Q&A: Past Lives and Flying Fish /w Amanda Mason

Today's Q&A is with Amanda Mason. We talk about her mysteriously themed polaroids and where she draws her inspiration. Connect with Amanda on Twitter and Flickr!

"I'm always looking inwards to find the inspiration to create images, rather than external sources, and I guess a lot of those thoughts and desires are dark."

Tell us about when instant film came into your life and what inspired to you to keep using it?
Instant film has always been around me, my grandmother used a Polaroid camera as her camera, I remember how much we loved it as kids, to see a Polaroid appear before our eyes. I bought my first own Polaroid camera at the age of 16 for $5 at a market. I still have that camera to this day, the format still captivates me entirely, the sound of the camera, the smell, the glitchy films, its part of who I am.

How would you describe your work?
I find it hard to describe my work, I like it when other people describe how they view it. Escapism would probably be a good word to describe my images if I was to summarize. They are not usually about actual observations of people or places, but rather more about an imaginary place. I find the world you can create in your head magical and full of wonder as well as loss and longing, and these places inspire me.

What types of Instant Cameras and film do you use? What is your favorite combination?
I use an SX70, an SLR680 and a Polaroid Land Camera 250. I have loads of other Polaroid cameras, but really only use these three. I have a Spectra camera which I am still trying to use, but we don’t have a great relationship and I’m still trying to romance it :) We don’t get along at the moment, but I'm hoping we can work it out, we can make magic together one day maybe.
The new Impossible Project Black and White film is probably my favorite at the moment, and Polaroid Chocolate for pack film, although my stash has now gone and I have to say goodbye.

How does living in Sydney Australia influence your work? How do you deal with the extreme heat while using impossible film?
I find a lot of influence from my love of nature, and this is something that Sydney has in bountiful supply, even in the city. Plants, flowers, insects, birds – they always feature in my work. Its difficult not to be influenced by our connection to the natural world when you live in Sydney, however I use it symbolically, rather than out and about shooting. Sydney has such a mild climate, sub tropical really, so not extreme in its weather pattern, except for about two months in summer where the heat and humidity is high. But Australia in general, not only Sydney has such a bright light, especially in summer - harsh, contrasting light that I find it impossible to shoot outside with Impossible Project film. I shoot in a studio mostly, created scenarios, rather than the environment, so it has little effect on my work.

Tell us about what motivates you to create such dramatic images?
Nostalgia, past lives, love, loss, cryptic messages to people, a belief in magic! All of these things..

When looking at your photos we get a sense of fantasy with dark undertones. Where do these ideas come from?
My own thoughts, dreams, conflicts, or a story that I have in my head and want to explore. I'm always looking inwards to find the inspiration to create images, rather than external sources, and I guess a lot of those thoughts and desires are dark. I don’t think its unusual for people to visually explore  dark, melancholy themes, these themes exist in all of us, but some choose to explore it. I always find I learn the most about life through my darker times, once you come out the other side and look back, its like “Oh, I see now”, I love to believe that there is more to this life than what we live everyday, I call it magic, but its really the sense that there are forces at play beyond our physical plane, connections to nature and people from other worlds.

Can you tell us the funniest thing that has happened during image production/on the set.
One of my earlier Polaroids featured flying fish, so I had several Snappers hung up in thestudio and whilst on a break, one of my cats managed to dismantle one of them, and ate a fin… pretty funny.

What can you tell us about your process without giving to many of your secrets away?
My process at creating these images is pretty analogue. It involves creating a set, either large or small, with things hung, suspended, balanced, whatever it takes to get the mood. I think of the final image in terms of background, middle ground and foreground, and I have usually sketched the image I have in my head beforehand so I know what I am trying to achieve. Of course the process is quite organic, and sometimes things are added or taken away or switched around a bit.

How is working on the 12:12 project? Do you have a theme picked out yet?
Working on the 1212 Project is challenging and inspiring, I love seeing how the other photographers interpret a theme, they are always so different to each other and I love it when the images are revealed. This year is going to be more challenging I think as the themes are more abstract in many ways. The theme I chose this year is Allegory -  a theme close to my heart, exploring the meaning of symbolism within an image. By the time this will be published, my theme will be revealed as its first up this year.

Any upcoming exhibitions?
I am still trying to find a space in Sydney for the Australian leg of the 12:12 project exhibition which is proving challenging for 144 images, but am hoping to make it happen. I also have a new project underway which will be my next solo show. I learned a lot of lessons from my first show, one of those being about consolidation of a project of work, I think my last show had too many ideas in it, and I don’t think it held together that well as a complete exhibition, other than the format of Polaroid. I like to work in projects, and want this project complete to exhibit as a whole piece, you will have to watch this space to see what it is.

Do you have any instant photographers that inspire you?
There are so many brilliant instant photographers I know, too many to mention personally, but what really inspires me is greater than a film format… I love the worlds that people create, and I would love to share some of those worlds that I have fallen into

Robert and Shana Parke Harrison  http://www.parkeharrison.com
Katie Griesar  http://uncertainreverie.blogspot.com.au
John Kenn  http://johnkenn.blogspot.com.au
Jeannie Lynn Paske http://obsolete-world.blogspot.com.au