Interview to Anne Silver: the "collagist" instant photographer

August 17, 2017

Although every day that passes we seem to grow, analogical photography continues to be a small-large community located in small "cyber-ghettos" where we let our creativity fly and where we can share our work and ways of seeing the world with other enthusiasts. One of these sites is The Impossible Project's Facebook group, where every day dozens of photographers discover other colleagues who let us enter into their little world of photography. Here is where I discovered the incredible Anne Silver, whose work amazed me from the beginning. I wanted to know more about her world, the way she works and her philosophy beyond image, so I decided to contact her and I asked her if she wanted to cooperate with us, and with complete kindness she acceded with the same enthusiasm as me.

I hope you like this interview as much as I enjoyed doing it. In addition, I want to send a huge thanks to Anne for her collaboration and absolute predisposition.


First of all, please, tell us a bit about yourself! What do you do, where are you established, and how did you start taking pictures with a Polaroid?

I am an American living in Paris, France. It was photography and love that brought me here to France, as my husband and I share a passion for photography. When I was in the US, I had a career as a psychotherapist, which I practiced for 16 years. However, all my life I wanted to be an artist. I have always made art of one kind or another, painting, drawing, mixed media art, photography. Since moving to Paris, I work on my art and writing full-time. I also work as a writer for the instant photography website/Journal PRYME Editions. It was just last year when I started taking pictures with a polaroid camera. The polaroid photos I had seen had such an artistic look and mood to them, I was curious to see if I could make this type of camera work with my vision.

 My wild nature:  Roots and Wings © Anne Silver
Why instant photography? What does this format offer you that another photographic technique – analog or digital – cannot offer?

I fell in love with the dreamy quality of the polaroids. It lends itself so very well to my style and allows me to create photos that seem to exist out of time. And there is something magical about seeing the photo develop and the bit of uncertainty that is inherent in integral film. The unpredictable nature of the film is something I find to be part of its charm. I love to work with transparencies, and integral film is the perfect medium for different types of manipulations and techniques. The possibilities there are endless!

Among the roses  © Anne Silver
Do you think your work has a fixed theme, or do you think that it varies depending on the photo / series / time?

I think my work has a general style or mood, regardless of the subject that I am photographing. My work shows a respect for the past and a sense of nostalgia or longing, and there is usually a certain element of sensuality in what I do. I try to capture the fleeting poetry of the moment in my photos. Everything is transient. The light changes, flowers die, we age. I use photography as a means of holding onto those precious moments, of preserving them. The light here in northern France is incredibly beautiful, and I love how it is captured by the Impossible Project films. I try to play with the light in my photos too. The natural world is an endless source of inspiration to me, and so I use a lot of natural objects in my work too, fresh and dried flowers, seed heads, leaves, butterflies. These elements are present whether I am taking portraits or still life photos. My connection to nature and to the turning of seasons is an essential part of who I am, and that comes through in my work.

Angels and Insects:  Memories of flight © Anne Silver
You use the technique of collage, superimposing objects like leaves on top of your photographs. Is this just for pictorial reasons, or does it have an artistic background? Can you tell us more about this photography and real objects collaging?

Collaging objects and photos is something I have been doing for years, only in another capacity! As I mentioned, I have always made art of one kind or another, so this recent work is really an extension of what has always been my artistic style. The superpositions are done to convey a mood, to convey a connection to nature, to add depth and interest to a photo, or to reinforce a theme.

What camera(s) do you use for your work? Do you have any preferences about the type of film? 

I use two different polaroid sx70 models, an original model and a sonar model. I usually use type 600 color film. It seems to work very well with the quality of the light here in northern France. I love black and white film, but in my polaroid work, I have a slight preference for color film. The colors that are rendered are often soft and painterly, something I adore with polaroids.

Primrose © Anne Silver
As you know, the world of instant photography survives thanks to The Impossible Project, a company to which we must thank that there is still analog film. Did you already take Polaroid pictures when Polaroid announced that they were going to stop making film? If so, how did you live these news?

When polaroid was still alive and well, I was shooting digital photography at that time. I regret that I missed out on being able to buy real polaroid films at prices that were reasonable. That being said, I am very thankful for the work of the Impossible Project. I love the quality of their films and the fact that their dedication to instant photography has enabled me to shoot my beloved polaroid cameras. 

Do you use any other photographic techniques for your work, such as analogue or digital? 

I shoot digital and a bit of 35mm analog photography. In my digital work, I love to use vintage lenses on my DSLR. The bokeh with those old lenses is beyond compare. I recently resurrected an old Minolta x700 that was hidden in the back of our closet and have taken it for a spin a couple of times. It also has some wonderful lenses that are really fun to work with.

My wild nature © Anne Silver
As you probably know, Polaroid has been acquired by The Impossible Project. How do you think this operation will affect the public working with instant photography?

I am hoping it means that instant photography, in all its forms, will survive indefinitely.

Let's talk about the 12.12 project, which you belong to. What is this movement about? The first editions only counted on women as collaborators, would you say it is a feminist project? What has brought you as a person, as a photographer and, of course, as a woman to join a project of this kind?

The 12.12 Project is an international photography collective that was started by the very talented instant photographer, Penny Felts. It was started as a way to challenge photographers to grow their skills and become better artists. I don't think feminism played into it. I think it Penny chose to create a women's group in the beginning because she is a woman herself, and there is a certain level of comfort in sharing and working with other women artists. That is just my speculation. As a woman, I find that to be true, that I feel a certain level of intimacy and security when working collectively with other women photographers. The members of the lady's project talk a lot and some of us have become very close to one another. And also, women are generally underrepresented in the world of photography, even though there are so many of woman photographers out there producing excellent work. It is important to note that.

There is now a women's group and a men's group. Each group works on making photos for a specific theme for each month of the year. The themes are chosen by the members, and so the men's group has different themes than the women's group. I was truly honored to have been invited to participate in the 12.12 project.

Will you catch me when I fall (up)  The softest embrace. (down) © Anne Silver

The project has already helped me grow as an artist. I am inspired and thrilled by the challenge of working with a theme, of having to produce photos that have been manipulated in some way, of trying new things, of stepping out of my comfort zone artistically speaking. Straight photography is not permitted by the 12.12 project. So not only do the members have to make a photo that represents that theme, we have to choose some sort of technique or manipulation, such as collages, emulsion lifts, transparencies, encaustic, painting the photos, etc. to go along with the photo(s) we have made.

Finally, can you tell us what is the next goal you wish to achieve as a photographer?

My goal as a photographer is to continue to create the many photo series that I have written in my list of themes/ideas to explore with my polaroid. I would like to continue to share my work and to exhibit it. And then eventually, I would like to publish a book of my photography. That is my ultimate goal.

Symbiosis © Anne Silver

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and my work with you! It has been a pleasure talking with you. You can connect with me on my Instagram, my website or on my Facebook page.

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