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Creative Photography Lives at Dawson: Spotlight on Aja Palmer

by Arts and Culture editor Julia

October 21, 2015 | Arts and Culture

As a fairly artistic person myself, I’ve always been interested in the creative processes of other artists. Despite the fact that it’s almost inherently meant to be shared with others, art is a deeply personal, intimate thing.

On that note, I was fortunate to be able to have a little Q&A session with Dawson’s very own Aja Palmer, a photographer who fosters a talent for mystic, ethereal self-portraiture. Aja is a first semester arts & culture student with a sophisticated style that stretches far beyond her age.  Here, she talks art, photography and trusting your creative instincts.

Julia: To start off, how long have you been interested in photography? What inspired you to start taking pictures?

Aja: I’ve always had a certain interest in photography as my dad used to be a photographer and my paternal grandmother was also driven by the same art form. My father always took pictures of me as a child so I started manipulating the camera at a young age. I only became really passionate about photography in 2012, when I was 13 years old. I started taking photography more seriously at that time, when I realized I had a certain talent and it was simply a way to capture moments for me.

Julia: Has your motivation changed? What does photography mean to you right now?

Aja: Photography is still a way for me to capture moments, but I also do it to express myself now. I also plan and develop photographs in my mind, which is something I didn’t used to do.

Julia: The technical aspects of photography are crucial to good images, but near-impossible to master. How has your technical knowledge, as well as your choice of equipment, evolved over time?

Aja: I’m mostly self-taught which means that I’ve taken little to no classes to learn about photography. I’ve learned most of what I know off the internet and just by trying things out for myself. As for my equipment, I started off by using my step dad’s Canon camera and then was able to save up for my own. I’ve upgraded from that camera around a year ago to a used Canon 5d mark ii that I really love. As for lenses, I’ve been using the Canon 50mm f/1.8 since the beginning but have added a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art and a Canon 85mm f/1.8 to my collection. I am also a slight hoarder of old film cameras which I occasionally use.

Julia: Judging by the amazing content of your website, you enjoy taking self-portraits. What is it about self-photography that you find so appealing? What sets it apart from other kinds of photography?

Aja: I do enjoy self-portraiture. I started taking self portraits for the simple reason that I didn’t have any siblings to photograph on a daily basis. So it was just an easy option to use myself as the subject. I also started taking self-portraits because a lot of photographers I looked up to (such as Alex Stoddard and Evan James Atwood – on flickr) were doing so. Now, I also find that by photographing myself, I express my emotions much more than if I am taking pictures of other people.

Julia: What other subjects do you most enjoy photographing?

Aja: I also really enjoy photographing people. My friends, family and children are subjects that I really like using. I do like taking photographs of landscapes too, but often find that I cannot be as creative as with portraits.

Julia: Art students are often discouraged with statements like, “And what do you plan on doing with that?” or the more blunt “There are no jobs in your field of study.” Do you plan on pursuing a career in photography? How do you feel about comments like that?

Aja: I do plan on pursuing a career in photography. A few people have commented things like that when I told them about my plans, but on the other hand a lot have been extremely supportive and told me to just go for it. So regarding those negative comments I feel like, yes, building a career as a photographer won’t be easy but I’m willing to try, and I don’t intend on giving up anytime soon.

Julia: What piece of advice might you offer to aspiring photographers, and artists of all kinds?

Aja: Trying to reproduce other artist’s creations can be a good way to practice your technique but it’s really important to trust your instinct and creativity to find your own style. So try to look at other artists’ works to get inspired but develop those ideas and make them your own.

All photos are Copyright Aja Palmer.  Check out more of Aja’s photography on her website and follow her instagram.


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