SARAH ELISE ABRAMSON
interview JORGE PEREZCHICA
Tell us about yourself and your background as a photographer?
Sure! My name is Sarah Elise Abramson and I’m a 28-year-old fine art contemporary photographer. I started photographing when I was 11 years old, which means I’ve literally had 17 years to find, develop, and fine tune my craft. I live and work out of San Pedro, California, which can only be described as a sleepy little port town full of the most eclectic and eccentric bunch of weirdos I’ve ever come across. I love it here. It’s the only place I’ve been where you can see someone with an eye patch on a daily basis. I have a studio at Angel’s Gate Cultural Center that I feel incredibly obliged to have due to its uniquely strange and stupendous atmosphere as well as its curious history. Before it was turned into artist studios, the buildings severed as military housing up until the 1970s and before that, a Native American tribe used to perform ceremonies here on the cliff that overlooks the ocean. All the artists here feel it; some sort of residual energy that makes for an enigmatic outpour of creativity. The place always feels quiet and rather deserted yet you never feel like you’re alone. It’s hard to explain, and doesn’t feel negative or threatening, but it’s an undeniably rare and unprecedented place.
Which artists have had the most influence on your work?
My early influences were definitely David LaChapelle and Diane Arbus because it was the first time I was seeing something I related to on a deeper, more inherent level. It was also the first time I saw that you could photograph the things you are obsessed with, do it a significant way, and have it evoke a reaction or emotion from a complete stranger; all while maintaining a unique and recognizable style. As my style changed and evolved, so did my influences. Currently, the artists that inspire me the most are Francesca Woodman, Susan Worsham, Ana Mendieta, Helmut Newton, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Pierre Huyghe, Maya Daren, and Oscar Wilde.
You shoot almost exclusively with analog as apposed to digital — what do you see in analog and not in digital?
With film there is magic and an implied preciousness because you have a limited number of frames. It forces you to slow down and consider everything happening from corner to corner of the frame and once you have the perfect composition, that’s when you take the picture. With digital you can just shoot and shoot and there’s not much consideration regarding all the elements that, for me, make a photograph exquisite. Digital eliminates all the alchemy from the craft, which is what made me fall in love with photography in the first place. I respect digital photography and digital photographers I’m just stuck on film.
Many of your photos are of nudes. What draws you to them?
I shoot nudes because I find it to be natural and beautiful. It’s also my way of trying to make a statement about societies outlook on nudity today. The general public seems to believe that we should be ashamed of our bodies, especially women. I strongly disagree with this. Another important reason for shooting nudes is that it lends a hand in keeping my photographs “era-less.” I think a great photo is timeless and seems as though it could have been taken yesterday or 50 years ago. Clothing dates things, hence the preferred nudity.
What are you currently working on and what’s next?
I’m currently working on finishing a photo series titled “Parallels” that explores dreams and our subconscious. I’ve been working on this series for about four years now. I’ve also begun the start of a new series — photographing other photographers and filmmakers that have inspired me in one way or another. David LaChapelle was my first subject and, if all goes well, David Lynch will be my second. It’s interesting how almost every artist I’ve met who spend the majority of their time behind the camera strongly dislikes being put on the other side, myself included. It’s about relinquishing control on their part and just examining the relationship between subject and photographer.
I’m also working on several different ongoing collaborations, the first being with my pen pal and fellow analog photographer, Sarah Seene, titled “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” Sarah lives in France and we’ve never actually met in person but found each other years ago because our Polaroid work has a very ethereal and similar feel to it. Each week we take turns choosing a word and then taking a Polaroid that depicts that word. The Sarah that picked the word for that week then sends the other Sarah the Polaroid. Then, that Sarah plays off the Polaroid and depicts the same word but in her own voice.
Your work shows great imagination. What inspires you?
Photography started giving me a certain sort of happiness that I wasn’t getting from life without it. I’m easily distracted and, like a kid, get really excited about little things. It’s the little details of life that make this life so special… spaces of otherness, things not easily labeled, the magic both light and dark, the echoes throughout nature and life in general, blowing bubbles in your drink with a straw, passion and people who are passionate, compassion, music, surrealist paintings, the things we won’t ever know or understand, and most importantly, my friends.