Orange Juice, ETC

The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

The Photography of Anna Shelton

My generation searches for authenticity. We straddle the line between what is to come and what was. We revel in the possibilities the future holds, and wonder at the past. I find it telling that in the midst of an instant-everything culture there swirls an undercurrent of timelessness, a longing for something more permanent.

Anna Shelton’s photography captures the ageless wonder of the everyday world, perhaps more than anyone else I’ve come across. The subjects in her work are epic in their honesty. Here you will not find n-grad filtered landscapes, or over-the-top HDR manipulation. Nor will you find post-processed digital perfection. Instead you will be reminded of the million magical moments that shimmer through our everyday life. The mist in the trees, the wind in the grass, and the simple glory of an open field. These are just a few of the subjects that Anna is able to freeze in place for us to ponder.

The soft washed out colors in the photographs of Anna Verlet almost move you toward feeling the environments capture in her images more than seeing them.”
– Christoper,

Every so often we come across photographs that make us feel.”
– Amanda Macedo,

Anna did me the honor of granting an interview, which it is my pleasure to share with you here:

Age: 35
Hometown: Born in South Carolina, raised In Florida and Ohio

Q1: In reading some of your other interviews, and throughout your Flickr stream the word “magical” keeps cropping up in reference to your photography. In your opinion what is it about your work that evokes this adjective specifically?

A1: When I heard that word used a few times to describe some of my photographs, I kind of tried to look at the images a bit more objectively.  When you’re so close to something, it can be difficult to know what it is that others are seeing.  I think the “magic” is really just light and how it touches things. I love trying to capture that on film.  I could photograph the same spot hundred times and feel like I’m seeing something different each time because of the light’s elusiveness.

Q2: It’s obvious from your work that nature, and the Pacific Northwest, are hugely inspiring to you. Why is that, and what else inspires you?

A2: I attribute the awakening to a few challenging hikes and camping trips in the Olympic Peninsula and North Cascades. I remember returning from those trips completely exhausted and glad to be home, but somehow feeling a shift in my consciousness. To immerse yourself in nature for a extended period of time is truly revelatory. It definitely changed the way I look at my surroundings. As for other things that inspire me, there’s just no way to name only a few, so I’m trying to think of a characteristic they all have in common. I guess I’m attracted and inspired by anything that has soul or an emotional warmth of feeling. How vague! Ha.

Q3: What strikes me about your photography is the care and attention you pay to every detail. Do you find that the careful cropping, and impeccable subject placement comes quickly to you, or do you spend a lot of time with each image until it’s just right? I imagine it changes from shot to shot?

A3: The majority are taken with great care for the composition and cropping. Landscape photography requires something a little extra at times to make a scene compelling. I find it can be hard to convey what you’re actually seeing when looking at a landscape because it’s so vast and there can be so many elements to consider. I try to focus on something unusual if possible, and compose in a way that enchances that aspect. At other times, I have to be quick because I’ve just made my boyfriend pull the car over in a precarious place and a semi-truck is fast approaching, or I’ve sneaked into a no-trespassing zone, etc.

Q4: In contrast to the previous question, you’ve described your photographic style as haphazard. What do you mean by that, and how does it play into your creative process?

A4: I remember using that word in my first interview, and it strikes me as funny now. At the time, I felt like my photography was all over the place. It sort of encompasses how I’ve lived my life and I’m a bit sensitive about it, I guess. I’ve always been a dilettante, dabbling in a bunch of things, unable to focus. For example, I can’t just play one instrument, or be in one band, or use one camera, or make the same meal twice, or even live in the same city for long (until Portland), which in turn means that I’m not that good at any one thing. I’ve been trying to put my focus on only a few things lately, to learn some discipline. I think I’ve accomplished that a bit this year, but I must admit that now I sometimes have fears that I’m taking the same boring photograph over and over and that I should be more experimental or haphazard again!

Q5: As far as I can tell you don’t have any digital photography in your photostream. Have you ever experimented with digital, and if so what do you think of it? What is it about film that keeps you coming back for more.

A5: About 5 years ago I bought a digital camera with the hopes that I would get over my prejudice. I used it a few times, but found the act of taking pictures so anti-climactic! Turning the camera over and seeing the results and erasing them if they were bad and taking another shot until I got one I liked; I felt like the camera made me sloppy and lazy. On the positive side, I enjoyed how freeing it was to experiment with different types of compositions without the expense of film. Unfortunately, as I started to come around to the idea, I promptly dropped the camera and broke it. I plan on getting another one at some point. I’ve liked a lot of the lo-fi photos I’ve seen lately that are taken with an i-phone. Maybe I’ll get one of those.

Q6: What does your perfect day look like?

A6:The perfect day for me is waking up early and heading out with my boyfriend in his ’66 Plymouth Valiant for a day on the road. I mention the car because I love to use it as a prop whenever possible! When we start driving, half the time we have no agenda. He’s a native to Oregon, so sometimes we’ll just head somewhere to revisit a place from his childhood, or other times I’ll have a specific area in mind. A slight chance of rain is usually the icing on the cake. You can’t beat the depth and drama it creates in the sky. After a day of driving and walking and picture taking, a hearty meal and a beer sounds pretty good. Yep, that’s the perfect day.

Q7: What got you started in photography, and what keeps you doing it?

A7: I’ve always loved taking pictures, but didn’t really dig into it until I moved to Oregon. Once I got going, I couldn’t stop. I took a darkroom class thinking I’d develop and print my own stuff, but that kind of fell to the wayside because of funds and time consumption. I had a period there where I felt kind of stuck and didn’t like any of the stuff I was doing. Then I started posting images to Flickr and everything changed. Flickr is so awesome. I could look at photos on it all day long. People are so encouraging and I love being able to share work with others and get feedback. Most importantly, it spares my friends and family, who tend to get a little bleary-eyed when I reach for another stack of photos with fervor. I love the shared enthusiasm on Flickr.

Q8: As a musician do you find there any correlation between photography and music? Do the two inspire each other, or are they separate entities?

A8: What I’ve noticed most are the differences. I’m sure not everyone would agree with me, but I find performing music much more difficult than showing my photographs. After working on pieces for a photography show recently, I was so relieved upon hanging them because all I had to do after that was show up for the opening. I didn’t have to perform the pieces!! With music, you record a song, and usually you’re expected to play live and perform it again and again. I had terrible stage fright for years, and still do to a certain extent because there are just so many variables when playing live. Are you gonna forget the lyrics, screw up on guitar… maybe you don’t feel good that day, or the audience hates what you’re putting out there. It can be really stressful. Photography, of course, can be stressful in its own unique way, but overall, it seems to affect me less. Another difference is that photography is a solitary experience. I’m not really collaborating like I am when I play music. I love having both of these outlets in my life. When I’m feeling introspective or need some alone time, the camera is my antidote, otherwise I’m playing music and hanging out with people that I love.

Q9: Do you have a favorite camera, and if so why?

A9: Well I would have to say the Olympus XA is my favorite camera. It goes everywhere with me. I can’t believe I’ve never dropped or damaged it in all these years. The design is excellent, the lens is sharp, and it suits most any situation. Thank Elias, for all your great questions!

Anna doesn’t currently have a shop set up for her photography, but if you are interested in buying a print of one of her photos her contact information can be found on her Flickr profile.

Here are 11 of my favorite photographs from Anna’s photostream. It was incredibly difficult to limit myself, but for the sake of your scroll wheel, I managed it.

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4 Responses

  1. Elias,
    Thank you! Both the stunning photos and thoughtful interview make me want to see more…and hear her music too! She’s right, “great questions”, and fun, revealing, answers, followed by inviting scenes…they remind me of Aslan’s line, “further up and further in” as the wonder of the Kingdom invites.

    Hope you two get to meet her one day.

  2. Dude, incredible interview. And I love the truths this piece reveals in both photography and music. Both celebrate, study, explore and play with time – but in very different ways. Photography – especially when pursued with film – explores the depth and complexities found within the passing moment. The shutter flutters with a blink and it’s done. A glimpse is all you get and you have to leave the moment behind. It reveals the countless miracles that we miss every instant of every day in every place. It tells a story only with questions. Staring silently, we answer with more. Music, on the other hand, is told over time and changes depending on the day, the emotion, and the environment in which it’s performed and experienced. It also asks questions, but we answer screaming in our cars with the windows down.

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