Women Crush Wednesday: Erika Huffman
Erika Huffman is a self-taught portrait photographer based in Portland, OR. She moved to Copenhagen in her early twenties and studied at Roskilde University. After moving back to Portland, she got a degree in Cultural Anthropology from Portland State University. Her work has been exhibited internationally and featured in numerous publications. When it comes to Huffman’s photographs, I would say they prove that oftentimes the simplest things have the most profound effects. The absence of color in her work helps viewers to put the focus on the essence she captured of subjects, which makes the photographs shine.
Interviewed by Jing Zhao
You made beautiful and profound portraits, Erika! As a photographer myself, I love black and white photographs. I feel like there are so many variations in between already. Can you tell us what draws you to black and white photography?
I’m not really sure why I like it. I think it’s because as a child when I first started to fall in love with photography it was the classic black and white images I was most drawn to. Black and white feels more true and essential to me. It might be because I don’t remember the color of things.
I always believe that a good photograph can form sort of connection between subjects and viewers. I am curious what constitutes a good portrait to your mind and how does it influence the work you made?
To me, a good portrait is about more than the subject. It’s about a shared experience with which many people can identify. In contrast, a snapshot is a picture with which only a few people can identify (for example a school portrait of your own child might be only interesting to friends and family).
Are you familiar with your subjects or they are mostly strangers?
I find my best portraits are of people I love. I do love taking pictures of strangers as well as it gives me an opportunity to connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise. It’s a very different process that involves a different quality of trust.
To engage with subjects must be challenging. I’ve heard that some photographers tend to talk a lot to subjects between shots; some barely say a word . How would you describe yourself in terms of the process?
It really depends on the situation. If I’m taking a portrait of a stranger I try to get to know them a little beforehand. I like to take note of their particular mannerisms or facial expressions. I do talk during the process as I find silence to be uncomfortable for both me and the subject.
Let’s talk about your ongoing project “over 90”, which focus on photograph people who are over age 90 in Portland.
This is an ongoing project that is far from finished. As I get older I find myself identifying more and more with older people and I suppose in that way it’s a method of getting to know myself and my possible future. I was also interested in learning how certain 90 year olds made it so far, what their secret was. Of course, the people I’m photographing are not representative of 90 year olds as a whole, rather 90 year olds that are active and open to being photographed.
1. How would you describe your creative process in one word?
2. If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
How to find what you like to photograph.
3. What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
“Ida”, a Polish film directed by Paweł Pawlikowski.
4. What is your most played song in your music library?
Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”.
5. How do you take your coffee?
Cold brewed with soy milk.
See more of Erika Huffman’s work here.