Familial focus: Chloe Riddell

University of Auckland student Chloe Riddell was recently named a finalist in the Sony World Photography Awards Student Focus competition, an international search for the best and brightest in the new generation of photographers. Chloe speaks to D-Photo's Point-Shoot blog about her successful image (The Twins, below), the series it comes from, and her future plans.

The Twins

D-Photo: Hi Chloe, can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Chloe Riddell: I am from Hastings originally but spent most of my childhood in American Samoa and Ghana. Spent my adolescent years back in Hastings. My interest in art expanded to an interest in photography in high school, learning and experimenting with black-and-white film photography.

I moved to Auckland to study at Elam where I began to use medium format cameras and continued using black-and-white. Then in my senior years I started using a large format camera with colour film and began to learn darkroom colour printing.

I really enjoy the elements of analogue photography and it has become a defining feature of my art practise.

Twin Portrait

What motivated you to enter the Student Focus programme?

My honours supervisor thought my images where prefect for the brief and approached me about entering – I thought it was a great opportunity with really great prizes, so I entered.

How did you feel when you heard you had made it through to the final stage?

I was surprised for sure; I entered one of my favourite images so I was really happy other people thought it was a great image and deserved recognition. I was also pretty excited about the trip to London and receiving a brand new camera.

Shower Wall

You've since had to tackle a final 'self-portrait' brief for the competition, how was that?

I felt it was a challenging brief in that I don't typically photograph myself, but also developing concept around 'self-portraits' the wasn't cliché would be difficult. But in the end it was actually quite a fun project and I was able to experiment with some ideas I don’t normally come up in my Elam projects.

Can you tell me a little about creating your successful image, The Twins?

My approach with photography is to capture truthful moments, so in this case the twins where just lying around watching TV and the lighting was right so I captured the moment with as little interference as possible. It was very rare for them to be so at peace with each other so I knew it would be a great image.

Kelly's Room

You shot it on a large format camera, what are some of the challenges in working with that sort of gear?

It’s an imposing camera so trying not to interfere and alter a natural scene is quite difficult. Setting up a shot can take quite awhile but that is also something I like about it, the slower process. The film being quite expensive means I have limited shots so there is more pressure to take the right shot at the right time. Challenges with it are also the great thing about it, it really slows you down, makes you think and look harder.

What makes The Twins an appealing image?

For me it’s the mood of the shot, there is something strange or subtle in the image that draws the viewer in to look harder. The twins' expression and body language tells an underlying story of their relationship and situation.

Night Tayah

Night Tayah

It comes from a larger series, Memories Enclosed...Handle with Care; can you tell us about that?

The series is firstly about my family and my personal reflections on my family life, approaching the project with the hope of capturing a truthful account of them. Secondly, it deals with family in general, looking at the way families use photography as a form of storytelling and memory. Looking at how thatprocess can serve to skew the family story in a more positive or superficial light.

I will be showing a modified version of the series during the Auckland Festival of Photography at Elam Projectspace Gallery opening May 27.

What drew you into photography as a study path?

Just my interest in images; I wanted to create images of my own that told the stories I wanted to tell and photography was the best way to do that.

Back Window

If you win the overall Student Focus prize what are your plans for the prize?

The overall prize is for the school the finalist represents, so Elam will get some great new camera gear – which of course other students and I will be able to use.

What are your plans once you've finished up your Masters in Fine Arts?

I might be aiming down a more academic path towards doing a PhD following my interest in teaching at university level. But mostly I hope to continue making work and using photography.

Emma in the Lounge

Outside of the Sony World Photography Awards, what are you most looking forward to doing on your trip to London?

I have been to London as a child so I am interested in experiencing it from an adult perspective.  Going to museums and galleries will also be amazing, seeing some famous artworks in the flesh is a must!

You can see more of Chloe's work at her website, and keep an ear out come April 30, when the overall winner of the Student Focus competition is announced.

Mum and Kelly at the Table