March 07, 2024

(analogue) Photog of the Month (March '24) Cheska Brown

(analogue) Photog of the Month (March '24) Cheska Brown

Name: Cheska Brown
Instagram: @cheska.brown @_____cheska

How did you get into film photography?
I started getting into film photography well after University. I have a background in Fine Arts, but was always (naturally) in the photography department. A lot of my study was digital, as well as my commercial work then and now. I love taking images, but felt like I needed something where that process felt different enough, and I could also take some of that pressure off. And now here we are!

We love to see that you’re working in the photography industry, how would you describe your practise?
Thanks! I document contemporary art. My photography practice is pretty niche, but one that I enjoy immensely because of the talented and inspiring people I get to work with everyday. 

Do you shoot much film for your commercial work?
Hardly ever! There’s usually an exactness that’s needed when documenting artworks - i.e paintings need to be as accurate as possible with colour and colour temperature, photographs should be presented without glare and reflections… there's a lot of straightening, sharpening and other technical formatting required. I love film for its visual feeling and process of anticipation, but my commercial work requires a lot more control, so it’s always best for me to shoot that digitally.

How did you find yourself taking photographs for artists and art documentation? When I worked as a gallery assistant, an opportunity presented itself to me to document a painting exhibition. I’d never done this before, and felt so out of my depth! Let’s just say I’ve improved a lot since this initial shoot (haha). Gradually, with time and practice, also grew the artists' trust in me to be able to do this for them and their own practices, which has always meant a lot to me. 

When it comes to personal stuff, what is your favourite subject to photograph?
I love taking photos of my friends! They’re a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine who I’d be without them. Having lived in Te Whanganui-a-Tara almost all of my life, as well as being a visual person, a lot of my memory recollection has always been practised through image taking. I’m always shooting film when I’m with my friends. I like the nostalgic, visual qualities of film - it reminds me a lot of my childhood photos, so I look back on these images I take with my friends now as a form of growing together.

When getting into the zone, what is your process/approach?
When I’m shooting art, the zone for me is arriving in a headspace where I can fully trust myself to take a (technically) good photo, and my entire focus shifts directly to just looking at what’s in front of me. I think the act of looking at what you’re actually seeing, vs what you want to see, can be incredibly important while photographing. I think the former contributes more to the feeling of an artwork and responding to it in the present moment, and the latter can very much dictate the ‘structure’ of how you want the final image to look in your head. Sometimes letting go of the structure is necessary - the visual priority for me is always just responding to the artwork.

And does it vary when shooting film or digital?
Definitely! The main thing that varies for me is time. I take a lot more time when I’m shooting an artwork. Usually the longer I spend looking, the more I see and can respond to, and this is always a digital format. As I use film in a more social setting, and usually when I’m with friends, I’m always trying to capture a moment with more immediacy.

Quick fire ten questions

  1. 35mm or 120? 35mm
  2. Colour or B&W? Colour
  3. Zoom Lenses or Fixed? Fixed. My stance is pretty firm on this! I’m a better photographer because of it. (This!! This is soooo underrated!! -Splendid)
  4. Portrait or Landscape (Orientation)? Landscape
  5. Flash or Natural Light? Natural light
  6. SLR (or TLR) or Rangefinder or Point and Shoot? SLR for digital, point and shoot for analogue
  7. Must be razor sharp or more about the aesthetic? Both are important in my work, but ultimately it’s the aesthetic
  8. Favourite Camera? My Ilford Sprite 35-II. She’s humble but has been so good to me for the last few years!
  9. Favourite Photographer? Hard to choose one! But currently, Joanna Piotrowska
  10. Favourite Photo Book? I’m cheating here (sorry!) - I have too many. Men Carrying Flowers by Ophelia Mikkelson Jones, Redeye by Ann Shelton, Mirror City by Harry Culy, Ruby’s Room by Anne Noble

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