Nikon D800, Hasselblad 500cm.
Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Tish Murtha, Abbie Traylor Smith, Sarah Lee and many more.
Hell Bay, Bryher, Isles of Scilly.
The Bone People, Keri Hulme.
Carolyn Mendelsohn is a photographer and artist who uses photography, film and performance to realise creative ideas rooted in the lives of individuals, their story and location. Alongside this, she works on personal portrait commissions and commercial briefs, lifestyle and fashion, and she runs site-specific creative photography workshops, and mentoring photographers, and working collaboratively with other artists.
Her work is crafted through a rigorous process of social research and collection of material. It follows a visual narrative and has emotional content.
Most recently, her ongoing photographic and sound work ‘Being Inbetween’ has been in exhibition as a solo work in the Crossley Gallery, Halifax (the largest contemporary art gallery in the north of England) as well as in Hull and at Gallery 2, Salts Mill, Saltaire, Uk. Two works have also been selected by curator Zelda Cheatle for AOP50 at Canary Wharf London.
Mendelsohn’s work has been exhibited internationally including, Spain and Japan as part of the Portrait Salon, and with work touring with the prestigious Royal Photographic Society International Photography Exhibition; her portrait ‘Alice’ having won the gold medal. In print, her photography has appeared in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Mail, La Monde, Professional Photographer Magazine, Photo Professional, RPS magazine as well as Click Magazine. She has been featured online in the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Bored Panda, British Journal of Photography and AOP. Her portrait series ‘Being Inbetween’ is ongoing, and with further exhibitions in the UK and internationally planned in 2019, and a book in development.
Carolyn has received many awards including BJP Portrait of Britain, RPS IPE 159 gold medal, Professional Photographer of the Year 2013 – lifestyle Category, and she was selected to appear as one of the final six photographers in Channel 4’s ‘Picture This’, which was the search for Britain’s top emerging digital photographer in 2008. Recently she was shortlisted for the International Women Photographers Award. Her work has received awards from The Arts Council, England, and she has been sponsored by organisations such a FujiFilm, ArtLink, and CC imaging.
-Did you always want to be a professional photographer?
No I didn’t. I loved looking at photography but didn’t like the idea of it. In fact, I was opposed to it mainly because I was brought up in a family of photo-enthusiasts, and a sprinkling of professional photographers and film-makers, and there are cameras at every occasion. I found it invasive. I wanted to be a bus conductor, then a policewoman, followed by an actor. I ended up training as an actor and worked in theatre as an actor/director for some time. I then started to make films and gradually saw the magic of photography, and from then on it was a no-brainer.
-What words best describe your style of photography?
Emotional, dramatic, compelling and considered.
-Is there a theme or concept that runs throughout all of your work?
I want my work to move people; to tell a story, or to hint a greater drama behind the portrait, or the person behind the pose. I love a sense of stillness (or rather a stilled moment) in portraiture.
-How do you attract new clients?
Most of my commercial clients, come through my website, or people who have found the work online. Personal commissions often come through word of mouth, or via social media.
-What is your post-production workflow like?
I download raw files into a folder, upload to Lightroom, and cull, followed by post processing in Lightroom and retouching in Photoshop. Back to Lightroom, and export as Jpgs.
-What is your dream project?
Apart from a desire to be a wildlife photographer and sit up high in a tree and photograph elephants in Africa, I would seriously love to be commissioned to create compelling portraits for a charity or an NGO, something that makes a difference to the lives of the subjects or provides people with an insight into other people’s lives.
-What is your creative process like? What are you start, middle and end points?
Sometimes I wake up with an idea, I let this develop in my head, research a bit and then start building up on the idea and realising it. Sometimes I develop an idea because I am using my camera as a tool to explore the things I am curious about or fascinated by.
If it is a commercial commission, I respond to the brief, through an intensive process of research and brainstorm, and have many dark nights of the soul, there is much anxiety, but I find this is an essential part of my process. Then, as if by magic, a clear vision arrives and anxiety abates. I always make sure I am well prepared before the production or shoot day arrives and then I am able to improvise and create.
-How do you approach posing or directing your subject?
It is dependent on the commission or project. I am very much influenced by location and light and often work organically with my clients. I work with what is there and respond to the site or the story of the subject. I always storyboard before a shoot and then use that as a backup. I want all my subjects to feel completely at ease during the shoot and not to feel responsible for posing, so I guide them very gently, in a considered way.
-What is your general guide when it comes to lighting?
I am driven by finding the right light, more than anything else, and this is with regards to on-location with natural light or in the studio. I think simple lighting is by far the best. One light can be magical; why use more when you can use one. When you set up lights you should experiment and enjoy using them. Make lots of mistakes and then learn from it.
-What was the best career advice you were ever given?
Don’t just think it; say it and then do it.