Crina Prida - Woman. Photographer. Cat herder

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Crina Prida

To start off with, Crina and I have known each other for a number of years through Social Media. Starting off on G+ and more recently on Facebook. We both shoot quite different things but we both have a mutual appreciation for each other’s work, and I always enjoy seeing what she will do next.

At some point we will actually meet in the flesh, and probably hate each other, but until that point we’ll enjoy each other’s work, cats and laughter!

Andrew: Crina, you have a penchant for dramatic black and white shots (and I love them). They can be dramatic, whimsical and thought provoking. Is this how you view the world, or just a small facet of your personality influencing your work? 

Crina: Hi, Andrew, and thanks for putting together the questions for this conversation; I had a chuckle reading them, so this is going to be a good distraction before going back to work after my recent holidays.

The black and white mode seems to be a comfortable way to illustrate most of my projects. I shoot mostly RAW or in colors, but the meaning of a portrait converted to monochrome is significantly different from its coloured version. In fact, I quite often start a photo session doing redundant, unassuming shots, because I am trying to connect with the model rather than overthink composition or movement; those shots can rarely be ‘saved’ by turning them into black and white, so there’s not much room for cheating. As the shooting progresses, I begin to  ‘see’ the contrast, the lights and the shadows better, and perhaps feel the model’s state of mind, which helps me visualise the results mainly in mono.

Andrew: You have muses. And yes I am jealous of that, but we'll put it aside for now. Can you tell us a bit about them and what they bring to the shoots and how that plays out? Do you feel you need them, or is it a genuine collaboration or a fascination with those people?


Crina:

Muses I do have; and need. Just recently I was asked, and it’s not the first time, if I am secretly ‘interested in women’, if you know what I mean. The fact that I prefer working with women is because I have grown up in a social environment where speaking up your mind, or acting according to your impulse was rather unacceptable for a young woman

I’ve bottled up a lot of stuff as a teenager, emotionally speaking, so, later in my life, photography and my interest in art have ‘undone’ certain old and crippling inhibitions in a more effective way  than literature or music had managed to do before. This is the context, but in particular, I encourage the people I work with, to bring to the table their own questions or insecurities; basically, this type of interaction can be rewarding if we manage to let it stream throughout a photo project. Due to lack of time, in the future I’m pretty sure I will do very little ‘commissioned’ work, if at all, and focus instead on working with people who, simply with their presence, bring a vibe and alter my thinking paradigm, even during the shooting, so I'm not necessarily left hanging until I get to post-processing. I've discussed with you oftentimes: a bad or tense report with the model creates a deep frustration during and after the shoot, and at the end of the day, the whole ‘operation’ may feel like a complete waste of time and energy, which both come in limited supply to all of us.

Andrew: How much emphasis do you place on your gear? Are you well past the 'look at my camera' phase and in the 'just bloody work' part. Or do you like your equipment and still see it as exciting?

Crina: Well, I am a Canon girl, first and foremost. Not necessarily by some educated choice, but I started photography at a time where Canon was the common way to go; most of the people I was in touch with at the time - 2007/2008 - were using Canon DSLR cameras. I have been using the EOS 5D full frame system since 2010, and I am not ready to make a radical jump. Not now, anyway. I’ve dabbled with an Olympus mirrorless camera, it didn’t grow on me. Now I also have a Fujifilm x100f, for which I am considering an upgrade, but it’s just a wandering thought, and won’t do it as long as this camera still delivers what I need. I also shoot with my phones, and with a couple of film cameras;

basically, I don’t care what camera  I use, as long as it does the job the way I planned it. 

Andrew: What was the last photograph you looked at that you thought 'I wish I'd taken that"

Crina: I think I see everyday at least one of those. But for this interview, and for its symbolism, I'm going to pick one of my favourite self portraits by Duane Michals. 

I think about thinking -Duane Michals

Andrew: You clearly love art and are educated in it. How do you feel that influences what you shoot? Is it a help or a hindrance? 

Crina: It’s an enormous help. And a hindrance, yeah. As far as help goes, it makes me disregard most of what I see on social media or on certain photography sites, and avoid the labeled trends: street, food, redundant landscapes, bad abstracts, all the repetitive clichés that bring the definition of photography to a sad level of compromise and decrepitude.

We’re all guilty of imitation; being original is no longer the point in contemporary art. It was the sublime privilege of the 50s and 60s.

At this point, it’s how we can deal with appropriation and repetition in a way that it stays meaningful and excites the eye and the mental perception. Perhaps we need a distinct ideology for visual representation, just as we have and promote it in contemporary political or social life. I’ve just read an article a couple of days ago, about the 'most influential 25 artworks of the past century' ; of course the panelists could not agree on just 25, but the conversation was riveting, because it brought to the table distinct concepts which have pleased, annoyed or outraged the viewers over the past decades. Kitsch, parody, self-harm, sex, violence, drugs or alienation, everything that has defined society over these years, making us appear as weird and messed-up as we know we are. The cited works belong to various artists, from Koons to Richard Prince, to Cindy Sherman or John Baldessari, Nan Goldin, Crewdson, JR Artist, Ai WeiWei or Banksy, to name a few.. 

No, making  pretty, soul-less photos for the placid, anonymous audience of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is NOT the way to go, regardless of the statistics. It’s the after-effect that matters, and that is how I, for one, think I have to work. I am trying to exercise prudence in pressing the shutter, and even more prudence when editing my stuff.

That is why at least four of my projects are still standing by, sometimes it's been months, or even years. (Yes, alright, that is laziness and procrastination more than prudence, but you get the idea.)

Andrew: The Crina I know is a lot funnier in personal interactions than on social media. How do you think social media perceives you?

Crina: I hope social media overlooks me enough to make me irrelevant. But if I should pick a specific description - a rather arrogant, opinionated person, one which you may eventually love to hate, if you get to know me better.

(*Thanks for calling me funny - it’s the cat factor, you're clearly biased!) 

Andrew: What was the first shot you took, where you thought “Wow. That’s not terrible, and I took that picture”. How did it make you feel?

Crina: February 2008, I did a portrait session in a friend’s photo studio. The model was gorgeous, and very comfortable in front of the camera. My friend, who is a professional photographer, set the lights, and the results were way beyond my expectations. To this day, I have some of the photos I took on that day, saved in my working Lightroom catalog, and I am still looking at them with a baffled eye.

I think that must have been *the* decisive moment for me to continue. And hey, it felt fantastic, it still does now, as I type this
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Andrew: How harsh a critique are you of your own work? Do you look at your own work and get annoyed at what you perceive isn't quite right in it, or do you make peace with it and move on?

Crina: It should be forbidden to look back at one’s own photos when depressed or angry for any reason. There are times when I believe everything I’ve done has little relevance, or it belongs to a dull stereotype; of course, that’s why I delete a lot of older images from time to time. On the other hand, I take long-ish breaks from editing, because I believe that storing material until I have the time to organize it and give it some coherence, is the only way to curate my rather impulsive manner of gathering photos. (Due to my regular job, I am forced to limit shooting to weekends or holidays, and therefore I can’t always be in top shape for it). 

Ultimately, I am doing photography because at this point it’s my way of remembering life and making notes on it, so bearing this in mind, I can - more often than not - make peace with what I have done and move on to a different project or experiment.

Andrew: On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), where do you feel you are in your photography journey?

Crina:

I’m wondering if this is a question for ‘introvert me’ or ‘narcissist me’, because there’d be different answers. I’m pretty good, anyway

Andrew: Photography can be an incredibly lonely endeavour, full of peaks and troughs. How do you keep inspired?

Crina: Everything, and I mean literally everything, inspires me. I have countless notes spread all over the place - in notebooks, on the phone, or stored (admittedly unreliably) in my mind. I make them at home, in the office, in the car, at a pub, or before sleep. Cinema, art and music are constantly stimulating  and balancing my levels of perception. That is of course the result of my old habit of overthinking. 

Producing something based on those notes or observations is, of course, another thing. The main frustration is when I have an idea that’s almost burning my mind, but one or more  trivial things prevent me from working on it. I blame mostly the lack of time, but also random stuff like - the model I have in mind is unavailable, weather sucks, I have some boring social engagements, or I am simply too tired or not feeling well enough to carry out the whole thing right away. 

Andrew: If you could give one piece of advice to the Crina Prida who has just picked up a camera, what would it be?

Crina: Don’t waste time on trying to please anyone (including yourself). Photography works best, for me, when it’s brutally honest and auto-referential. Trying to beautify it, either by clever editing or gearing up is probably a way of getting more money, but hardly helpful in making a statement, however insignificant.

Experiment anything and everything, there’s nothing entirely right or entirely wrong in photography.

Andrew: Show us your favourite picture of Mr Apricot. He is just fabulous! 

Mr Apricot

Just an FYI. There are a few boobs in the below shots. They aren’t gratuitous, just a heads up :)