You photographed Amna from the United Arab Emirates for The World In London during the Olympics. Can you please tell us about your choice of country and why did you pick her?
I choose the UAE because I knew so little about this country and I was curious to find out more about its culture and people. I was not very selective when choosing the model, because it was very difficult to find people from the UAE in London. After contacting the embassy and the SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) eventually two young women agreed to be photographed. I had with both of them a great time shooting, finding locations in London and creating different portraits. At the end The Photographer’s Gallery picked one picture of Amna.
How would you describe your current project Strawberries In Winter?
In Strawberries in Winter I focus on the emerging landscape of farming. I find farming and the use of land is a topic that is very important and relates to all of us because we are all somehow connected to these landscapes by consuming its products every day. The expectations on agriculture are today high and complex. Supermarkets and consumers demand increasingly lower prices, a higher quality and a better look of products. To remain competitive farmers need to produce more on the same amount of land, without damaging the environment. As a result farms become bigger, more technical and highly computerized. Day and night, summer and winter, geographical locations slowly become irrelevant for farming. In my project am interested in presenting these emerging images to the viewer.
Advice to young photographers?
To be persistent and to have a long breathe. I think it is very important to remember that it takes time to get established. And also that it is quite normal when pitching for work or publication that out of 10 emails you send out, six won’t get a reply, three emails will be answered with ‘No’ and possibly one email will be positive saying they are interested in your work. After sending an email I would always follow up with a phone call if I didn’t get a response. Sometimes people really just forgot to reply or didn’t see your email.
How important is it for you to have a studio as a base to work from?
I think it is great to have a space in which you can just work. However, I feel it is not crucial. The most important thing is to have a desk in a room that is big enough for you to feel well and also to have friends/other photographers that you can meet up with to discuss your work.
How do you approach a brief?
Before each project I have a research period, in which I mostly gather information via Internet to find out more about the topic. If possible I contact institutions/ groups to try to gain access to the sites I want to photograph in. However, I feel that just going somewhere and finding people or places at a location is often the easiest. Also it is mostly easier to develop a story or ideas further while pursuing a project. There is just so much you can do in the forefront of a project. What to include or to exclude I largely decide when editing. When shooting I try to gather as much material as possible.
Who have influenced you?
The list of photographers I love and who influence my work is long: Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth, Zed Nelson, Paolo Woods, Susan Worsham are just a few of them
Visit Freya Najade to see her works