Interview Series: Samantha West

Samantha West is what I like to call a “Soul Photographer,” for not only does she capture the outward beauty of her subjects, but also the sentiment seeping from their spirit. Her style is raw and honest, distinct but never in-your-face, she prefers to let the photos speak for themselves as opposed to pushing perception onto the viewer. Lurking below the surface of her craft is an inherent vulnerability that is sometimes uncomfortable but always endearing. “Sometimes, moments are too delicious not to capture,” she says passionately – and we couldn’t agree more. Peep our exclusive interview with this wonderful woman, as she talks about her creative process and her infatuation with the human body.

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LF: When did you start taking photographs?

SW: I started feverishly falling in love with photography around 12 or 13 years old. I was still very much dedicated to painting and drawing at the time and continued with that medium throughout high school. I think around the age of 18 years old I admitted to myself that I could not go a day without taking a photo and it was just part of my being. By then I had amassed so many photo albums of polaroids and film shots I had taken, I was in it for the long haul.

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LF: Do you remember the first photo you ever took?

SW: I have the first photo I really ever took as a toddler, my mum packed it away safely. It was of my parent’s legs, so there we go! Shooting the human body from the beginning! I distinctly remember taking my first photo as a teenager in art class in 7th grade, we built pin hole cameras and I captured a group of friends in all their blurry back and white glory.

LF: What inspires you?

SW: Getting older. Weather patterns. Clouds. Light and how it changes throughout the day and differs throughout the seasons. Flora and fauna. Islands and being near water. I really admire and am inspired by strong and unique women. It gives me hope.

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LF: How do you think people interpret your work?

SW: I think people see it as sensual, distinctly feminine and intimate. I think it is quite beautiful how our lives can be perceived from the outside for better or worse. I have been told my work is very much me from those who do not know me well at all. I quite like that!

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LF: Is there a certain way you would like people to interpret your work?

SW: I do not wan’t people to interpret it in any specific way, that is a heavy burden to put on images, singular or a body of work as a whole.. I think if art is emotive, then it has succeeded. If my work makes the viewer look twice or think for a millisecond or if it recalls moments of pleasure , nostalgia and beauty, then I am more than pleased. If I had to sum it up, I would like people to interpret my work as a reflection of me as a whole. Photographs are, in many respects, self portraits – either how we see ourselves or how we want to be perceived by others.

LF: And how much of your personality shines through in your photos?

SW: My photographs are 100% me. It is both a blessing and a curse.

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LF: What is your favorite thing to photograph? 

SW: I love to photograph the  body and the face, I have my muses, they are few and far between – these incredible men and women in my life who are beautiful and bright, in every sense of the word and who have life behind their eyes. I am grateful they let me bombard their being and space with my camera. Sometimes moments are too delicious not to capture. These friends give me energy. It is so special for me to photograph those I know well, intimacy and collaborative spirit add a level of depth to my photographs.

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LF: What photographers are you inspired by? Who do you look up to?

SW: Lillian Bassman is sublime, I love how her work blends photography and painting seamlessly. It is deliciously graphic and elegant and undeniably created by a woman. I also love Deborah Turberville. Her framing and placement is so unique and her work is incredibly sensual and almost heavy in feeling, like becoming drowsy in summer heat. Sarah Moon is brilliant too. Again, I admire how her work traverses genres. I find it really interesting and inspiring to come across photographers who have managed to stick to their guns whilst having success in the Fine Art, Fashion, and Commercial worlds. It is not easy to do.

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LF: Describe your creative process; when you come up with an idea, how do you bring it to life?

SW: Perhaps in many ways I am that stereotypical artist who goes through periods of delightful mania. When The Muse comes knocking on your door, you open it and let her in. I keep ideas tucked away in my mind’s vault. When I come across those who can help me realize them, I know right away. In that sense I really appreciate an organic evolution of an idea. I love to let things  happen as they may. Sometimes when the result deviates from the original intention, it is the best. I also have 1000s of inspirational photos I keep. It never hurts to go over them every once in a while and make mental notes.

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LF: Besides photography, what are you most passionate about? 

SW: I love to cook and I love cooking for those I love. It is one of the greatest pleasures. Life is better with lots of wine and lots of garlic.  I sincerely enjoy fashion. Not so much in the sense that I read fashion magazines endlessly and pay attention to designers each season and not in the sense that I support and believe in this endless consumerism we have found ourselves drowning in,  but perhaps more from an evolutionary standpoint, from a business point of view, and from a historical and feminist standpoint. I think fashion as a true extension of one’s personality, creativity and eccentricity is totally awesome.

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LF: What is your favorite thing about life?

SW: I really enjoy getting older and find it terrifying at the same time. Perhaps it is a perverse pleasure in a way.  I think getting to know oneself ,  seeing personality traits and tendencies being ingrained over time is a total trip. I am in love with meeting new people. Kismet is remarkable.

LF: And your favorite thing about photography?

SW: I adore how photography is a method of documentation. From a creative and artistic point of view, it allows me to set in stone  a memory or a moment and to truly have it reflect what I saw in my mind’s eye, however realistic or on the opposite spectrum, magical and otherworldly it was.

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LF: Do you have a favorite photograph in your portfolio?

SW: I don’t have one favorite photo, I hope to never have a single favorite. My self portraits are important to me, they are my diary. I have taken mages that I come across later on, images that make me feel alive with vulnerability are special in the sense that they are honest and raw and they take me back to that moment with a punch to the gut. I am grateful for that, even if I am the only one who feels it.

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LF: How fast do you live? 

SW: Fast enough to feel the wind in my hair but slow enough to notice all the details.

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