"I think I am a part of every photograph I take." (an interview with Ilana Newman)


The Half Mystic family is delighted to invite our featured artist for Issue I onto the blog today for a brief chat. Her expressive and spellbinding photographs remind us that music is not only an experience of sound but of sight and softness and shadow as well, and her photographs lend depth and grace to the pages of Issue I. Please join us in giving the warmest of welcomes to our very first featured artist, Ilana Newman.

HM: Issue I's theme is Allegro: "the skipping pulse, the desperate escape, the dash of fast – fast – faster." How does that theme resonate with you as an artist? As a human?

IN: I am always trying to keep busy, sometimes to a detrimental degree. I love to find myself taking on project after project, always trying to have something creative to look forward to. I really only feel accomplished when I have a creative project to work on, to complete to the best of my ability. As a full time student with a part time job, and friends to spend time with, finding time for art can sometimes be challenging, but that is my release, my breath of fresh air, to really feel like I am doing something with these moments that I am given. That being said, it is also definitely important to take that time to rest, time for myself, a pause, a beat, before starting up all over again.

How do you decide what to photograph?

I mostly photograph people. I love capturing the essence of a person in that moment. People are so complicated and interesting, and I love studying that through my lens. I try to find a balance between candid shots and more posed shots, because I love what can happen without any interference on my part, but then again, it is a different sort of image when I can create my own vision using the people around me. Recently, I have started trying to branch out from just focusing on people, and I enjoy the way that photography is all about finding the beauty in the ordinary.

What, to you, is the relationship between photography and music?

Music is such a huge part of my life. I make so many playlists, and music is a consistency in my life. I am influenced a lot by my favorite lyrics, and this often plays into some of the more conceptual work that I do. Recently I have been making short films, and finding the perfect song to go along with my images is always the defining factor of the piece.

How much of a person can be captured in a photograph?

As much as I am constantly striving to tell the stories of my subjects, I've been thinking about this question a lot lately, and I really don't think that much of a person can be captured, especially in one image. We all have so many sides to us, so much complexity and spirit; it really can never be captured, especially by something as technical as a camera. That being said, I think that a good photograph does definitely convey something about the subject to the audience.

With that in mind, how much of your own self is evident in your photographs?

Oh, I think probably there is more of myself in my photographs than there is of the subject, just based on my specific style of taking a photo: the framing, the editing, etc. Also, a lot of the time, I will plan and style a shoot, thus giving my own artistic vision to it. Even with my more journalistic work, I think I am a part of every photograph I take. Recently I have been trying to embrace this more and put myself out there as an artist, no matter how scary it is to reveal that much of myself to the world.

Where do you think your artistic journey began?

I have always been an artist. When I was growing up, I was the creative one, and my sister was the athletic one. I started my journey with photography sophomore year of high school when I took a darkroom photography class with Heidi Kirkpatrick, who taught me what it takes to be an artist and how to push my own boundaries as a photographer. I didn't start really exploring the world of digital photography until probably a year after that, and I have just gone from there, always trying to reach farther and learn more about my own art.

Describe your artistic philosophy in five songs.

Wow. This is an insanely hard question. Five songs, hmm... I think the five songs that I resonate with the most at the moment would be (in no particular order): "Pools" by Glass Animals, "No Worries" by Pogo, "Intro" by Alt J, "Back Again" by Flor, and "No Destruction" by Foxygen.

What we at Half Mystic especially love about your work is your use of light. What guides that?

One of the first things I was told in my first photography class was that photography was the study of light. Light can influence so much about a photograph, it can manipulate reality and give a sense of wonder. That is something that has stuck with me over the years, and I try to use light to give a new perspective to a photograph.

What has gotten you excited about your craft lately?

Over the past year I have been struggling a lot with the direction that I am heading with my photography. I have never really had a niche that I fit into well—I love photographing people, I do more commercial fashion photography shoots, I do conceptual portraits, I take a more photojournalistic approach. I love it all, but the common thread in all of my work is the stories. When I was young, I wanted to grow up to be an author. I loved the art of the story. Recently, I have realized that that never really left; it only evolved to a more visual medium. I decided that instead of conforming to one type of photography or another, all I really need to do to stay true to myself is to tell stories. I deleted all my photos on my Instagram (ilana.fay) and started fresh. Now I am working on one project at a time, combining my love for words with my love for images, and trying to care less and less about the reaction of my "followers." That really has given me a new perspective on my art, and definitely gives me more of a feeling of accomplishment when I complete something.

How are you looking to grow as a photographer?

I am just hoping that I will keep pushing the boundaries of photography in my own way. I love taking inspiration from the incredible artists around me, but I need to find my own path and own way of creating art, because that is the only way I will really feel proud of myself. I want to continue exploring other mediums as well, and make more films as well, because I really find that that is a medium that story telling really blossoms in.

Bio: Ilana Newman is a writer, photographer and film maker who has lived the Pacific Northwest her entire life, but will be going many many more places in the foreseeable future. She is most at home in the mountains, and spends as much time outside as possible. She attends Western Washington University where she is planning on studying photography and writing. Her passion is storytelling.

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