Interview: Sarah Small

Kathryn Von Marks In Larissa′s Lap © Sarah Small

Andrea Bartley: Where did you grow up?

Sarah Small: I grew up in Washington D.C. My dad played the piano and my mom was a photographer, although not a professional. My mom didn’t have so much to do with my getting into photography. She wanted me to be a musician, so I played cello for seven years. I have a younger sister Rachel and three cats.

Andrea Bartley: Where did you go for school?

Sarah Small: I went to school in Providence, Rhode Island. I earned a bachelor of fine arts degree and majored in photography.

Andrea Bartley: What was your most memorable moment at school?

Sarah Small: I remember freshman foundation year, students had to take the same foundation classes. They were all over the board and I had very little experience in and weren’t very good at. I took a drawing class and I would take photographs in drawing class, and montage the images that I took. My professor would critique them as drawings.

Molly Watching Wes © Sarah Small

Andrea Bartley: When did you start photographing?

Sarah Small: I was 13 years old and at a summer arts camp. I began photographing with a Pentax k-1000. My friend Anna introduced me to photography.

Andrea Bartley: What camera do you use now?

Sarah Small: I use a Canon 5D MarkII. I use all digital cameras now.

Andrea Bartley: Where did you start work in New York?

Sara Small: Working for the New York Post was my first job. It was my first freelance job, directing clients and making Studio One, which was a photography studio rental house. Different clients would come to shoot there. My job was to serve them cappuccinos and direct their calls. It was the groundwork for networking in New York. The main part of networking and being successful is to socialize.

Andrea Bartley: What was your favorite subject to photograph when you first began shooting?

Sarah Small: My sister. I would photograph her all the time. She was my first real muse. She would dress up in different costumes and go to the beach. I shot her with black and white film with the Pentax.

Andrea Bartley: Do situations with models ever go wrong? How much direction comes from you and how much is a reaction from the model?

Sarah Small: Working with models the way I do is about the conversations ahead of time. It is really about building trust and relationships with all the different people I work with. We talk about boundaries and certain poses they will and will not do. Some are professional models and some are just people. I tailor each relationship to fit each person. Working with

models is half direction and half improvisation. I don’t know what I want it to be until I see it.

Molly and EllyMay © Sarah Small

Andrea Bartley: Tell me about the your new project: the performances of The Delirium Constructions.

Sarah Small: In 2009 I decided to do a promotional event for my photography. Some of my models were walking around serving drinks. Then I had models in various stages of reactions and different poses. I gave them direction to activate and deactivate them. Now I want to do it again with 120 models. I have been working the past year and half to get Living Picture ready for this spring with 120 models. Now I am starting to interweave music with the performance. Some models will be singing. It is a way to intersect all different elements into one live performance.

Andrea Bartley: Where do you find inspiration?

Sarah Small: I get my inspiration from riding the New York City subway station and watching the interesting people. I like to see people in the same space and see what will happen between them. I have no idea at all what the final image will be. I go into it with a playful spirit. As if I’m painting with them. It’s really very much like playtime. They are not preconceived. I choose the models and set up lights, but that is the extent of the setup. What ever happens, happens. I like to get to know the people that I am working with, and to have a specific dynamic. Like a tango back and forth. The more I put into the shoot the more comes back to me.

Mimi and the Girls © Sarah Small

More of Sarah Small's work can be found on her website:


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