An Interview with Claudia Smith by Roeg Cohen
Claudia Smith is a photographer based in Sydney, Australia.
We spoke by email between NYC and Australia after she returned from a summer in Paris.
Hi Claudia, How are you?
And what time is it where you are?
I am good! Just getting over jet lag. It’s just turned 9am.
How are you?
I’m good. It’s 7pm here. We can chat over dinner/breakfast.
What part of Australia are you in again?
I’m based in Byron bay
It looks beautiful. I have a slight obsession with Aussie wildlife.
Tell me about your trip to Paris. It must have been a vastly different lifestyle shift for you.
You’ve never been? You should come visit!
Yes! I was in living in Paris. It was completely different in so many aspects (from swimming in the ocean to being in a city that has a history of more than 2,000 years) both places have been so significant in shaping myself, and a lot of the work I am producing. I think it’s really important for anyone to engage and immerse themselves in different spaces. You never know what you might get out of it. I think it’s also a really good thing to be pushing yourself, learning to rely on yourself and discovering things you might never of found yourself thinking or doing or seeing. Do you think where you live shapes the thoughts in your mind or the work you create?
I’ve never been. I’m determined to see a platypus in its natural habitat, so I will definitely visit one day.
Paris is wonderful. I’m disappointed we didn’t get a chance to cross paths there.
I’m curious to see the work you made there. One of the things I’ve always liked about your work is the dichotomy of sophistication set in the Australian outdoors.
Picnic at Hanging Rock and Walkabout would be easy comparisons of that contrast…but I’ll make them anyway.
I think where you live definitely contributes to what you create. Whether it’s a place you aren’t inspired by, and you’re driven into your imagination. Or a city like Paris which is inspiring in so many ways.
I’m not particularly inspired by NY visually but I was so caught up in all the energy when I moved here, that I picked up a camera for the first time and decided to be a photographer.
I haven’t even seen a platypus yet! Haha.
Yeah, would’ve been lovely to create something together in Paris. But for now I’m so glad we got to work together through double exposing a roll. I think that is such a beautiful way to work with someone when distance is the only reason you might not be able to.
Totally agree with you here, place is very important no matter what way it drives you. So glad you moved to NY then, you were always destined to create photographs. Can really see your connection to that through your work, so subtle and beautiful. Your pictures really create silent moments where you get lost inside them. Even through the roll we shot together, I really love how some pieced together and we created this combination of our works that together spoke something new.
Your kind words are very flattering, thank you. I’ve always thought there was a kinship between your pictures and mine. When you consider the geographical, gender, and age gaps; that’s really interesting to me. Bridging all those things on one roll of film, and having the results correlating visually, speaks of something that is perhaps more than just serendipity.
After spending all those months in Paris, how are you feeling about your work now that you’re home? I would image you have new perspectives.
Guess it was more than serendipity!
I definitely feel a lot different about my work – I always adore nature and creating work in it, but for now I’m moving away from creating in it. I think Paris really had me inspired about architecture and specific interiors so I’d really love to develop more of that, and stories or intentions within my work that aren’t just the beautiful aesthetic of nature – which I so often used to do.
I’ve always liked that the images you’ve done in nature are still about the subject. The model is not reduced by the environment; They remain the focus.
Beautiful women in a beautiful environment can fall to so many clichés. Your pictures never suffer from that. I’m so accustomed to shooting in tight spaces I don’t know what I would do with a luxury of it.
The images made for this story were a function of the distance between us being an impediment to me shooting Claudia’s portrait.
I shot a roll of 35mm film in NY. I retracted the lead of the film, and mailed it to Claudia in Australia. She shot the roll again: double exposing the film. And then returned it to me to develop.
Close to 20, 000 miles round trip.