This is Christina Owen: 26-year-old photographer and lover of Polaroids, her iPhone, taking pictures of herself in the mirror and interesting wallpaper, as you can see in her self-portrait down there. Self-taught, you’ll often see Christina breaking the “rules” of photography to come up with some unique shots and funky ideas for creative images. Her first experimental photos were taken in her own kitchen at the age of 21. Since then, she has worked all over the UK and travelled across America with an assortment of different cameras and an eye for colour and art found inside the mundane. She currently lives and works in good old London.
Christina’s given up a bit of her time for this week’s London Art Spot to chat about the beauty of capturing simple moments before they are lost, exploring London with her camera and taking photos of strangers.
Self Portrait, 2009
LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
CO: Living in Penge (London outskirts) doesn’t really influence my creativity at all, but when I get the train or bus into the centre I can’t stop the ideas flowing. It’s mostly the stuff I see on the streets – graffiti and signposts and shop fronts and architecture. And interesting looking people. Those are the things that make me want to pick up my camera.
LLO: What type of camera do you use?
CO: I’ll use anything that happens to be in my hand. At the moment I’m using a Nikon D40 with a standard kit lens, which is all I can afford (anyone who wants to buy me a Canon EOS 50D feel free!) but I use my iPhone a lot – I’ve got about a million photography apps. My favourite turns phone cam photos into Polaroids. I used to be surgically attached to my Polaroid cameras before they became obsolete. My favourite that I’ve used was a Canon EOS 5D with 25-70mm L lens but it was so very very heavy.
"Taken in San Diego - after driving past it three days in a row I made my friend drive me back there specially and wait round the corner for half an hour while I shot this gigantic wall from different angles. I wish I'd found out who the artist was. It bothers me that I don't know."
LLO: Favourite place in London to take photos and why?
CO: Along the south bank, I go there with my camera all the time. The graffiti and skaters underneath the Royal Festival Hall, and the skyline along the river, and the London Eye, and the street performers outside the National Theatre. And then you go along a bit further east to Butler’s Wharf and there’s some lovely architecture. Then a quick detour to take photographs of the food stalls in Borough Market, and finish it off with a trip to the Tate Modern or the Design Museum.
"Taken on the South Bank in London - Moments like these I'm proud of because they were split-seconds that would have been lost forever had I not pointed my camera at them at the right moment. "
Sarah Looks Up, 2008
LLO: Describe your style.
CO: Colourful, unconventional, odd. I’m drawn to colour like a moth to a flame. And I don’t really stick to the rules. I’m the one shooting straight into the sun, or waiting until my subject looks away before I take their picture. And I’d much rather take photographs of whats going on out on the street than inside the studio.
LLO: Somewhere in London you’d love to take a camera but never have?
CO: The Square Mile. There’s so much history there, I’d love to take my camera round all the hidden little parks and churches and old streetsigns and brickwork. I just haven’t got round to it yet.
"Myself and some friends were walking through the underpass that goes under the road at Baker St Tube station. One of them joked that it was the perfect setting for some sort of gritty urban photograph, so I took a picture of my friend attempting to somersault off one of the walls. It was never going to work but it was made all the funnier by him crashing headfirst into it, everyone else watching, and the fact that the resulting photograph does look quite gritty and 'street'. From now on I will always pretend this photo wasn't set up."
LLO: You’ve started working on a project to capture 100 strangers. Tell us a bit about that.
CO: Someone who’d posed for the 100 Strangers project for somebody else told me about it. I’d never heard of it. There’s a group on Flickr you join and you photograph 100 people you’ve never previously met and post the photos there along with their story and any details about the person you/they want to include. The idea is that it gets you used to approaching people you don’t know as a photographer. It builds confidence. I’ve only done it twice so far and both times I was terrified. Although the first one was an old man in a suit sitting on a park bench, and he pretty much volunteered himself. He saw me with my camera and shouted ‘over here! Point that camera this way!’ Up until that point I hadn’t been sure how to start the project so it was perfect really.
"A comedian about to go on stage in front of a large audience."
Mental Preparation, 2007
LLO: How did you first become interested in photography?
CO: After I left University, I was at a loose end and started taking still life photographs around the house with my mum’s ancient Kodak camera. Noone told me I was any good at it, I just thought one day ‘yeah, that’s not bad if I do say so myself’ and gradually people started agreeing with me. I bought some books and taught myself how to do it.
"I put a whole bunch of photos of my feet in different places around the world on display at an exhibition in Spitalfields, London, and people were walking up to them and staring for ages and then saying 'can you explain the significance of these?' I was like 'No. I would have thought it was obvious'. And they'd walk off shaking their head and saying it wasn't art. So I guess it wasn't obvious."
Exhibition Feet, 2008
LLO: Favourite London-based artists?
CO: All my favourite London based artists are my friends. Very few of them have web sites of their own though which is infuriating – I can’t show you what they’ve done. I know photographs and fine artists and illustrators and digital animators and they’re all extremely talented. And of course, your photographs – can I include you? Is that allowed?
* Christopher Miller, Designer & Illustrator: http://www.kirkicdesign.com/index.htm
* David Stevenson, Illustrator and Animator: http://www.david-stevenson.com/
* Sheldon K. Goodman, Designer & Illustrator – http://www.sheldonkgoodman.daportfolio.com/
* Giada Garofalo, Photographer – http://www.flickr.com/photos/giadagarofalo/
LLO: Which image are you most proud of and why?
CO: I can’t pick just one! I’m proud of so many of my photos for so many different reasons, but I’m always scared other people will look at them and go ‘why? Its a photo of your feet?’ I’m proud of some of the portraits I’ve taken because if I hadn’t pointed my camera at someone at exactly the right time, those moments would have been lost forever. I’m proud of the first ‘creative’ photograph I ever took, which was of some Ikea bottle stoppers in front of a skyline.
- “The first photograph I took that I actually thought about first. It doesn’t look like much but to this day I still love it.”
Bottle Stoppers, 2005
For more of Christina’s work, have a look at her Flickr page
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