Back in November I had the delight doing a photo shoot with the inspired Elisa Berger. It was a pleasant, if overcast morning, and we met up for a couple of hours at Hampstead Heath for a portrait session. It was very laid back, and Elisa helped me feel entirely at ease in front of the camera. The final photos are some of my favourite to date, and I thought it might be nice to get to know Elisa a little better...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF?
"I'm Elisa - nineteen years old, part German, part Japanese, part American, studying in the US, and originally from Munich Germany. I love sleeping in past noon, English breakfast tea with soy milk, long train rides, skiing, smells that remind me of when I was younger, long walks in the city, and snow.
I devote most my free time to photography and while it might be wonderful to pursue it fully as my primary profession one day, my main goal in photography currently is simply to grow and develop further."
WHAT FIRST SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN PHOTOGRAPHY?
"It's a curious thing but most people only seem to pay enough attention to their environment to think of something as photo worthy when they go on holiday to Paris or Rome, and it was the same for me - it was during a summer five years ago which I spent traveling when I first started taking lots of pictures with a digital compact camera. It was so rewarding that I developed the habit of carrying around a camera everywhere when I got back home as well, soon realizing that the opportunities for photos present themselves everywhere (not just when the Eiffel tower is around!) when you pay just a little attention."
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
"I suppose that any photo goes through its first phase when someone with a camera is inspired by something they see. Where in my opinion the difference between a photo and a successful photo lies is the photographer's ability in that moment to capture what inspires him in a way that is able to captivate and touch other people and communicate the initial spark of inspiration.
During portrait sessions my primary source of inspiration is therefore always the subject of the photo. Portrait photography is magically spontaneous and collaborative and as the photographer you are just as heavily dependent on the person you are photographing as yourself. They become the centre of all my focus during a shoot and the only inspiration my mind consciously registers at that moment to try and work with them to for an effective capture."
WHAT IS IT YOU LOVE IN PARTICULAR ABOUT PORTRAITURE?
"Ansel Adams once said that "there are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs" and though he was a landscape photographer, I have come to find that that especially holds true in portrait photography. While use of space, composition, angle, expression and emotion are all crucial considerations in a good portrait shot, portrait photography to me is about being spontaneous, interacting with someone effectively and portraying them in a certain way by letting go and being flexible and perceptive because you can't control the factors and variables. I equally enjoy other types of photography, but because of this my work in portrait photography has been far more challenging and exciting because of how dynamic it feels to me."
ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR ASPIRING PHOTOGRAPHERS?
"Photography is unique in what it is to offer because it is such an accessible art form. The notion that "any old idiot can call themselves a photographer these days" is most commonly used by photographers to complain about others who take photos and don't quite know what they're doing yet. I think that's just plain silly. It is a truly wonderful thing that these days everyone has access to a camera, and everyone should be able to be a photographer if they wish to. I didn't start photography because I thought my outcomes would be fantastic and to this day I don't know if I want to pursue photography as a main occupation, but I find taking photos deeply rewarding and strangely liberating. And if you feel remotely the same way, nobody is in a position to tell you that you cannot be a photographer - so long you have any kind of camera, a little curiosity and a little will to experiment and take risks."