After launching her seventh book “Hi you are beautiful how are you?”, her fourth collaboration with Swedish artist and sometimes model, Arvida Byström, we caught up with photographer Valerie Phillips to ask her a few questions.
Tell us about your new book "Hi you are beautiful, how are you?" It's my seventh book. Completely unplanned. It happened mostly out of my evolving friendship with Arvida, an artist / photographer I met through a mutual friend. We shot it over two years in London - whenever we felt like hanging out and making something (which for me is always).
When did you first meet Arvida? I first met Arvida on Skype 3 years ago, after I saw a self portrait she shot called ‘lick fuck luck’. I knew I had to work with her. I flew her from Stockholm where she was living, to London, to take pictures of her for a few days in an old house in Hackney. We just continued from there quite organically until we made a bunch of zines and eventually this book.
Your photos have a definitive realness to them, is this something you consciously try to create? I don’t like fantasy, imposed narrative, or delicate precious photography that’s impossible to relate to. I like real life, so that’s what I take pictures of.
What made you first start to document girls over a series of time and who was your first subject? My First subject of real significance to me was Monika, the girl from ‘I Want To Be An Astronaut’, my first book. I wanted to see if I could photograph those things I was fascinated by - someone just wandering through their world - no constraints, no one else to please - just taking pictures of the stuff I was personally curious about. The little boring moments and the weird fun. Before that I had done a bunch of work with PJ Harvey that I really loved (still do), which I guess was as close to 'documenting a girl’ as I’d ventured at that point.
When casting what do you look for in someone? I have no rules, I just know instantly when I meet someone if want to photograph them. Occasionally I can tell from seeing a photo, but most models have terrible pictures in their books. I really like to meet the girls in person, instead of looking at other photographers ugly overly made-up realizations of an otherwise super cool girl. And lots of times the girls (and some guys) I shoot aren’t models anyway, just people I meet out in the world.
What made you move to London? I was uninspired by the crazy expensive grown-up city that NY had become, and I was in love with British music, which is what I started taking pictures of.
What are your thoughts on publishing and print in 2014? I think you should make work and put it out into the world by any means you can, as long as it is not compromised or diluted. Print is as relevant and interesting as it’s always been, except for most mainstream fashion/style magazines which have become really homogenized with the same ugly plastic picture of a bored model on the cover and mostly archaic out-of-touch content. They all seem so scared of doing anything remotely interesting - showing the slightest bit of real humanity or sexuality. I don’t really know anyone who buys those magazines anymore. Most of my friends buy zines, and some photo/art books, mostly independent stuff.
Are there any photographers who's work you admire? Richard Kern, Ed Templeton, Sally Mann