Every month I spotlight five female film photographers worth following. Here are my picks for April, 2021!
Spring is springing and so am I for the five wonderful photographers I have lined up for you all this month. An almost even split between artists I’ve been following for years, and artists I’ve only recently discovered in the last few months, I find all of their work endlessly inspiring.
From photos snapped on Holgas to heavenly portraits to colorful urban landscapes, there’s something we can learn from each of them. Whether it’s how the cost of your gear doesn’t always matter, to how to flip portrait rules upside down, I hope you all find something to take away from each of these talented ladies.
Anna Starr [Instagram]
Looking at Anna’s work, you’ll immediately be taken aback by the stunning images of mountain vistas, picturesque fields of wildflowers, and majestic waterfalls. You’ll even be more impressed when you realize that all of her work is shot with a humble Holga [we reviewed it here].
Based in the Pacific Northwest, Anna captures her life hiking around her nearby national parks and around her city of Seattle. When I first happened upon her work I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could such drool-worthy shots be taken with a mere toy camera (one that is often laughed at by professionals?). But I don’t think she could pick a better tool for her art. The characteristic look of images made with the Holga (vignetting, distortion, and light leaks) is exactly what make Anna’s photos so unique. It’s easy to be fooled and think her photos were taken with a fancy tilt shift lens. Nope! That’s just the beautiful imperfections of the Holga camera playing out perfectly.
A slight departure from her normal dreamy landscapes, Anna captured the photo above of Smith Tower in downtown Seattle in celebration of Holga Week. Successfully capturing her first double exposure, this photo happened merely by accident. After snapping the first shot, she panicked not knowing if she had remembered to take the lens cap off or not (something I think all photographers can identify with). Figuring why not flip the camera upside down just in case she was about to double expose, she ended up with this beautiful scene of two worlds colliding.
Chelsea Ballinger [Instagram, Website]
Chelsea’s portraits always have a dreamy glow about them that pull me in and give me LIFE. I first discovered her work a few months back and I was immediately hypnotized by the halo her subjects seem to have. I don’t know what she does precisely to get this effect, and I don’t want to ask and ruin the magic. Her images are heavenly and I’m here for them every minute of the day.
Often capturing her subjects in tight headshots, Chelsea has the ability to make her models look completely comfortable, as if they’ve been staring into her camera all their life.
In my opinion, nothing demonstrates her skill better than the portrait above. Captured in a carefree candid moment while out boating with friends last summer, Chelsea shot this image with her beloved Mamiya RZ67 and Portra 400. Framing her good friend Jahi, who works as an assistant principal mentoring young men, she snapped this image, perfectly capturing the warmth of the sun and the exquisite detail of his face. I especially love her choice of focus point, choosing to make his laid back smile the center of the image.
Anastasia Kee [Instagram]
If you’re looking for a blend of dramatic shots and classic western Americana, look no further than Ana. Her photos make me wanna pack up, take a road trip out West, and live life just a little bit slower. From classic images of sandy mountainscapes to antique stores stuck back in time, to shots of the Vegas strip, Ana’s images have everything you need to be transported to a different area of the US. A perfect blend of cinematic and candid, I love the sheer variety in her style. One moment you’re looking at an image that could be a still out of a movie and the next you’re looking at a nostalgic candid snapped in a decades-old vintage store.
A perfect example of the cinematic style so frequently found in her work, Ana captured this photo of the empty viewing deck of the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. Using the legendary Pentax K1000 and Cinestill 800, Ana was looking to capture the feeling of loneliness with the deck being almost completely void of other visitors due to the pandemic. Often looking to capture a specific personal emotion or memory, I think she completely nailed this scene. Shooting towards the tail end of golden hour, I love the blue tones flooded throughout the scene, which to me lends even more to the feeling of sadness and solitude.
Starla Dawn [instagram, Website]
Starla is probably one of the most well-rounded photographers I have discovered. Her feed literally has every style you could imagine, from candid shots to newborn photo shoots to retro models to classic black-and-white portraits and everything in between. Throw anything you want at her and she will knock it out of the park. So often as photographers we can get stuck in the familiar, the same types of shots we like to take over and over again. And that’s okay – there’s nothing wrong with having a niche. But Starla’s fresh feed is a great reminder to venture outside of the box every now and then and try something new.
A perfect blend of her knack for candid photos and classic black-and-white style, Starla shot the image above with her Nikon F100 [we reviewed it here] and a mystery black-and-white film (yet to be released!). Capturing her ex-husband, Starla was aiming to capture the comfort and intimacy that comes from knowing someone for fourteen years. I love how she has framed her subject, centering the hands and making them the focal point of the shot. Portraits so often feature a subject’s beaming face, I adore how she has flipped that idea on its head by leaving the subject’s face completely out of the frame, adding a sense of closeness and distance all in one.
Tess Remick [Instagram]
Shooting largely urban landscapes, I find Tess’s work highly inspirational as I so often shoot the same genre myself. She has an expert eye for framing, and I always find each of her photos to be perfectly balanced. With a keen sense of color, many of her photos feature dreamy scenes backdropped across pink and purple hued sunsets. Scrolling through her feed you’ll get lost in all the gorgeous rosy, warm tones and you’ll think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah (as the song goes). All this is made even more impressive when you learn she hasn’t even been shooting film for a full year yet. What!?
One of my favorite shots of Tess’, with her brilliant use of color on full display, is this gorgeous image above. Shot with a classic Minolta SRT 201 handed down by her father, Tess captured this moment with everyone’s favorite film, Portra 400. While on a special outing with her father to drop off a piece of artwork he had recently painted, Tess noticed this truck with the beautiful sky in the background and knew she had to photograph it. I love how she has perfectly contrasted the rusted truck against the immaculate sky. Such a creative play of hues, making both the sky and the truck pop even more when paired together.
If there’s a female photographer whose work you’d like to share with me and the rest of the readers, please do so in the comments below. We’d love to see and promote.
You can also follow The Film Sorority, a new Instagram account focused on promoting female perspectives in photography, which I’ve co-created with Analog Talk host Chris Bartolucci, and another lovely and talented shooter named Onome.
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Thank you again. It is such a great time, every month to see these wonderful pictures. BRAVO!