Featured Photographer: Mel Dixon
We are pleased to start a new feature here at Moti's Blog where we will be featuring photographers from all over the world.
Today we are pleased to introduce you to Mel Dixon.
Mel is a lover of film photography and lo-fi cameras (such as the Diana Mini and Lomo LC-A) and she creates some amazing and unique images with these tools.
Born in Tenterfield, New South Wales, Australia, Mel grew up in various country Queensland towns, moving to Brisbane to attend the Australian College of Natural Medicine. After a two-year stay in London, today she calls Melbourne in Australia home.
Mel is also poet, editor, naturopath and free spirit who loves familiar
smells, warm scarfs, the sun on her face and a pen or camera in her hand.
1. Could you tell us a little bit about how you first discovered photography, how long you’ve been shooting and how toy cameras came to fit into it all?
Until I discovered ‘toy’ cameras I was strictly a point and shoot compact digital camera person. I never until then imagined anything beyond photographs as mementos, although for me, I always liked to take photographs differently, light was always important and I most always avoided using flash. I liked to take photos engrained with true reality. I remember wanting to be involved with film photography for about a year before I purchased my first analogue camera, the Diana Mini, then after that it all seemed to happen quick and fast. I was hooked from the first film I shot.
I have since then come to own an original Lomo LC-A, another Diana Mini, a Fuji Mini 25 and a Superheadz Wide and Slim camera. I also use both the Diana Flash and Lomography Coloursplash Flash.
Before photography I wrote poetry and short prose for 10 years. When I was writing poetry I always felt that I was trying to capture what I saw and how I felt about what I saw in words. After 10 years of writing poetry and not feeling entirely happy about it, I realised that writing about visuals, for me, was like trying to give words to the unexplainable.
2. You have had quite some experience with the Diana Mini and also participated in a workshop during the Diana World Tour. What do you like about this camera and can you share some quick tips on this camera?
The Diana Mini was my first analogue camera and I think for that reason I will always feel fondness towards it. The Diana Mini is incredibly versatile, easy to use and easy to get wonderful effects from.
My first tip is to throw away the lens cap, really you don’t need it, the plastic lens isn’t really that easy to scratch and then you don’t run the risk of shooting an entire roll of film before realising that you left the lens cap on.
Secondly, be adventurous with film, cross processing, developing and changing frames, there are so many ways to shoot a subject with this camera, double or triple exposures, overlapping panoramic exposures and bulb settings that if you become bored with a Diana Mini you aren’t trying hard enough!
You can find more tips for the Diana Mini camera over at my blog: http://www.milkandmiel.com.
3. Looking through your flickr stream it’s obvious you have a great eye for colour and many of your colour images are quite ‘punchy’. Is this a natural instinct or do you consciously set out to look for strong colour and colour contrasts?
I love colour, in photographs. Light is also important to me, which makes sense when you understand that colour simply is light at different frequencies. Colour stands out for me, and catches my eye, so I guess you could say it is a natural instinct.
4. Which types of film (colour and black and white) do you use and which ones do you like best?
My favorite black and white film is Kodak’s BW400CN, it is a C-41 process black and white film, which is easy and cheap to get developed, and excellent for use on dull winter days.
For colour negative film, I love the now discontinued Kodak Portra 400VC (now replaced by Portra 400), it gives beautiful vivid colour and very good grain for a 400 speed film.
My favorite slide films to cross process are Rollei’s Crossbird and Lomography’s x-pro chrome 100. Both give wonderful x-pro colours, with Crossbird prone to greens and yellows and x-pro chrome punchy colours and a strong vignette.
5. You have also used redscale film a bit, what's you experience with this film? Do you find it works better in some situations than others?
I have a love hate relationship with redscale. I find that for some reason redscale films tear very easily in toy cameras, and for this reason I haven’t used them as much as I would like. However, redscale captures light beautifully and if shot at a low speed can give beautiful clarity and cool tones. My personal favorite films are Rollei Redbird 400 and Lomography Redscale 100.
6. You have a really cool flickr set titled 'feet' - how did this idea develop?
I started taking photos of my feet many years ago and it has somehow weaved it’s way into my analogue film passion. I did an e-course with Susannah Conway called unravelling last year and part of the course was to use photography as a way to discover ourselves. One of the activities involved taking photographs of our feet, so this was a continuation of many years of taking feet photographs. I like the fact that sometimes a photograph of your feet, on a certain piece of ground, at a certain time somehow becomes just as powerful (or more) than any other portrait.
You can find Susannah’s e-courses at: http://www.susannahconway.com
7. You run a community called Melbourne Lomoholics - what's the idea behind this community?
Melbourne Lomoholics was set up to help local film photographers and toy camera users to share information. Because photography can at times be such a solatary activity, I wanted to find a way to bring together those who shared a love for analogue cameras and film.
8. Which photographers inspire you?
I feel incredibly influenced by the art of Max Gimblett, although not a photographer, I have always felt that his works are like photographs of the soul and spirit. He uses the art of zen to create his artworks, and I feel that you can apply this in a similar way in photography.
While I was in Vienna in 2009 I saw a portrait photography exhibition at the Kunsthalle Wien, three photographs by Rineke Dijkstra that effected and influenced me greatly were of three polish and dutch women who has just given birth, they were standing in the hospital ward alone, holding their newborns, naked. I remember standing for over half an hour just looking deeper and deeper into the photographs.
Other photographers who inspire me include Anton Corbjin, Gregory Crewdson and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
9. What’s your favourite photography book?
There is also an excellent book of Gregory Crewdson’s photography which I highly recommend.
10. You work full-time and study full-time, how on earth do you fit photography into your life, and where would like to take your photography in the future?
I have no idea how I fit photography into my hectic life! I tend to always have a camera and spare film in my bag, so walking to and from work I can sometimes get a few shots, weekends often offer a few hours for photography, so I try to savior the few moments I find.
I look forward to having a large enough collection of photographs so that I can start to put a portfolio together, and take it from there. I want to take photographs every chance I get and take as many opportunities as I can find to get that next ‘perfect’ shot.
In the future I would just like to continue to evolve my photography and learn more about the photographic process and develop my skills. Since street photography is my current interest I would love to become more involved in that and also begin to take more portraits. I would also love to spread the analogue camera love and help keep film alive!
PhotoMoti: Thank you, Mel, for participating in this - our very first - featured photographer piece here at PhotoMoti, and indeed for sharing some of your experiences so far as a photographer along with some cool tips and inspirational references.