Interview by Jieliang Hao

Anita is a Sophomore concentrating in Social Studies and interested in pursuing a secondary in VES (photography).  This fall she took Introduction to Still Photography with Sharon Harper. It was her first photography/VES class.

Jieliang Hao: What has been your experience with photography?

Anita Hofschneider: This is my photo class. It is also my first art class. I started to get involved with photography as a freshman when I decided to comp the crimson. I thought it would be fun and interesting to try photo. I realized photography was something I really enjoyed.  I bought my own DSLR in the spring of last year, took lots of photos in the summer, and signed up for this VES class this fall hoping for more instruction.

JH: What was your starting point for this project?

AH: Before this, the only kind of photos I took were for the Crimson and photojournalistic in nature. I wasn’t comfortable taking photos that were set-up or contrived and I’m still not too comfortable doing that. I think it’s interesting to be able to see photos in the world around you.

When I started this class I was thinking a lot about decisive moments in the style of Henri Cartier-Bresson.  I began by thinking about street photography but it quickly evolved.

JH: How so?

AH: I realized that I was drawn to a particular kind of moment, when there is a whole group of people in the shot, but if you focus on one person, they seem completely alone even if they are with others.  People could be in a large group or form a couple with someone else, but they can still look like they are not connected. For example, look at the photo of the couple sitting on the bench. They are together but both of them are separated and alone at the same time. I thought this could all be an interesting take on loneliness. In the picture of the girl with a scarf, she is with a whole group of people but she’s still alone. And sometimes even if they are actually alone, they are not lonely because  their thoughts preoccupy them. The sense of isolation is what ties my photos together.

JH: Is this an Isolation from their environment?

AH: Sort of, but not necessarily. It’s isolation from their thoughts.  This photo is the one that placed the most on the environment and I might not actually include it in the final project. (the woman standing alone, white background). They are not lonely, just preoccupied with themselves and by their thoughts. It’s a kind of introspection.

JH: Did this idea of introspection come from something you were originally  interested in or did it involve from seeing photos you’ve taken?

AH: They evolved from the photos I’ve taken. I love taking pictures of people, the buildings around Harvard. I love pictures of dogs. I just thought this was a good theme for the project since there is so much to explore. I was interested in the photos that would come out. A lot of times I would be surprised by how well a photo would fit into the theme, for example the girl with the scarf. I wasn’t looking for or expecting the effect when I took it.

JH: When you are putting together your project do you ever go out in search for a particular moment?

AH: The idea developed midway through the semester. Some pictures I took in the beginning of the semester ended up fitting very well (see: girl on the bed). In some ways I would look for similar situations. Not exactly physical situations but the expressions on faces. The subway picture was taken because I felt like her expression fit well with my project. Often times, the subjects are people I know because it is easier to get in a close comfortable distance to them using a camera with no zoom.  Sometimes if I see strangers on the streets and I happened to like the scene and expression, I would try to recreate that scene later with someone I know. It always depends. If I’m able to take it then I will take it, other times I would have to recreate the opportunity.

JH: Is there a particular kind of mood that you are trying to convey?

AH: Initially, I didn’t have any particular mood in mind, but eventually for the sake of coherence I ended up choosing particular moods. There was a photo of a boy that I thought was great and it fit the theme well, but his joyous mood didn’t fit in with the rest. So, when I select photos I do look for a particular type of pensive mood, which I think helps with the introspection idea.

JH: Are there any artists that you are particularly fond of and  try to emulate?

AH: Gary Winogrand. Street photography, getting close up to people, showing their real emotions are all interesting ideas to me. Even though I end up shooting many people I know, the idea of being close to someone and invading their privacy is still really fascinating to me. I love Cartier-Bresson and what he does. Alex Webb as well, although I didn’t try integrating his concepts into my project. Photos of people in a particular place is a theme that runs through all three, and that’s what I’m going for.

JH: What did you think of the overall experience?

AH: It has been a challenging, enjoyable and rewarding process in creating this body of work. I didn’t know how this was going to turnout in the beginning but seeing it all come together is a very good feeling. I’m very glad I took this class.  Sharon and Irina are very good instructors and I definitely learned a lot both technically and artistically.


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