A candid moment with Andrea Margaret on her thoughts
There are three people in the above photograph, and it would also be true to say that there are none. What starts as a familiar scene—a young beautiful woman staring into her reflection—has been complicated. Questions peek out. You begin to wonder why her unreflected body is obscured. Who exactly is she hiding? The photograph no longer looks like a self-portrait but one taken by a friend or a partner in a quiet hurry. You can imagine this friend wondering the same questions: “What is she thinking? Why is she making that face?” This friend, or lover, would stand just behind her shoulder, his or her head resting weightlessly on her floral wallpaper. He’s close enough to her, yes. He can almost hear her breathing, but his questions have no answers.
Andrea Margaret is a model and emerging photographer based in California. In this short interview, she talks to me about her recent work in photography, her modeling, and her thoughts on vulnerability.*
Do photographers capture a moment of the world or create one? Is a photo something that they’ve read from reality or something that they’ve written in? Something else? What do you think?
It really depends. I think it can be both.
When did you begin shooting photography? Were you always around the visual arts?
I began shooting seriously, although not very frequently, around 2010-2011. It has slowly become more frequent over the years. I’ve always had an interest in the visual arts, I think, and I’ve been modeling for a long time now, so I’ve been around it for a good chunk of my life.
In being engaged with both the creating and performing of visual language as a photographer and a model, you’re in a great position to think about what a camera unveils about personality. For example, do you think people perform or reveal their personality? That is, do the objects people wear and the ways they carry themselves correspond to what they want to project or to what the inner self has directed? Do you think there’s a deeper, essential, constant self?
Well, there’s that saying “every photograph is a self portrait,” and I think there is some truth to that. You really can’t escape revealing who you are even if you are putting on an act. Every choice you make, whether as a model, a photographer, or just a person in general, gives insight to your character. With photos, the choices that are made in their creation, whether as a photographer or a model, become self-evident. Of course, everyone who views a photograph will interpret things in their own way. Some photos allow for this more than others.
The further in time I look back to a photo of me the more I’m mystified by what I see. The camera unveils the many different selves that I am. And it violates the natural ordering of these selves by breaking down the seamless linkage between past and present. It makes the performance the reality. What do you think? Have you entered a new city and acted as though you were not Andrea Margaret but somebody else? Have you ever surprised yourself by who you become in front of the camera?
Yes, people are multifaceted. Different environments and people can affect expression, such as a new city and its energy or a photographer or a model that you might be working with. These factors can bring different qualities out of people, and at times, yes, I’ve been surprised.
Would you rather create a self-portrait that all your closest friends and loved ones say captures who you are or one that only you think does so? Would there be a difference between the two?
I think self-portraiture is very personal, so I’m more concerned with what I want to capture. There may be some difference between the two, but as I mentioned in one of my previous answers, you can’t really escape revealing who you are, so I think at least some qualities would be recognizable.
I read an interview that said you’re still working on expressing vulnerability behind the camera. Could you explain what vulnerability means to you, exactly? How do know you’re not fully vulnerable yet? How would vulnerability help the “Andrea Margaret ” photography?
Well, as a photographer you have creative control and that is putting yourself in a position of vulnerability. You’re sharing your vision and ideas, you’re sharing a piece of yourself that people might never see, knowing full well that you could be misunderstood.
Every choice that you make during the creation of a photograph is open to interpretation and criticism, and that can be daunting so you might hold back a bit when creating or sharing your work, and it’s often obvious. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable because I think that’s where the best work comes from.
I’ve been photographing off and on for several years, but I’m just only starting to feel comfortable with embracing and sharing my work. As someone who has modeled for so long, I think having creative control is a different experience for me, but it’s something I really want at this point.
I love asking photographers who travel a lot about what they’re seeing as they answer these questions. So I’ll ask you. What’s the light like right now? What do you hear? Could you capture a photo right now in this environment?
I’m in a dark, dimly lit bedroom, I hear wave sounds from an old boom box, and I’d like to think that a great photo can be captured in any environment, so I’d say yes, although it would be challenging in this room.
If each photograph is a recognition of the world’s command to listen, which moments of the world do you find yourself listening to the most?
Raw, truthful moments and moments that heighten the senses or bring about nostalgia.
Check out all of Andrea Margaret’s work on her Tumblr!
*The introduction to this interview has been edited from what was originally published.