, which meant proofreading NIH proposals and Nanotechnology lectures, which nearly killed me. Thankfully I was able to go to photography school, which I did for almost a year before dropping out–I was bored. All of what I know about photography is the result of many years of trial and error. So, I suppose that makes me a hybrid of schooled, not schooled and unschooled. Before I started shooting portraits in 2006, I was shooting rights managed stock photography for an agency in Spain, which felt like soulless work.
What I’ve discovered about photography and me is that while making photographs is a very social endeavor, my favorite part is the time I spend alone with the images, long after the shoot. This quiet time seems like a really deep and thoughtful conversation with the face I captured. So many times I felt like I knew the human behind that face so well because of that time spent looking at them post shoot. I think the hours upon hours of doing this has made me more compassionate and a better listener. I guess because of this imagined conversation I’m having with the person in the image. I want to understand the world and people and I feel like photography affords me that and that is really beautiful.
Joyce: I am not sure if our fans know this but you are currently living in South Africa. That’s a huge move! Tell us about what it’s like living there, and are there any similarities or differences between living in South Africa and the US?
Christina: South Africa is the most beautiful place in the world but it’s a complicated place with a very turbulent and complicated history. Photographically it’s been a tough transition for me and can be summed up by the cliché ‘trouble in paradise’. Basically it’s too pretty here. I thrive in a place that has a lot of aesthetic juxtaposition–here it’s very orderly and polished and I’m finding myself with a bout of photo block. I’m looking for a way to be a photographer here that allows me to make some good of my short time here. I haven’t found it yet but when I do I will feel calm. We’ve lived here almost a year and have one more and then it’s off to somewhere else. Hopefully to a place that has more grit and is less pretty, maybe Berlin.
Joyce: I truly enjoy your point of view each week on our Instagram feature. I am looking forward to read “what does Christina think about…”. What inspires you? What makes your heart sing? Who is Christina Mallet?
Christina: Thanks I’m finding exploring other art forms really cathartic, especially while I work through my bought of photographer’s block. I’ve delved into drawing, painting, embroidery, and sewing.
I find inspiration in collecting antique portraits, developing and scanning my own bw film, reworking thrift-ed clothes into something better or worse. I love street art.
I love the challenge of working on location. I thrive in an atmosphere that requires me to bring out my inner MacGyver and work with what’s in front of me. I like spontaneity and mixing things up. I also like eccentric people.
Joyce: I was browsing through your website and LOVED your beautiful portrait of women. I admire photographers who are able to photograph women in such a beautiful, tasteful and powerful way. We all know this is a genre that can go pretty bad quickly. What draws you into this genre of photography, and why?
Chrisitna: Thanks. I worked for 5 years almost exclusively as a boudoir photographer. I’m a feminist at heart and although a lot of my clients used the photographs I made of them as gifts to their male partners, I never ever wanted to create images that viewed women from a place of male desire. I sought to make images of these women that were sensual, sophisticated and strong.
Now that I’m here in South Africa, I haven’t taken up that sort of work again, and I likely won’t. I feel like I’ve run the course with boudoir. I need to be doing something that makes sense of this world and does good on a larger scale. I think about how short our time is on this planet and I want my photographic legacy to be about more than capturing beauty for beauty’s sake. This tension has always been a struggle for me–it’s just in the past year that I’ve given into it.
Joyce: What are some of your favorite photographers? What/Where/Who do you look to for inspirations and ideas?
Christina: My favorite photographer is Tim Walker. His fantastical and surreal images are just the most beautiful and imaginative I have ever seen. I am really drawn to photography that uses humor and irreverence.
Dorthea Lange’s Great Depression era labor camp portraits because they reach in and poke my beating heart. Jill Greenberg for her amazing studio work with animals and crying children. Loretta Lux for her surreal and haunting portraits of children.
Joyce: If you can give one advice you wish you had known when you first started out shooting film, what would it be and why?
Christina: Make Christmas happen frequently–Send in your film regularly, don’t hoard it like me and then send it 35 rolls.
If you happen to hoard film, tape each end of your rolls so that you don’t get light leaking in (thank you for that advice Sarah Rose Robertson)
If something looks like junk in real life it will most certainly look like junk on film so don’t waste your film. I went on safari and the light was ugly, the animals were pretty but it was just dumb to photograph them. Of course I ripped through film like I was on assignment for National Geographic, but I wasn’t and so I had a really crappy Christmas when those scans came in.
Piggybacking on my stupid mistake above: Restrain yourself. Ask yourself, when I see this image developed will I ask myself why I took this? If you have time to even think of this question when you happen upon a scene, you should probably just keep on walking.
Joyce: I am curious, and I am sure our fans are too:
- What is your favorite film camera for client work and for personal work, and why?
- What is your favorite film stock and why?
- What is one gear you can’t live without when you go on a shoot?
- If you can give one advice to any photographer who wants dip his/her toes in the realm of film photography, what would it be?
- My Rollei 2.8 is my favorite camera for everything. I love the square format and I love how the Rollei renders life. Its sharp and its soft are so so good.
- My favorite films are Fuji Acros Neopan. It’s a strong film and I like how it doesn’t mess around with subtle. My favorite color film is Kodak Ektar. I also love it for it’s extremes. It’s not subtle, it’s bright and saturated.
- Is this a trick question? my light meter, of course. And my iPhone charger.
- Stick with one camera and one lens and work that combo until you’ve rocked it. Also, stick with one film stock. Mastery is a beautiful thing.
Fun Facts about Christina:
who are your favorite artists on your playlist right now?
Banks, Jessie Ware, Billie Holiday, Chopin, Amadou & Mariam, 2Pac
“I wish my kids would hurry up and go to bed so I can watch….”
SNL, Silicon Valley, Embarassing Bodies
A quote you live by:
“You should never be proud of doing the right thing, you should just do the right thing!” Coach Dean Smith
What is the most exotic place you have ever been?
Djerba in Tunisia or Varanasi in India
Your favorite hobby other than photography:
Ripping apart thrift store clothes and making something new from them.
Airplane, Train or Automobile?
Either, I don’t care as long as it gets me to where I want to be.
Wine, Champagne or Beer?
Two truths and a lie in any order, go!
I can hynotize chickens, my husband won’t let me load the dishwasher because he says it looks like Curious George did it, Hearing me sing is like hearing an angel.
You can see more of Christina’s work or connect with her at:
Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook