DEPTHS IN THE SHADOWS
LA based photographer Grace Pickering’s work feels intimate and nostalgically Los Angeles. Her photographs are warm, sensitively taken, and the thought and effort she puts into them is understood upon viewing them. A quick look at her Instagram reflects this artistry.
With Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and various other social media platforms — we are constantly looking at images, most of which are of people. Unlike most of these images, however – Grace’s photography truly earns the title of portraiture.
Grace’s work is seen in full effect in her photograph “Jenna, Burbank” which is available on her website. The photo is a warm, smiling portrait of a pregnant woman in a kitchen. The photo is nostalgic and retro (a portrait of a beautiful, smiling pregnant woman in a retro white kitchen with linoleum flooring), as well as modern with the woman’s sleeve of tattoos being shown.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Grace to talk about all things photography.
GRACE PICKERING INTERVIEW
CONOR (HIGHLARK): All of your photography is done on medium format, what about the process – or the outcome – do you find so enticing?
GRACE PICKERING: I just love the quality of it, the depths in the shadows and how much detail you can pull out in people’s faces without it getting too HD and false. I used to hand print all my own work in the darkroom when I lived in London, I like being able to use my hands and follow the process from loading the film to hanging the framed print. Definitely an analogue girl first and foremost
CONOR: I attended your recent solo show “Whiskey Hour” at the Junior High Gallery in Los Angeles. The portraiture felt very nostalgic and very LA – what were you going for in these photos?
GRACE: Whiskey Hour is a project I started when I moved to LA a year and half ago consisting of portraits of SoCal residents. I think mostly photography in that moment was a great vehicle for me to gain more of an understanding of my new home and the people in it. My subjects are all individuals that fascinated/moved me in some capacity that I needed to find out more about them, where they live, why, what makes them laugh, who are you in this very moment in the environment you call home? For an alien in this city, an outsider and a self proclaimed explorer it was a fantastically exciting way to learn about my surroundings geographically, socially, politically and in a way I could really understand. I shot all the work with natural light mostly at sunset, ‘Whiskey Hour’ was my nod to golden hour and that magical glow right before the sun sets. You don’t get that light where I come from, it was the main character in all the portraits featured in the show
CONOR: Who are some of the biggest inspirations in your artistic style?
GRACE: My parents inspire my artistic style hugely, my mum was a beautiful artist who is to this day one of the only people whose paintings has had the ability to instantly move me to tears. She sees the world in a different way to most people and is greatly skilled in expressing that. My dad exposed me to a lot of music from a really young age which has hugely shaped the person that I am. He’s a true punk through and through, I still love listening to him recount stories of pogoing to the Sex Pistols at Lesser Freetrade Hall in 1976, hiding underneath cars to avoid having the shit beaten out of him by local lads for being dressed in women’s clothes and makeup imitating David Bowie. I remember being 13 and coming home from school in my uniform to the tightest pair of black drainpipe jeans I’d ever seen, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world wriggling around on the floor trying to get them zipped up with a coat hanger, Patti Smith blaring from my cd player, my head whirling with Egon Shiele/Bowie the Berlin years/Prince’s ‘controversy’/Anarchy in the UK. There is something very artistically liberating about being told from a young age you can do what you want, it’s ok that you’re a freak, that will never change and the world will have to adapt to it. Visually I think that’s influenced and shaped my work hugely, there is a DIY candid quality that asserts itself. I shoot on film and use/manipulate natural light a lot and tend to be more interested in less conventional models so that’s always going to offer a certain ‘realness’ if you will. That’s what I resonate with
CONOR: How did you first become interested in photography?
GRACE: I loved taking photos from a young age, it mostly took hold when I was a teenager though and began photographing my friends at house parties on the weekends. When I was 16 I attended an art school in North London where I began studying photography and was exposed to the work of Nan Goldin, Richard Billingham, Martin Parr and Wolfgang Tilman’s who all massively challenged my perception of what photography was. Their work really moved me, particularly Goldin’s images of Cookie and her late friends, it kind of shook my world and challenged the way I thought about traditional photography