Interview by Natalie So

Olivia is a Senior.  This fall she took Intro to Photography with Sharon Harper.

Natalie So: Tell me a bit about the concept that this series revolves around—if there is a concept.  Or how did you edit this series down?

Olivia Volkoff: My final project has inner groupings. I’m not sure if there is anything cohesive about the whole thing. Throughout the semester, I had a lot of opportunities to see my family and travel home and be in real life situations,  so a lot of my photos revolved around people really close to me. This came out in the portraits I took. I have gotten a lot of interesting responses about the photos of my immediate family—like my parents, my grandparents—so I wanted to make sure I incorporated that into my final project. Also, in general, I’m more interested in graphic, bold shapes and colors, so I tried to incorporate that too. Spare settings, the individual, clean shapes—very defined shapes and colors.

NS: Yeah, I noticed that you crop in pretty close and that you have a particular way of framing your subjects. You also use a lot of white, empty space. Was that a conscious choice?

OV: I think it’s just what my eye goes for. It’s personal preference to have a more clean, pared down look—as a style.

NS: You have two photographs in particular (Hands over Lobster Sandwich; Meat and Petals) that seem to be still-life photographs. To me, there’s a very surreal quality about them—perhaps because of the cropping.  Can you talk about these photographs?

OV: The reason I picked up my camera immediately and took this photo (Meat and Petals) was because it cracked me up how much the meat and the petals looked alike and resembled one another. I thought it was strange—and like you said surreal—how closely the two mimic one another.

NS: So besides these “still-lives,” you also have portraits and more abstract silhouette photographs. What do you see as the common thread between these photographs and how do they relate to one another?

OV: The interplay of the darkness, the shadows, and the light. They are all pared down and simplistic. I kind of see each set as a subgrouping of my final project, and I don’t know if there is a direct connection between each subgrouping. I think they are all supposed to give a more intimate look into my family and friends, so maybe this isn’t directly obvious to a viewer. For instance, this (Meat and Petals) is my grandparent’s table, and it is so typical of their life. This is the image conjured in my mind of sitting at their table. These are all very personal to me. So this is focusing on something more intimate, if that makes sense.

NS: When someone is blurred out of a picture, there seems to be a lot of connotations that come with that—whether that signifies a disappearance, motion, etc. In the photograph where your dad is in focus but your mom is not, is there a message that you are trying to convey with the blur? Is there a reaction you want to elicit? Was it by chance?

OV: It was kind of chance, but it was deliberate—I did purposefully create the blur. I guess, in a way, it is the transience of time. Again, there was a general pattern over the semester—how I tended to crop things really close, and the palette is pretty defined, and I think there is a distinct pattern of colors—but also, another pattern I saw was once you pare someone down, he or she is personalized but also de-personalized.

NS: With the portraits of your parents, is there an emotional reaction you want to elicit from viewers?

OV: I think it’s pretty obvious that they are my parents, but that’s not the immediate reaction I’m going for. I’m hoping it would create a personal connection—as if they could put themselves in the photos, as if they knew that person.


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