Interview Series: Teen Witch Andrea Sonnenberg

What is there to say about fiery young photographer Andrea Sonnenberg, a.k.a. Teen Witch, besides the fact that she had several of her pieces in MOCA’s recent Art in the Streets exhibit in Los Angeles? Among the world’s best street artists, this San Francisco-based (as if you can’t tell from her vintage 49ers jacket) photographer held her own! Her style is raw and real, documenting her life with her pictures and digging into the nitty gritty of skate life and partying. Amazingly, Andrea prints by hand – color printing that must be done in a pitch-black darkroom (she even joked about being hungover while c-printing and feeling as if she’s hallucinating) – which makes her work even more compelling. She recently had a solo show at FIFTY24SF Gallery in the Lower Haight, where I got a chance to take her portrait and get to know the girl behind the party. Here’s what she had to say:

ABOVE: My portrait of Andrea, and below her portrait of herself.

LF: We’re totally digging the name Teen Witch. Can you tell a little bit about how this name has shaped you?
AS: First of all, thank you for all the compliments and good talk. I got the tag name Teen Witch when I was about 16 or 17 and it’s stuck over the years as my intrigue into the name itself developed. I feel like its really a part of me now and it has become more of a lifestyle than anything graffiti related.

LF: You’ve got a solo show at Fifty24SF called “My So Called Life” this week. Are you the Angela Chase of 2012?
Haha, yeah. I love the series “My So Called Life” and I do put myself in an Angela Chase sort of light. I just re-watched the season while I was printing for this show and I found so many things in common between us… in love, friendships and family.

LF: You’ve got a raw touch to your photos, mainly because you’re photographing your real life. What’s a day in the life of Teen Witch?
A day in the life, well that depends. Everyday is different. I spend most of my time now working on photography stuff at Hamburger Eyes, and I love a good meal and shooting the shit with my best buds. It’s the people in my life who shape my photos. Skating, walking around the city, taking day trips… I can barely walk to the corner store without bringing a camera.

LF: Is life a party?
Absolutely. There are always highs and lows but overall I think life should be spent having as much fun as possible.

LF: What would you call your style?
Lifestyle photography?

LF: How was your participation in the MOCA Art in the Streets for your career?
AS: Having the honor to be a part of the MOCA Art in the Streets has given me the drive to dedicate my life to this line of work. It’s incredibly time consuming and expensive, but I try to make it work as much as I can afford it; mentally and financially. It was really inspiring to meet some of my artistic heroes, and to see the amount of hard work everyone put into it.

LF: What’s your association with Hamburger Eyes?
AS: I have a little office there where I keep my negatives, photos and printing paper (p.s. have a look at Juxtapoz mag’s recent studio visit with Andrea). I print here and I do intern work for Ray Potes.

LF: You’re pretty young and getting a good amount of attention. How do you feel about this and where do you see yourself in five years?
AS: Thank you! Everything has been very exciting, I am looking forward to the years that come. Hopefully in the future doing the same things I have been working hard for since the beginning… Taking photos, maybe making enough money to do it as a living, traveling, meeting people who inspire me.

LF: You hand-printed your images for your show. Why C-prints vs. digital?
AS: I think that there is something amazing about printing your own photos. Hamburger Eyes photo epicenter may not be open forever, and I want to take advantage of the time I have left there to hand print. It’s a lot of fun! I enjoy experimenting with techniques and getting to know this kind of equipment better each day.

LF: When did you first pick up a camera?
AS: I had been on and off taking photos since the beginning of high school. I was also taking black and white photography classes at the old Harvey Milk Center.

LF: What camera are you using?
AS: I like to use Olympus point and shoot cameras which I buy from thrift stores. I lose and break things pretty often so I only shoot on replaceable cameras. Hah!

LF: How FAST do you live?
AS: Sometimes I have a hard time catching up with myself.

LF: Art Talk: What inspires you? Favorite artists?
AS: All of my artist friends inspire me… I have too many favorite artists to even being to list them.

LF: Sex Talk: What gets you off? Literally or figuratively?

LF: Travel Talk: Favorite destination or travel stories that you want to share?
AS: I want to see the world!  But hopefully one day soon I can take a trip across the United States to see this country in which I live.

BELOW: A few snaps from the opening of the show at FIFTY24SF!

L’Agent Goodies…