“I am very much drawn to a bittersweet longing and romanticism, and I can only link that to my own rose-tinted view of the world around me.”
With her pretty, nostalgic scenes, Texan photographer Ana Mercedes takes us through her own personal looking-glass. We talked to her about Austin’s artistic community and the magic of film.
Interview by Rebecca Parker
21 years old
You’re based in Austin, Texas, where there seems to be a growing network of artists: how is it to be a young creative working in that kind of environment? How does it affect your processes and the work you create?
The art community here is very much present and embraced. Over the last year, I have met many people within the community and each one has contributed, one way or another, to my development as an artist. There are models, stylists, hair and make-up artists all in it for the same reason: the creative process. Even working with other photographers and artists is encouraged. Everyone is on the same playing field, striving for an artistic outlet, making the process that much more special. Being within this community has given me the strength I need to believe in my work. While that seems like a cop-out, that’s just where I am right now. Sometimes I lack creative vision, but being here and working with the people that I have worked with has encouraged me to keep going. In general, I have a very strong support system and I am so thankful.
How did you get started? Has your work always focused on film or did you discover an inclination towards analogue formats later?
I started taking pictures many years ago but it wasn’t until the end of high school that my sister gave me the SLR that she used when she was younger. Without much of an introduction to it, I instantly fell in love and have not stopped shooting analog since.
What is it about shooting film that appeals to you? Is it purely an aesthetic preference or is there an ideology behind the choice?
There’s just something special about shooting on film. I think it’s as real as it gets and, in a way, it almost feels fate-founded. Who’s to tell how that one light-leak will add to the photograph, or how the grain can contribute to an imperfect photo that can be completely transportive? Not knowing what you’re going to get with film is exhilarating, and the results are almost always magical.
Are the models you shoot with people you know well? How does that factor of familiarity (or lack of) play into the process of creating the images?
I first started taking pictures of my friend, Jackie. We would both dress up and take pictures of each other, actually. I soon realized, though, that I had no idea what I was doing in front of the camera, and transitioned back to being behind the camera, where I’ve always felt most comfortable. More recently, I started working with models in the area and have found friends in them. I think in meeting each person for the first time there was either a click or there wasn’t, and I believe that plays a role in how well-executed the photograph is. Trust, comfort, and understanding is essential in the process… without it, what comes forth is a little displaced, and you can’t hide that. I try now to only work with people that I feel are invested in creating something beautiful together, and where friendship can grow. I guess that sounds very selective, but it’s important to honor what works best for you.
Your work features an emphasis on colour that really contributes to the youthful, romantic feel of the images: are those themes that you’re drawn to in general? Is that kind of retro romanticism something that ties back in with the use film and the nostalgic element of that medium?
Absolutely. I am very much drawn to a bittersweet longing and romanticism, and I can only link that to my own rose-tinted view of the world around me. Anaïs Nin once said: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” This really strikes a personal chord with me. I think the better you know yourself, the more accepting and stronger understanding you have of others… we blindly judge others, without taking a good look at ourselves. Whether it’s good or bad, what you see will always be a direct reflection of you, your understanding and acceptance of the world you live in. It can be a little retroactive, but I find more and more insight about myself and others after-the-fact… photography solidifies that for me, and film best captures its essence.
What are your hopes for your work in the future? Are there any ideas or projects you’d like to get the chance to work on at some point?
At this point, I am working more on my personal growth. I think, in many ways, I get in my own way, and that has really put a hamper on my work (or my view of it, anyway). My hope for the future is to move past this unsettled state and to trust in myself more. It’s a process, but a worthwhile one, and I’m just happy to be able to share this part of my experience with others.
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