INTERVIEW

May 25, 2022

WHIMSICAL WHIMS

IN CONVERSATION WITH VANESSA WALL

Photography by Vanessa Wall
Interview by Melanie Meggs

Vanessa Wall is a visual merchandiser and photographer from Stockholm, Sweden. Vanessa uses her camera as a tool not to just create but to evoke memory. By embracing her own emotions, it is Vanessa's way of capturing a mood rather than an experience, all bound into a sort of photo album with a certain twist. Vanessa describes there is nothing linear about her work, "it strays in all directions, but I'm drawn to the effects of colour and shape, the movement of bodies and the underlying darkness behind the bright and cheerful."

Vanessa is genuinely one of my favorite photographers. Transforming "mundane" moments, Vanessa finds a way to portray her subjects in an aesthetically pleasurable way. Her work encompasses everything I love about photography. I am excited to share her work and photography journey to inspire you all.

"I love the spontaneous way of capturing a moment, I’m drawn to odd shapes, colour combinations and finding these themes in mundane surrounding is more interesting than a perfect setting such as a beautiful sunset."

TPL: Vanessa please tell us about yourself. How does where you are from influence your work?

VW: I grew up in an average sized town in Sweden with my single mum and older brother. The area we lived in was a diverse neighbourhood and my friends came from different corners of the world, it was a fun and carefree childhood. I guess I was curious then as now, wanting to explore and trying new things without breaking the law. After school I travelled, first France and then London where I went to art school studying graphic design, this was a way to narrow down all my different creative interests. Loved art school! Ended up in retail, this is where I am today. I do shop windows at a fancy department store in Stockholm. In this job I do everything: creative ideas, styling, photography but also heavy physical work which it is building a new set for a window display. I do love my job, the creativity and variation is endless. I live in a suburb in Stockholm with husband and two kids, have my own little studio near where we live in an old laundry room. I’m very happy with how my life has turned out, happy with the basics in life and that I get to do the things I love.

TPL: What drew you to photography and art? What was that moment that you decided to pick up a camera?

VW: Growing up my friends and I used to have photo shoots...taking turns dressing up and take photos, anxiously waiting the time you had to wait for the rolls of film to be developed. Maybe this is where my interest for photography started although, acting in front of the camera was just as fun as being behind it.

Maybe it was when I had my own kids that I intensified my photography, those moments you can’t predict, that just happen, and you’re able to capture that moment, is priceless. The sentimental value was the initial force but somewhere along the line something else drove me as well. I took some classes, bought a camera and got more and more engaged. This was only a couple of years ago and today I still feel that I’m experimenting a lot but that playfulness is what makes it all worth it. I don’t want to feel too serious about it, never get caught up in technical issues that bores me.

TPL: Tell us about the themes of your work and how you place portraiture within them.

VW: I do tend to be very diverse with my work, I love taking classic portraits - setting a mood and get the perfect light, interact with the person and making he or she feel comfortable in front of the camera. I also love the spontaneous way of capturing a moment, I’m drawn to odd shapes, colour combinations and finding these themes in mundane surrounding is more interesting than a perfect setting such as a beautiful sunset.

I’ve lately started using myself as a sort of anonymous model, building up a set in my little studio and since I can boss myself around and do whatever comes to my mind...it’s quite practical. I try to build up a story, there should be something that comes to your mind when you see the result, I don’t want perfection, I prefer a slight touch of darkness.

TPL: Your compositions are beautiful in their simplicity. Would you say you have a minimalist approach when it comes to your creative process with your photography?

VW: Thank you! I have never thought of myself having a minimalist approach, maybe I strive for a certain clarity that can be perceived as such.

TPL: When you take pictures, do you usually have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both? Describe your process.

VW: When I do more conceptual photography I have a vague frame that I try to stick to but as the process is rolling I get new ideas as I go along. Since I’m my own boss I can allow this to happen.

TPL: What other photographers do you look at for inspiration?

VW: Anna Clarén, Evelyn Bencicova, Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann etc etc. There are so many!

TPL: If you could just choose one photographer to shoot alongside for a day...who would you choose? And why?

VW: I actually would love to work alongside someone with a creative vision such as perhaps Ridley Scott during the set of Raised by wolves.

Series and film really inspire me. It’s storytelling on so many levels, the visual aspect gives such an impact and can leave you with so many emotions.

TPL: Do you have a favorite photography/art quote that has been an inspiration to you?

VW: Not a specific quote but something a photography teacher once said: "that it’s not about how skilled you are using the camera, or which type of camera you use, it’s all about the ways of seeing." That removed a lot of anxiety.

TPL: What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length? Is there any particular equipment you need or wish you had to help you achieve your photographic vision?

VW: Fujifilm XT3, love it! But tend to use my Iphone a lot. I don’t actually have anything that I feel the need to upgrade with, feel like this camera is my little friend so we’ll stick together for a while. I have few different lenses that I use, some lighting equipment too.

TPL: What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? What direction do you think you will take your photography? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

VW: A dream would be to have a solo exhibition at some larger gallery, or small for that matter. Maybe do a book. I’d love to be able to liberate some more time for doing my photography and using other models than myself perhaps.

TPL: When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…

VW: Spend time with my family and friends. But I never actually really stop photographing, it's often these times that encourage spontaneous unexpected moments that have to be eternalised."