(photo by Keith Lane)
In August I met up with my great friend, photographer Katie Fielding. It was one of those planet-aligned moments when both of our travel itineraries crossed paths: I was working for a client in the Hague and she was on a month-long trip through Europe, passing through Amsterdam and Delft for a few days. I first met Katie when she modeled for some lifestyle photographs I shot for Washington, DC-based fashion designer, Jon Wye. Since then, through various parties, gallery openings, and meals, our conversations have often turned to art, music, and why traveling — in our opinion — is one of the best things a person can do. I was eager to hear about her travels and learn what makes Fielding pick up the camera, this time and every time.
From Polaroid to 35mm, toy to digital camera, Fielding’s work spans multiple mediums demonstrating a clear vision that’s often down right personal, with several persistent and overarching themes.
You can see her work by going to http://www.katiefielding.
KL: What cameras are you traveling with right now?
KF: I am traveling with my Mamiya DTL 1000 that was my grandfather’s and I am also traveling with a Polaroid Sun 660 — that was also my grandfather’s — and my iPhone.
KL: How long have you been shooting with a film camera?
KF: I got this [Mamiya DTL 1000] from my grandfather when I was at college — twelve, thirteen years ago. But I didn’t pick it up heavily until three or four years ago. I thought it was broken for a long time [laughs] but I realized it was me.
KL: You mean you didn’t know how to use it [laughs]?
KF: Uh, yeah. I thought it was broken because I shot one roll of film that didn’t come out so I thought something must be wrong with it. But I pick it up a few years ago and it worked, so I guess it was just me in college.
KL: Before that had you ever picked up a camera?
KF: Yeah. I definitely loved my little 110 neon orange camera when I was seven or eight. I have pictures of me taking pictures with it. There is a great picture of me at this Pennsylvanian Dutch pretzel-making place. And it’s me with my pretzel taking a photo with my little 110. I was definitely into taking pictures when I was little. I have always been the documenter of my friends growing up. I was always the one taking the pictures.
KL: So, right now, you are carrying two film cameras and an iPhone?
KF: Yes, on this trip. It was really hard to decide what to bring.
KL: I was going to ask: on a trip like this, how do you decide what to bring?
KF: Well, I always bring the Mamiya that was my grandfather’s because it’s kind of my base camera. And then it comes down to what else I have room for. I bought a lot of the Impossible film. So I wanted to take that on my trip and keep a little scrap book.
KL: Where did this trip begin?
KF: [It began] in Finland, in Helsinki, and then I went to the Baltics, which were beautiful but lacked a little fun. Then I went to Berlin, then Prague, now Holland, then back to Germany, then to Denmark, then home through Iceland.
KL: This is the second time you’ve been to Iceland?
KF: Yeah. Iceland is what my whole trip is based on. Because I wanted to go back. And so I was wondering where else Iceland Air flew and I’ll made a whole trip of it.
KL: Is this special trip for you?
KF: Yes. I am also a teacher by profession — so it pays the bills — and for the past eight years I’ve always taught summer school. And this past year my grandfather, who the Mamiya belonged to, passed away. Then, a couple of months later when my grandmother was sorting through all the things you do after someone passes away, she gifted me and my sister and cousin some money. So I decided to make a summer of it. My sister decided to extend her maternity leave and my cousin did the same. I think they’re looking at my trip and thinking that it’s pretty awesome. It’s going to make it really hard to do summer school again. I think I’ve decided I can’t. I’ll have to live very frugally through the school year and travel in the summers from now on.
KL: When you’re traveling and you have your camera, what sort of images do you find yourself attracted to taking?
KF: People on the street. Architecture of the buildings. This trip I’ve been taking a lot of roofline [images]. I don’t know why. But I think it’s because I have been in a lot of places that are really touristy. And masses of people are at the ground. And people aren’t always looking up at the beautiful architecture.
KL: How long have you been using your iPhone as a camera?
KF: Since I first got one, the first iPhone 3G. I used to be really into Hipstamatic. After much prodding from a couple of friends I converted to Instagram for sharing mostly. I hardly use any application filters, though sometimes I use some editing apps to change things like exposure.
KL: In terms of switching from iPhone to film do you see a difference?
KF: I am a lot more lenient when taking an iPhone picture because I can just delete it if it’s not good. Film, you have to be a little more deliberate. I am surprised at how many rolls I haven’t taken on this trip. When I went to Iceland last year for five days I took twenty-five rolls. This trip I think I’ve been more deliberate in what I’m taking. I haven’t even taken twenty rolls in these four weeks. I think I’ve been more selective.
KL: What sparked that?
KF: Four weeks is a long time. Some days I don’t take my camera with me because I get a little burnt out. Some days I just don’t feel like taking a picture that day, which surprised me because I didn’t think that would happen. And some days I take a lot. It just sort of happened like that. In Prague I didn’t take any film pictures. I took my iPhone with me. But now I’m kind of like, “What did I do?”. At the time, I just wasn’t feeling like taking any pictures. Maybe it’s because my parents were with me [laughs]. For me, taking pictures is a solitary affair: I can’t do it with other people with me.
KL: What drives you to be alone and in that space?
KF: It’s capturing moments. I think that’s why I have always been the documentarian for my friends. Saving time is really important to me for some pretty deep reasons. I have a lung disease, and time has always been limited for me. Something propels me to save moments on film. It’s preserving this finite time I have — I have always been presented that it’s finite but somehow it keeps on extending, oddly. [I still have this sense] that I have to keep it somehow, to preserve this for someone else to see later. I’ve been making a scrap book from my Polaroids from this trip as I’ve gone along. I found this antique photo album with black paper and leather bound and brought some Japanese paper tape, sticking them in the book and Sharpie-ing notes on them.
KL: For you this is a very personal expression?
KF: Yeah. Definitely. It’s also emotionally related to my grandfather who I loved very much. I plan to make a book of the photos for my grandmother as a gift because she gave me this gift of an opportunity.