It's been a year since my last feature and interview, a lot has happened since. If you are interested you can read a little bit about it on my personal blog here.
Let's get right to it! I am very excited to talk to one of my favorite photographers and people in Austin, Whitley Stratton. I had the pleasure of meeting Whitley while we both were studying photography at Texas State. I think our first class together was Intro to Digital Photography. I loved every single project she did— the way she used lighting, the portraits, and all the crazy ideas that she would translate into beautiful and colorful photographs. I always thought she was fearless when it came to trying new and crazy things. She had the guts of putting herself into her work, creating crazy alter egos that showed a little bit more of her personality, which reminded me a little of Cindy Sherman's self-portraits.
One of the things I love about Whitley is that when you meet her, she seems a little shy and reserved but once you get to see her work, her true persona is revealed and you understand the way she communicates with the world. Whitley uses social media to display her humorous and sarcastic photographs very often. If you follow her on her Instagram, you'll be able to find all sorts of photos, from glamorous portraits to some of her film photography where she captures people she knows and crazy moments of Austin's nightlife, reminiscent of Nan Golding's photographs.
I think this has been one of my favorite features I have done. She really opened up and talked about her insecurities as an artist, but still keeps experimenting with all her ideas and creating new work.
Tell me a little bit more about yourself.
"I am just a simple girl in a hi-tech, digital world." Also, I'm a photographer/artist in Austin Texas. I love coming of age stories and the Real Housewives series.
How did you get started in photography?
I think the idea of being a photographer happened when I was in middle school. KoRn was my favorite band and I thought that being a photographer would allow me to meet them in person. This past year I have gotten to shoot them twice! I still have not met them in person, but close enough.
When I was in 7th grade my grandparents bought me a little digital camera. I didn't really use it until high school when Myspace happened. For me, social media created a need for photography. Having a cool edgy AF profile pic at all times was essential. I got another camera for my birthday when I was in 11th grade, and started buying 35mm Lomography toy cameras. After I graduated, I started seeking out bands and doing live music stuff. It got more serious after that.
Looking back, social media and photography were great tools for me to express myself. From 8th to 12th grade, I was dealing with everything from typical teenage angst to intense family issues. I feel like creating images of myself was therapeutic and allowed for a lot of self-reflection.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I think my stuff is typically humorous, sarcastic, careless, relatable, and self-reflective. I don't think all of my images have, like a consistent look, but I think they have a common feel— if that makes sense.
What is your favorite thing to photograph?
Myself, objects, people and live music.
What equipment do you use?
For digital stuff I use a Canon 5D Mark III. For film I use a Nikon FE2, disposable cameras and crappy cameras from thrift stores. My favorite ones right now are my Nikon Teletouch 300AF and Canon Sure Shot 85 Zoom.
Do you have a process when working?
I guess it just sort of depends on what I am photographing. The film stuff is pretty loose, I just take my camera(s) and shoot. When I am doing more controlled projects I usually write stuff down. I have a lot of notebooks with weird stuff written in them. Then I try to figure out if it's possible to create an image from what I have jotted down. I typically get frustrated, put it away for a few weeks and then start actually shooting.
What inspires you?
I think the main things that inspire me are pop culture, love, self-exploration, social interactions, human connection and suffering.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I'm working on a few things. I've continued shooting with my film cameras for my M.S.G zine. The first one was really fun to make so I'd like to continue it. I'm also about to start screen printing on some shirts. Since I can't seem to get any product gigs I have decided to make my own stuff and find fun ways to shoot it. On top of that, I am back at school for film/video production. So far, that's been really interesting. It feels good to be back in school.
Tell us a little bit more about your zine, M.S.G?
For the first volume of M.S.G or My Secret Garden, I paired together 35mm photographs to depict themes of solitude, lust, jealousy, humiliation, defeat, loneliness, self-consciousness and death. I knew for a while that I wanted to make a book or a zine. I just didn't really have a reason to do it, ya know? When Tyler Robarge asked if I wanted to show some stuff during the East Studio Tour, I was like, "Okay, this is it." I remember laying out the images and being really stuck on what I wanted M.S.G to be about. I knew I wanted the title to be, My Secret Garden and that I wanted it to be personal. The images I originally picked told a very emo story. Overtly sad art isn't my thing so I knew I needed to adjust some stuff.
I remember sitting at the table with all these pictures laid out and thinking about the crazy head space I had been in for the past year, the existential crisis I was having, how I got to this point and ways in which I was trying to deal with all these intense feelings. As I was reflecting on all this, I realized I was doing things that I knew would only bring me short term satisfaction and make me feel awful later.
I think using the initials, M.S.G was a way to kind of further the idea of my actions. We know the flavor enhancer MSG, like so many things, is not good for us in the long run. But, when you're feeling down and out, sometimes you are willing to look past something being unhealthy. Maybe, instead, you'd rather indulge in a quick fix despite it's negative effects later on. So this volume of M.S.G, is sort of representative of my own personal experiences with the cause and effect of this type of behavior.