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Interview with Photographer Joanne Paterson

February 8, 2011

Enormous elephants built with household furniture and gigantic dragons crafted with scaffolding are the vision of photographer Joanna Paterson, the photographer for the AlexandAlexa.com February Magazine. Inspired by her inner-child – a painfully shy child who would build imaginary houses and play with her army of guinea pigs, Joanna Paterson’s photographs have a wistful feel. Amidst her busy schedule fashion editor –Matthew Holroyd catches a word….

Where were you born and brought up?

My early years were spent in the suburban idyll Raynes Park, Wimbledon.  There was a gang, my brother, sister and the neighbourhood kids, we used to roam around on our roller-skates heavily influenced by Starlight Express the musical. I was obsessed with pets, had more guinea pigs than was wise (they lived in a dolls house in the garden) and kept budgies in my bedroom.

Did you believe in the wombles?

Yes last sighting about 8 years ago

What were your favourite pastimes as a child?

Drawing, reading and acting.  I was a painfully shy child who luckily had a fertile imagination to keep me company.  I did try and coerce friends into my imaginary games, but they didn’t last long as I literally built my imaginary houses brick by imaginary brick.

Do you have any particularly funny childhood memories?

I was really into putting on plays.  When I was 8yrs on holiday with family friends, I had the brain wave of putting on a play set in a nudist camp for our parents.  Not sure what they made of kids covering their modesty with Beano comics and Boogie Boards!

What was it exactly about photography that drew you to it?

I came to photography late in life, this is actually embarrassing but the catalyst was a lecture by the photographer David La Chappelle, (king of bubblegum Pop imagery of America) he said he didn’t want to be an artist, holed up in his studio, he wanted to be a photographer because you actually got to experience the world through creating photographs – it seemed terribly exciting and a ticket out of Shy-ville.

How did you get into using children as your subjects?

When I was asked to do a shoot for Junior Magazine kids, I loved it.

What do kids bring to your photographs that perhaps adults don’t?

Using sets and props with adult models can look contrived, but children engage very naturally with this, they just seem to get it.

What are your opinions on child modelling?

In my experience children seem to really enjoy the attention and use the opportunity to have fun and show off!

And children’s fashion?

Brilliant, I think kids fashion is starting to get really exciting; there are even child fashion icons now like Willow.

Which other photographers working with children do you like?

Emma Hardy, Valerie Philips, Venetia Dearden and Sandra Freij

I really enjoy the usage of sets and props in your work can you tell me about that?

As an art student I first got into photography as a tool to document my badly made artworks.  I’ve assisted both photographers and set stylists in my journey to becoming a photographer.  I enjoy collaborating with set stylists, as we tend to communicate naturally about ideas.  I find that using sets and props allows a witty and playful approach in my image making.

You tend to use street casting as opposed to models from agencies, can you tell me about that and why?

I like unusual looking models, the joy of street casting is that the person you find might not have a versatile enough look to be a professional model, but they can be perfect for a portrait or a one off shoot.

What are you working on at the moment?

Several top secret projects – watch this space www.joannapaterson.com

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