By Kerry Freek
Last week, I had the opportunity to interview international jetsetter Sandra Croft. We decided to meet in the environment known as Facebook to have a little chat about urban architecture, reeling in ‘aboutness’ in band photos, and the sense of place (and other-place).
MONDO: You take a lot of dreamy photos of the shapes that surround urbanites. What is it about architecture? How do buildings and structures inspire you?
Sandra Croft: I’ve lived in cities my entire life and urban architecture is the psychic data of my existence. The textures of urban life are amazing; there is much more of a sense of connectedness in these textures than people realize, and I try to show that in my photos. I don’t think I’ll ever be as awed by the sun setting over spectacular landscapes, as I am by sunlight catching a building at a certain angle at a specific time of day. The thing I love about buildings is that they never look the same twice. Architecture photography is actually very deceptive — people think the photographer shows up, clicks the shutter a few times and leaves with some great shots, when really it requires hours, even days of study. Photography is a lot about study. If it takes five hours to make a sauce, it takes five hours — I would rather make one perfect picture than ten mediocre ones. But also, I’ve taken some of my best photos completely spontaneously. Always take a camera everywhere; you never know what you’ll see. Photography is really all about that one moment, and you never know when it will strike — the light will only be perfect for that 0.3 seconds, and if you don’t have your camera out then, it’s lost forever.
My own personal style is pretty romantic, although I often cringe at that word when referring to my pictures. I rely heavily on mood, emotion, the ‘feeling’ the image evokes. My work is saturated in colour, and I think the reason for that is it’s how I experience things.
MONDO: Bands, musicians, and fashion also strike your fancy. I’ve seen some of your promo shots and they’re clearly treated with care. Tell us why you like working with such personalities. What is it about these glamorous subjects?
SC: I love music, and the myths that come with it. Fashion is always lurking in the back of my mind, more in the sense of how it expresses a point of view, and I think we are living in an era where we are at the end of fashion. Look at haute couture; it’s dead and incredibly irrelevant. People are wearing jeans and sportswear brands not only because the prices are more reasonable, but that their aesthetic is, quite simply, more adapted to modern times. I try to infuse fashion photos with the impression of standing at the edge of a new era, the old conventions are not as important as expressing a sense that anything could happen from now on.
To that end, Hedi Slimane’s work for Dior Homme has been a visual and philosophical obsession for the last few years. He strongly believes that music is in the hands of unknown musicians, and in youth street culture as an artistic form. Most of my promo shots are done in close collaboration with the band, and I try to study them first to determine exactly what about them needs to be expressed the most. I’ve been lucky that my first few jobs have been with friends I know really well, and who know really well what they want. I laugh at the idea that it could be anything close to glamorous. I once spent close to an hour in muddy jeans trying to coax the lead singer of a band who shall remain unnamed for their sake out of a tree with wine coolers and cigarettes.
MONDO: You did some of your growing up in Singapore, and some in Toronto. How do you think exposure to these different environments and cultures has figured into your artwork?
SC: I have been lucky enough to travel extensively and I really value observation as a way to extract the visual resources of a city. I think the experience of living in different cities has definitely contributed to the visual style of my work. I try to infuse every picture with a sense of place, but also of other-place, so that the person looking at the picture maybe thinks of vague memories they have, but can’t put their finger on what exactly it is that is drawing those memories.
MONDO: What is your dream job (relating to photography, art, or otherwise)?
SC: I want to run my own design studio one day. And be successful enough at photography to make money. I suppose the two go hand in hand. The most important criteria for choosing people I’d want to work with is that they must love music.
MONDO: What and who influences your work? Which artists do you appreciate and/or admire?
SC: My real heroes are architects and furniture designers.
Milton Glaser, the graphic designer, has shaped a lot of my philosophy on design. The most important idea I got from him is the idea of a sort of mobility in life. Learn how something is done, do it well, and then move on to other things. That you can abandon your own history and move on and give up and say, “I was wrong then” or “I don’t believe in that anymore”. That belief, in terms of the Platonic ideals of form and beauty, would be considered nonsensical.
Marcel Duchamp turned everything I thought about art on its head, with his cultivated resistance to playing the art game, increasing the prices, protecting the deals, all that fraud that is supposed to be art.
The Horrors are one of my favourite bands ever, along with David Bowie’s humanoid alien in The Man Who Fell To Earth, and of course, Brian Eno.
And of course, I have a muse; together we feud and contradict each other and run endless interference on even the most mundane of details.
MONDO: What is your favourite piece of art? Why?
SC: I love the photorealism paintings of Gerhard Richter. Duchamp, most definitely. The Futurist Manifesto figures strongly into a lot of my work. I know it lead to Fascism and all that, but I love how it expresses people taking a stand and being so sure of how they could sculpt the future.
MONDO: Do you have plans for future artistic endeavours? Enlighten us! Eglinton us!
SC: Other than taking over the world, I’m showing some photos soon at a gallery. MONDO will definitely be invited!