Noelle Swan Gilbert's "The Long Way Around"

David J. Carol

 "The Long Way Around"

I often have trouble looking at work shot with Holga and Diana cameras because I feel like I'm looking at a gimmick or trick more than an honest photograph. I first saw Noelle Swan Gilbert's work last year. Holga yes, gimmicky trick, no. Her work rings true and authentic. In her photography, the Holga makes sense. It enhances the mood and emotion of the photos. Noelle's photos have beauty, energy and intimacy. A plastic camera plus a talented photographer equals some very compelling photography. Time to see what Noelle has to say about it all...

The first picture I saw of yours got me. It’s the photo of the kid blurred as she spins. Tell me about that photo.

That image, "The Long Way Around," was taken on the last day of a summer trip to Seattle. I was with my two daughters who were still in elementary school at the time, my best friend from college, my two sisters-in-law and all of their children. After dinner, we all went across the street to the park, hoping the night could last a little longer, and the kids begged us to push them on the merry go round. We did, again and again and again, until they were either too dizzy to walk or we were too tired to push. When I look at this image, it brings me right back to that wonderful night when we wanted the night to slow down and the kids just wanted to go faster. 

Why did you use a Holga?

I have always been a photographer in some way or another. When I became a mother, I photographed my children all the time, as parents often do. Eventually, they started to avoid being photographed and, as a result, I started to feel like the paparazzi whenever I pulled a camera out around them. What they most minded was being interrupted when they were playing, so I made a conscious decision to put the camera down and simply enjoy being in the moment with them.

"Little Treasures"

I can't imagine what kids today feel like. Everyone is pointing cameras at them all the time, documenting every thing they do, posting their every move on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Kids have so little privacy these days. Back then, there was no social media. I was still shooting film and just starting to shoot my first digital camera when I discovered the Holga. It was a perfect camera to photograph them without disrupting the moment. The Holga came along at a great time in my life, because it taught me to trust my instincts as a photographer, and forced me reconsider my definition of perfection. Shooting with a Holga and then an original Diana camera wasn't always successful or easy. I shot a lot of crappy photos, but when I shot something good, it was wonderful.

Where is your favorite place to eat?

My favorite place to eat is anywhere with people I love. Good lighting is a bonus. Eating in Paris with wine is perfection.

What food would be the toughest for you to give up?

I guess coffee, though not technically a food, would be the least pleasant to give up. 

If you were to make a time capsule for your grandchildren’s grandchildren to find, what’s in it?

When I consider the items that have been passed down to me that I most treasure, they are personal mementos. My grandfather's gold pocket-watch chain that I now wear as a necklace, my grandmother's monogram lapel pin, a movie still photo of my great-great-grandmother, who was a silent movie actress, a love letter sent from my great-grandfather to his wife while he was serving in France during WWI, a framed newspaper announcement from 1872 regarding the public sale of my great-great grandfather's 270-acre farm and equipment. These are the treasures that tie me to my past. Anything my great-grandchildren want to know about this generation will be well within their reach, as we are thoroughly documenting our every move. To keep them connected to me and my family, I would leave them personal belongings like my wrist watch, a box of printed family photographs, hand-written letters, my daughter's sketchbooks and drawings, and last but not least, my massive collection of LPs, because maybe by then they’ll finally be worth something.

"Game Ball"

Thanks Noelle, it was a pleasure speaking with you. See more of Noelle's work at http://www.noelleswangilbert.com/



PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue



Tout VTS


Tout VTS


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