JONATHAN CHERRY: What got you started with photography?
OLIVIA CALLENDER: Time and finally sticking to one artistic outlet. I’ve tried my hand at everything from painting, music, to acting but always found my passion waning or being thrown aside in frustration at not feeling good enough. When I was 16 my father bought me a T50. It was basically a film point and shoot except for the manual focus. At the time I was still aspiring to be either an actress or musician so didn’t really think about it in terms of a career but I always loved getting back the images and finding out what I’d managed to capture. It wasn’t until my first year in college that I realized (and others pushed me to realize) that I had a good eye so my father got me a Canon AE-1 and I managed to push my way into to some photography courses. Now I’m using a medium format and hoping to go even bigger. I’ve got a fetish for the big negative.
JC: Any emerging artists inspiring you at the moment?
OC: I see and like so many of the contemporaries out there it’s hard to keep track. This blog alone keeps me hip to all the emerging talent but uh… lets see I’m inspired by the people I know personally simply because we’re all in the same boat, struggling to get better and make it on our own. There’s Roman Dean whose color work is coming together, Jules Slutsky’s with her still lifes imbued with charismatic light. Caroline Schub is also an extremely talented photographer and I wish she’d finish her website so I could see what she’s been working on this year!! Also, while he’s no longer emerging Will Stacey’s photography is fantastic and smart, which always get’s my heart pumping, not to mention he’s an extremely nice fellow. I don’t know Taryn Simon but at this point I’ve read her book The Innocents so many times that I feel compelled to. If I were to ever meet her I might just cover her in kisses, which my hubby Mac Smullen (great filmmaker) would not like one bit.
JC: Whats your current project all about?
OC: I have the horrible habit of starting a new project before finishing the last so at the moment I have 4 in the works. However, at the moment I’m focusing on a new portrait series that is the result of my fascination with the instagram trend and the notion of the self before the photographic self. More on that here if interested.
JC: Where are you currently living and how is it shaping you?
OC: I’m currently shipping it between Long Island where I live with my boyfriend of 3 years and NYC Roosevelt Island where I grew up. It’s a little difficult but I enjoy the ties it forces me to keep to the city. I also get to visit with my family, which is helpful since one of my ongoing projects is basically bossing them around to recreate moments from my childhood. Most of my editing work is done in Long Island so I usually don’t photograph much out there but I’m actually finally getting around to exploring some of the more industrial areas such as Deer Park. My “mother in-law” laughed and called me a city girl for finding that at all interesting stuff to photograph.
JC: One piece of advice to recent photography graduates?
OC: It’s been a year this May that I’ve been out of school and I’m still trying to find my way. At this point I think it’s all about perseverance, believing in your self, and getting over the fear of showing your work and self-promotion. At least that’s what I struggle with and work toward. I also believe that we’re at a moment in history where the image no longer holds the simple importance of reproduction. I feel meaning and thought need to have a greater focal point in the photographic Diaspora for us to separate ourselves from the immense amount of images being created everyday. Not that a photograph from your iphone is without value, I just believe we should make a point to explain what that value is.
JC: Any big plans for 2012?
OC: More Tumblr friends! Nah, really I’d like to find some form of success even if it’s just justification for what I’m doing for myself. It’s a hard world to choose your own course and stick to it. I’d like to think I’m brave but doubts are always there to hurdle over. Other than that I’d like to show my work and gather more subjects in general for the portrait series and an older project the Bi&Multi: Race Identity and the Influence of Media, which was my senior thesis. It’s an important project to me being biracial myself and I greatly enjoyed hearing other peoples theories and back stories on growing up outside the “norm” of race/culture in our society. But it’s a lengthy process and people have to make the time to do it. So if anyone’s interested please drop a line!!
JC: Favourite tree?
OC: Any tree that I can climb.