What was your entry point into photography? My mum used to do pinhole photography and develop pictures in the bathroom. When I was thirteen years old, she took my brother and me around the world and would take portraits of us lying on the bed in our rented bungalow in the Cook Islands. She’d lay hibiscus flowers and other found objects, like turtle shells, on my and my brother’s back before strapping the pinhole camera to the ceiling and photographing us. And then she’d develop the images and print them with the sunlight and cyanotype. It just made sense that I would have this same need to create images, and that’s what I did. I’m also pretty dyslexic, so it made total sense for me to create what I was trying to say in images.
Your work fuses together photography with craft-related techniques, such as origami and collage. How did you first discover paper art, and what excites you about it? With two artist parents and a lot of creative freedom, I built up the need to make things with my hands. For me, studying photography at university felt like I had my half my hands tied behind my back. So, I began to explore how I could involve my love for craft, paper folding and paper manipulation in my work. I first started to experiment with origami during my last year of university. I made a series of images that each had a short story all involving an origami shape. I was fascinated by Japanese and Korean films at the time, and was inspired by the extremely touching story of Sadako Sasaki, a girl with leukemia who tried to fold 1,000 origami cranes to grant her wish, but is said to only have folded 644 before she died. Now, many people still honor her by folding paper cranes. This is what got me started down the path of paper folding. Then, I went to a show where I saw photographer Julie Cockburn’s manipulated portraits and found myself wanting to push the boundaries of two-dimensional photography. I realized that I could, in fact, add 3-D geometric forms onto my photographs, which is how my series Cosmic Surgery started.
What are the benefits of mixing photography and craft-related techniques together? I love to expand the dimensions of what photography should and could be. Moving from 2-D to sculptural and then back to a flat image, or even exhibiting an image that allows you to see it differently from many angles, all excite me.
What tools do you find most useful for your work? This is a hard question, as my practice changes shapes with each project. Most of my work has involved some form of paper manipulation, and I am now using a lot of threadwork, cross-stitch and tapestry. My constant friend and tool is my scalpel. You could say my hands are my most consistent tools.
Where do you seek inspiration? Definitely from my parents, who are both artists and brought me up in a very creative background. I admire my partner, Nick Ballon, who is also a photographer. He’s ambitious, hardworking and knows what he wants with his photography. And I get inspiration from everywhere, like art shows, audiobooks and films. An idea sometimes pops into my head while I’m walking the dog, and I’ll have to quickly write it down in my phone. My daughter also inspires me as she comes up with new sentences and sees things in a different way. I learn a lot from her.
Which photographers have had the greatest impact on your work? Collage is a big theme in my work, so I’m greatly inspired by photographers and artists like Julie Cockburn, Daniel Gordon, Kensuke Koike and John Stezaker.
When you’re conceptualizing projects for editorial or commercial clients, where does your creative process begin? I tend to pick and choose my commercial work. For example, I like to pick work that will enable me to experiment with an idea that I have for a personal project. I am a very visual person, so I always start with an image, and then I try to make it happen. However, I’m not good at research, so it’s a process of trial and error until something falls into place and makes sense. That means a lot of back-and-forth with some clients before we are both happy.
How has social media pushed your work to evolve? Social media has pushed my work with the constant need to create. But, I’m a mother of a toddler, and finding the time to make new work is almost impossible, so it’s a lot slower now. I find myself avoiding social media as it makes me feel like I’m failing to give people what they want: new content.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started your career? That the pressure to create work can be overwhelming, and sometimes you have creative lulls and you panic. At this moment, my life has changed so much, and I am concentrating more on my family than I am on my work, which can be hard. But in time, I’m sure I will find my rhythm again.