Anna-Rose; London-born photographer slash violinist. Get to know the girl behind the photos, why she’s in love with film, the thought process behind her Sisterhood series, and her thoughts on youth activism.
16’s never looked so good.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m 16, born in 2000 – millennial baby ;). I was born in Camberwell in South East London, and moved to Dulwich (which is also in South East London) when I was 4. I’ve lived there ever since. My go to binge-watch is probably Skam or Skins, but I don’t actually watch much TV; I don’t really have enough time. I’m always so busy!
How did you get into photography?
I’ve always studied art at school, so I’ve always been very aware and appreciative of photography. It wasn’t actually until last year that I really got into photography – my friend gave me a film camera for my birthday, and I started to experiment with it, learning how to develop and print my photos in the dark room at school. I really got into the whole process and caught the bug, and I’ve been taking photos ever since.
Firstly, the pictures created with 35mm film; they have a unique, often grainy quality which I have always loved. And the whole process of manually adjusting the shutter speed and the F-Stop to focus your camera really allows you to understand the basic principles behind how a camera works.
Working in the dark room also helps in understanding how pictures are produced. My art teacher at school taught me how to develop and print my images, so I spend a few hours a week in the dark room which I really love. It’s very relaxing, I put some music on and produce my images. I much prefer working with 35mm rather than digital, because it really makes you (the photographer) focus on all the elements when taking a picture. You’ve paid for the film at a costly price, and it’s not like a digital SLR where you can take 40 photos and constantly check to see how the picture came out. You have to be really aware of the photo as you take it.
Film provides a stronger connection with your subject. The fact that your image isn’t instantly produced really pulls your attention towards all elements in your photo; the light, composition, form, colour …
Let’s talk about the sisters project – what draws you to the bond of sisterhood?
I think it’s the relationship between two females, who have come from the same parents and have grown up together. Whether they get on well or not, it’s an intimate relationship like no other. The female companionship lasts throughout both of their lives and there is something about the relationship between sisters that no other relationship can compare to.
How do you capture this through photography?
For my project, I have a broad variety of sisters, from my neighbours who are 7 and 11 to my granny and her sister who are 80 and 85. I want to photograph and capture the relationships from all different ages to see the evolution of the relationship, and how it can develop.
When photographing a set of sisters, I usually already know one of them so it’s a friendly atmosphere. I interview them about their relationship and try to bring the dynamic of their relationship to the camera. For example I photographed my friends Otti (15) and Izzy (18) the other day, and they’re really good friends. They get on really well, so in the final photo I chose, they’re giggling and smiling with their heads side by side, just very relaxed in each others company.
How do you find sisters to photograph?
Funnily enough, I just know a lot of sisters. I live in a neighbourhood full of schools and nice parks so there are lots of children and teenagers around. I was pleasantly surprised when I listed all the possible sisters I knew that I could potentially photograph. I also reached out to mutual friends and asked them if they would be interested in partaking in my project.
So how do you choose which sisters to photograph? Is there something that draws you to a particular set?
I suppose, when I am looking for a variety of relationships, however I don’t ever dismiss a set of sisters. Each set has their own individual, unique characteristics, and the more I can find the better. I mean, I find it interesting when talking to the sisters, in terms of the differences in relationships. I have 10 year olds and 7 year olds breaking into fights mid-way through the interview, and older women still bickering with each other, and sisters lovingly talking about each other, and sisters looking at the other wishing they’d never been born.
Do you have a sister?
Yes, I have an 11 year old sister called Mary-Jane.
What’s your relationship like with her?
She’s 6 years younger than me, so we don’t have much to fight about. She plays with her friends, playmobile, lego… I work, see my friends and go out. Our daily paths don’t really cross, which is actually good, because we get on really well when we do hang out. Occasionally we have karaoke nights where we get my projector out and spend a long night dancing and singing along to some funky tunez, and make pom poms or hama beads together, or just laugh at memes.
So I want to talk about activism now … you’ve been photographing your friends protesting quite a lot – I take it you’re interested in politics?
Of course. I mean, with Brexit, the Refugee Crisis, the rise in Islamophobia, Trump … I don’t know how one couldn’t be interested in politics in our current universal political state.
So you’re involved in activism?
Yes, I regularly attend protests and marches. Last weekend I went to a march in Central London about Brexit and the EU. There were all these signs, posters and banners with these personal political viewpoints. From previously attending various other marches, I knew I had always been drawn to the creative and satirical personal touches people would put into their signs.
So, I’m currently working on a photographic series called ‘Signs That Say Something’. I’ve been stopping various marchers and asking if I can photograph them and their signs. The Signs That Say Something series is currently compromised of over 40 photographs, and includes a broad variety of participants, from a 4 year old in his first march to an 80 year old woman who’d been campaigning against racism since the 1950s. The series is a social, historical and political documentation; a reflection of the effects political decisions have on the people of the UK.
Wow, can’t wait for that! So what has your experience protesting been like?
It’s mostly been really positive, with some amazing speakers. They’re really invigorating to be involved with.
I get a strong sense of solidarity when in a march; everyone is in it together. I suppose you do feel part of a wider political community, marching with people for the same beliefs.
Do you have any tips on attending protests?
Always stay safe, it’s fun to go with some friends, make a sign or a poster, and just have fun!
Is there a next project, or a dream project …?
I’m a violinist, and I’m currently working on a producers album at the moment. I’m also planning a small film about teenagers and their bedrooms (more complicated/interesting than it sounds!) which will hopefully be finished by the end of August!
I think a dream project would probably involve being funded with an extensive supply of 35mm film and money to travel, and be able to take photos in some beautiful places. I would also really love to create a biopic documentary one day about one of my favourite writers or artists.