Team Loupe is a series of interviews with the photographers behind Loupe. For our first edition I spoke to Camille Mack, a documentary photographer based in London whose portrait was recently selected for the Talyor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition.
Harry Flook: How did you first come to photography? Did you have a formal photographic education?
Camille Mack: I got into photography quite late really. It wasn’t a romantic discovery, like a family member passing me down their old camera. I suddenly paid an enormous amount of attention to the images that surround us on a daily basis and the impact they were having on the way I saw the world and humanity. I was incredibly affected by images of conflict and documentary photographers such as Eugene Smith, Robin Hammond and many Magnum photographers. It was the power of this imagery that made me want to pick up a camera and that has heavily influenced me in approaching photography with a documentary-style. It has been a big journey of discovery to find my own voice and vision as a photographer, but ever so slowly I feel I am starting to get there. I studied photojournalism for one year in Paris following a BA degree in Spanish.
HF: What is your role within Loupe, and how has working with Loupe impacted your own practice?
After seeing Luke (editor at Loupe) speak at Photo-Forum, I wanted to help out with Loupe in any way possible. Luke suggested I have a go at doing the social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, so that’s what I do. It’s been great keeping me up to date with the photography calendar in London and constantly seeing so much fresh and exciting work really helps to encourage you to keep up with your own projects.
CM: What has been your favourite project to work on?
It has to be the series I am currently working on called Chicken Shop. After a couple of years of losing sight of what originally drew me to photography and shooting primarily commercial work, this project has massively helped me to re-focus and is a true reflection of the work I want to be shooting. I adore working with my old Hasselblad, it’s slowed me down and allowed me to have a better connection with my subjects. It’s also been a huge help to separate my personal work from the commercial work I shoot digitally.
HF: Who is your biggest influence as a photographer?
CM: That’s really tough to answer. Many photographers for many different reasons. To name a few: Alec Soth for his portraits, Daniella Zalcmann for the platform she is giving female photojournalists, Dana Lixenberg and Guy Martin for their dedication to a subject in Imperial Courts and City of Dreams respectively, and Josef Koudelka, Elliot Erwitt and Raymond Depardon for the sheer magnitude of their work.
HF: I notice that Petit Matador has been your only project shot in black and white, I think it’s really successful. Was the move to colour a conscious one and if so why?
CM: It wasn’t so much a move to colour, I’ve always shot in colour this project was just an exception. Colours are so dominant in bullfighting, particularly red being so evocative that it was a really hard decision to make to shoot in black and white. However, I didn’t want the viewer to be distracted by the explosion of colours but to focus instead on the subject matter, the children.
HF: What motivates you to keep working within photography?
CM: A desire to learn and to keep sharing stories with each other. Photography has given me a sense of awareness, it has taught me compassion, empathy and to stop and take a moment to appreciate someone else’s story.
HF: How important is the balance between personal work, commercial work and your work with Loupe, and how do manage it?
CM: Incredibly important. Finding this balance has been, for me, the biggest challenge with becoming a freelancer and I still haven’t really cracked it. I’m sure many people can relate to having your time consumed by finding and shooting commercial work, and as a result personal work taking a backseat. Determined to stop this from happening, I decided this year to take a part-time job outside of photography to provide me with the stability and time to re-focus on building a stronger portfolio of personal work and rediscover my identity as a photographer. I am still shooting commercially, but it’s taken off a huge amount of pressure and I can be more selective of the work I choose to shoot.
HF: In your opinion, what is the best image you’ve taken?
CM: As it stands, it has to be Dapo who is part of the Chicken Shop series. This image has been selected for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery this autumn, which I am so incredibly honoured to be a part of.
HF: Do you notice any common themes or recurring subjects that come through in all of your work?
CM: My work stems from a desire to give an honest representation of people and places, to create a narrative primarily through portrait and landscape. I want to challenge people’s perceptions of a subject, to look at a place or person without judgement but with appreciation and understanding.
HF: What piece of advice would you give to your former self just starting out in photography?
CM: Ignore the saying ‘It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer’. Although I agree with this to a certain extent, finding the right camera for you is vital to the way you work and to your visual identity. I spent years shooting on a bulky digital camera before discovering film, and now I feel my camera is an extension of me. I’d also say believe in yourself and others will, and find a group of people that you trust to give you direction rather than self-criticising your own work.
HF: What’s next? Are you currently working on a new project?
CM: At the moment I’m focusing mainly on Chicken Shop and thinking about how to visualise some new project ideas. I’d also like to concentrate on finishing work I’ve already started, which actually includes returning to shoot portraits of the young bullfighters in Arles, but this time in colour!