Wanda Orme Isle of Man
Wanda Orme is a artist, model and writer. She was born on the Isle of Man, raised in London, lost in California, and now lives and works in New York City.
Wanda Orme was chosen by photographer Marian Sell
Laatikkomo’s interview with Wanda Orme February 6th, 2016
L: Where are you from? What cities, and/or countries have you lived in – or what places have influenced you?
WO: I was born on a tiny, independent island in the Irish Sea called the Isle of Man, we left when I was four years old. Since then I’ve lived in London, Los Angeles, San Diego, and New York City. I had the privilege of traveling a lot when I was growing up, it’s hard to say where influenced me most – perhaps the experience of so many different realities and ways of being, as a whole, had the greatest effect on me.
L: What is your earliest memory of photography?
WO: It’s hard to differentiate between memories of photographs and memories of photography. I guess the first photos I shot were on disposable 35mm cameras or my mum’s tiny and lovely Olympus Miu camera. One of my strongest memories from beginning to take photographs is of being at the seaside in Cromer, on the east coast of England. It was a beautiful steely stormy day and I’d just started shooting on black and white film with my OM10. I was a young teenager at the time, the weather and rough seas resonated so deeply and I felt an intense emotional connection to taking the photos. I was still standing by the ocean when I opened the camera to change the film and realized that I had loaded it incorrectly and it hadn’t wound on at all. I cried! I think that this was an important lesson (not only to load your film right), but to accept and embrace the lack of control that often comes with the process of creation, and specifically with shooting film.
L: What traits from your cultural history do you think are apparent in the photographs you currently make, – or are they?
WO: Being born and raised for the first years of my life on an island, surrounded by sea and shoreline, surely had an effect on the kind of environments i’m drawn to and interested in photographing. Islands are in constant negotiation with the water around them – you are always skirting their edges, playing at the margins.
L: Your use of colour in many of your images has a retro-film effect – like film from the 70’s and 80’s that has lost different colour tones over time. For me, this colour scale has a kind of nostalgic feel to it, are you interested in tapping into a nostalgic mood?
WO: I think I do certainly feel a nostalgia (perhaps inherited), but the photos are not so much about nostalgia for a specific time. I’m more interested in these effects as markers of history – processes of change over time – than in trying to capture or return to a specific moment or era. A lot of the film I shoot on is expired and the color comes from the change and breakdown in the chemicals. I like the unpredictability of this. For me it is another aspect of a sort of creative negotiation with the world, in contrast to domination or determinism. I enjoy it when the material history of the medium has such agency over the final result.
L: You are a photographer but you are also a photography model. How does your experience as a subject inform what and how you photograph your own subjects?
WO: I can identify with both the vulnerability and sense of power that comes with being a model – there’s a delicate play between the two and I think there’s a great value and beauty that can come from exploring this in the relationship between photographer and subject. I’d also say that these two sensations – vulnerability and power, are experienced by the photographer too, so it’s not a clear or fixed relationship between photographer and subject, instead the relationship is a shifting set of intimacies that you both must navigate.
L: Marian Sell, a photographer you frequently work with, mentioned that as a model you feel your body should be appreciated on the same level as your face. Historically body and face have in some ways been divided (representations of women have often focused on either/or). In your work as a photographer, do you feel body and face have a tendency to compete?
WO: I don’t see them as competing, but as often situated relative to one another in a moral hierarchy which I disagree with. It’s really a recapitulation of the mind-body dichotomy, where the face is imbued with associations of rationality, higher value, the capacity to transcend, and the body is associated with more basic, instinctive “drives”. So you get this set of binary oppositions which mutually reinforce each other as they are recapitulated throughout culture – male is to female, as culture is to nature, as public is to private, as subject is to object. So the associations between female – nature – private – object strengthen, as do those between male – culture – public – subject, with this last set of associations historically having been granted the value and power which enable them to dominate and subjugate the first. Face and body can be inserted into these chains of association:
Body – female – nature – private – object
Face – male – culture – public – subject
It’s these associations, especially body – object / face – subject, and the relative values attributed to them that I want to challenge.
L: Your work often uses a layering effect, superposing images of nature, a woman’s body and fruit. Are you interested in the symbolism of these elements, or are you strictly playing with the structural aspects of light and plane?
WO: The images are intuitive, there’s an unpredictability to them that I really appreciate. I enjoy shooting double exposures because they enable you to weave – to put things into relationship with one another that might otherwise be separated by great distance.
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words you were thinking about when you made this series (shown in Laatikkomo)?
Thank you so much Wanda!!