“I’m interested in the phenomena of naively trusting an artificial reproduction of reality as reality itself, and the dangers it poses when this artificiality is expected to exist in real life.”
Violet Forest (born in 1990) is a photographer currently based in Miami, Florida (USA). She holds a Bachelor of Arts from “Florida International University” (Miami).
“I use the Yashica T4 when I don’t want to know how my photographs will come out. The surprise of getting a good photograph is more exciting to me than setting one up. Shooting without looking through the viewfinder and holding my arm out towards the subject is playing with chance but when the world works in the camera’s favor, the results are exciting.”
Interview with Violet Forest
Violet, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
I think what’s more important is how we are born into this world consuming photographs before we are taking them. We are exposed to the running television and billboard advertisements as babies before we can develop a consciousness that can press a shutter. I’m interested in this phenomena of naively trusting an artificial reproduction of reality as reality itself, and the dangers it poses when this artificiality is expected to exist in real life.
“Striving for verisimilitude in the photographic image was a way to combat this cognitive estrangement I was feeling from a suspension of belief in the artificial.”
I personally grew up consuming teen magazines, with their editorial photographs and advertisements, and films, with a naive, ignorant consciousness, accepting what I saw as phenomenological and ontological truth. I didn’t realize that perfection was achieved by artificial lighting and post-production editing techniques like Photoshop.
I never had an understanding of how films were arranged through cuts and studio contrivance, and on a more complicated level, I never realized that narratives were hyperbolized for fantastic and emotional effects. So I guess striving for verisimilitude in the photographic image was a way to combat this cognitive estrangement I was feeling from a suspension of belief in the artificial.
What does photography mean to you?
Through studying the photographic and moving image I was able to conclude what was of authenticity and truth. I’m seduced by the way photographs can serve clues to the mystery of generations I’ve never lived. And I feel photography, if done with authenticity, can be used to create a dialogue of the phenomenology of being, and can be a way of preserving lived experience, of providing proof of a human experience, to reproduce a reality that is honest and familiar.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
William Eggleston awes me because of his almost clairvoyant awareness to color palettes that eventually became timestamps, spectacles, of the 70’s era which he shot in. But I have always been fascinated by photographers like Robert Frank whose photography is stylistically similar to the rules of the film movement Dogme 95.
Dogme 95’s aesthetic strives for verisimilitude by avoiding overproduction. The most important rules being:
- The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur).
- Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).
- The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
- The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.
- Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.
- Optical work and filters are forbidden.
That is not to say that my way of shooting is a manifesto of any sort. But I feel like it’s a good starting point for deciphering between truth of being and vice versa. And that is not to say that photographs are complete truth, but only those with an awareness and knowledge of how the camera and film render reality can decipher what is really going on in a photograph, so I feel it’s almost a moral duty to refrain from contrivance as much as possible. That might be a Catch-22.
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough – there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph.”
How would you describe your photographic voice?
I use the Yashica T4 when I don’t want to know how my photographs will come out. The surprise of getting a good photograph is more exciting to me than setting one up. Shooting without looking through the viewfinder and holding my arm out towards the subject is playing with chance but when the world works in the camera’s favor, the results are exciting.
Your favorite photography quote?
“True intentions would only be possible by renouncing intention.”
Theodor W. Adorno, Intention and Reproduction
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic language?
Curiosity is necessary to explore. There has to be intrigue in every element of the art: the medium, the process, the material, the subject, and the event. Most importantly, however, is an intrigue in what you will make out of all of it.
Like any art form, passion and a well-rounded knowledge of the history of the art.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
A great photograph, like any great work of art, is one whose meaning evolves endlessly with time and a balance of technique and style.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
The essence and nature of “Youth”, “Coming of Age” themes, “Archetypal characteristics of Females”, and the narrative potentials of all of these.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Cameras: Yashica T4, Mamiya C220 with a flash; film: Portra 400, and Tri-X 400.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
American Suburbx: www.americansuburbx.com.
What photography book would you recommend?
Publish your own photobook: www.selfpublishbehappy.com
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
There is a difference between being a photographer and being an artist with a camera.