Interview with photographer Carol Burri

How did you get into photography initially?

During my first study in post-industrial design, I did a lot of computer graphics, particularly in 3D applications. I played with virtual physical light and for this, I did tests with cameras and lighting. Through this process over a year I mixed computer graphics and photography but ended up being more interested in natural photography.

What do you generally look for when you choose a subject?

I like subjects that look like they come from another planet. For that I often have to create my subject with a lot of organization. Another important fact is that the image tells you a story or makes the audience think, how the hell did he do this. Of course I’m always looking for strange faces for portraits. They’re hard to find but they have always a place in my photography.

What is the most important aspect of photography to you?

One of the most important things for me is that I can convert an idea in my head as close as possible into an image through photography. Most of the time I’m not able to do that but I’m happy when it works. The second important aspect for me when I shoot people is that they feel comfortable in front of the camera. This is not always easy but most of the time they’re still talking with me after the shoot. And of course having fun in what I’m doing.

How do you build a relationship with the subjects you are photographing?

Often I have to go to the place I would like to shoot two or three times before I feel comfortable shooting it. With people it’s quite the same. You meet them by chance and then you have to tell them you would like to shoot them within your own idea. You show them your work and hope that they say ok and feel comfortable with it. Most of the time I have to wait two or three months for the images I really want. Because you have to find the right location and sometimes you need also the permission. The people don’t always have time or the weather is not good. But in fact I like the process of building a relationship with the subject.

Commercial VS Artistic photography?

I’m not a big fan of commercial photography. I don’t really know everything about it but I find that sometimes it’s really not that creative. On the other hand it’s hard to live from personal projects alone. So you have to mix it up. Nonetheless I’ve had lots of fun with some commercial projects and often you can work in a team with cool people. But I’m definitely trying to do as much of my own work as possible.

Digital / Manual ?

It’s similar to commercial and artistic photography. If you shoot analog you need time and you don’t see the result immediately after you shoot. For me, I enjoy the process of shooting analog.  But I wouldn’t say that analog photography is better than digital. It depends on what you do with your images and what you use them for. It might be that the best way of shooting something is with a mobile phone or the cheapest camera on the market. And sometimes the best way of shooting something is just not to shoot it.

Hasleblad.

Personally some of my favorite cameras. Can be pretty big monsters, and sharp as hell. The good thing about them right now is that they’re much less expensive than they were ten years ago.

What role does digital retouching play in your work?

At the moment it’s really common to retouch images. I’m not a big fan of it. I try to shoot an image in its entirety, to be honest retouching isn’t what makes a good image, and hours of retouching isn’t what makes the difference between a good photo and a bad one. If you have a good source and you have to do some minor retouch, it’s definitely a good thing.

Where do you see in the future of photography?

I’m trying to work hard on my photography series and hope I love what I do for as long as possible.

Words: Frederic Bourgoin

Images: Carol Burri