Woman Crush Wednesday: Holly Andres
Interview by Lucy Farrell
Each setting for your shoots visibly have so much detail. Do you have a team that you build sets with or is it all created by yourself?
Most of my work is shot on location (vs. in a studio) and while I primarily do all my own location scouting and art direction for my sets, some of the commercial shoots that I have worked on have required constructing spaces and in those instances I collaborated with a team of set builders.
In my personal work I spend a lot of time working independently. Preparing the space can be a rather laborious endeavor that typically takes a few days to install and light before the subjects even arrive. In my earlier series, Stories from a Short Street or Sparrow Lane, for example, I produced about one photograph a month. My most recent series, The Fallen Fawn and Summer of the Hornets, was approached more like the commercial shoots I’ve recently worked on. I rented a house I had discovered when I attended an estate sale near my home. During the five days I had access to the house, I devoted two days to cleaning and propping the space, two days to shooting and one day to pack out. I hired three photo assistants and one PA who helped with logistics and wardrobe. In the end, we worked really fast on a pretty scrappy budget.
Do you go into each shot with a consciously prepared vision? Do you allow moments of improvisation?
Yes, I do approach my shoot with a consciously prepared vision. When I gaze through the camera, I try to think like a painter and consider every aspect of the composition – the colors and textures of the fabrics, the value contrasts of the lighting, the position of the objects and characters, and the dynamic between the figure and ground. I then try to couple my vision, with an attempt to capture natural uncertainty. I am finding that the counterbalance of a structured plan with the unpredictable response of the subjects’ “performance” governs the most compelling results.
Your series Cats and Dogs is one of my favorite projects. What is your creative process when photographing animals?
Animals, like children, are tricky, but fortunately the camera shutter speed is fast, and if the lighting and set is dialed in, the duration of time in which the animals are in front of the camera can be quite brief. Photo shoots are always filled with obstacles as well as moments of serendipity. They're very much about problem solving. When working with animals the biggest challenge is trying to capture and materialize the image I have in my mind.
Your interest in childhood and family life must stem from your experience as the youngest of 10 children from rural Montana, am I correct? What was it like for you to create your project Stories from a Short Street? Did your siblings enjoy the reenactments?
Yes, this is true. I grew up in western Montana on a small farm, the youngest daughter of 10 children. It didn’t seem that unique at the time, though as I’ve gotten older I increasingly recognize what an unusual experience it was. At this point in my life, I have now lived away from my childhood home almost exactly as long as I lived in it, but yet, it is the setting for many of my dreams and my recollection of poignant moments that occurred within its walls remain as vivid as ever. I have become captivated by this response. As an artist I have used photography to examine the complexities of childhood, the fleeting and subjective nature of memory, and personal narration as a form of feminist expression. I think my family is curious by the work I make and enjoy learning about it from my subjective point of view.
Sparrow Lane explores the growth of young sisters as they lose their innocence. Can you talk about this project a bit? Did you use this series as a way of studying your relationship with your own sisters?
The Sparrow Lane series is ultimately about adolescent sisters whose acquiring of forbidden knowledge results in a loss of innocence, and while the process was informed by my own relationship with my sisters, the series was predominantly influenced by the fictional novels that I read as a child. Most specifically, I used the thematic and formal elements of Nancy Drew books, as well as familiar iconography inherent in the stories, such as mirrors, birdcages, chrome flashlights, spilt milk, secret passage ways, skeleton keys and hidden objects as psycho-sexual metaphors to examine the precarious transition from girl to woman.
How would you describe your creative process in one word?
If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
At the moment I would love to teach a workshop to craft unique and expressive political protest signs.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
I recently watched the 1976 made-for-tv miniseries Sybil. Is stars a young Sally Field who is afflicted by multiple personality disorder.
What is the most played song in your music library?
“I can’t go for that” by Hall and Oates is a long-time favorite.
How do you take your coffee?
I’ve been partial to a chia latte with soy milk these days.