Instant photography is more than just polaroids, it’s about living in the moment and appreciating all the little things in life. Local Wolves’ Lydia Snapper spoke to creative and blogger of Instant Stories, Celestine Fraser to find out more about the love for writing, photography and her thoughts on invisible illnesses.
Tell me a little bit about what you were like when you were younger. Were you always interested in photography and what about that medium drew you in?
CF — When I was little, whatever I was into, I was obsessed with. It was all or nothing, so when I found something I liked, I poured into it every inch of my being! But then the phase would pass and I’d get distracted and move onto something else. My first camera was a polaroid, it took absolutely tiny photos, and the fact that it developed instantly seemed mind blowing to a 5 year old! I’m pretty sure that this picture of my family was the first photo I ever took.
What is your fascination with polaroid photography vs. other styles?
CF — What’s so special to me about instant photography is that it’s honest. In an age when you can edit and airbrush and filter any digital photo, it’s refreshing. The moment the shutter goes click, it’s out of your hands. It’s not a construction: what you see is what you get.
What are the types of things you like to capture with your photography?
CF — I’ve always liked capturing my travels with photography— the physicality of a polaroid makes them a perfect souvenir. Lately, I’ve been enjoying taking portraits too. But the best photos are the ones that you can’t choreograph. So my favorites are the ones which might first seem imperfect or unflattering, but you come to love as they capture the magic of a moment.
Do you have any artists or photographers that you admire and what about their work inspires you?
CF — I’m more a fan of illustration than fine art. I love the work of illustrators like Maurice Sendak, Quentin Blake, and Julia Pott. Good illustration is simple and looks almost effortless, like something anyone could do. To me, the best art is accessible, not some kind of high culture reserved for museum curators and art history graduates. It’s hard to find photographers who really stand out now that every next person has a dSLR. But I interviewed Antonio Perricone a few months ago and I think he’s going to blow up. And Celine Mitchell is one of my best friends and she takes really stunning portraits.
You are also a writer, what about that art form interests you and have you always been interested in writing?
CF — I love writing for the opposite reasons I love instant photography, and I like to think that’s why they work so well together. With a polaroid photo, you can capture something in a matter of seconds, whereas writing is the opposite; it gives you time, and that’s a luxury. But more than anything it’s about sharing stuff with strangers. It gives you a space to share the stories of the people you’ve met and the places you’ve visited. I especially love meeting new and creative people and getting to know them through the course of an interview. As a child I was always putting together magazines and newspapers. I loved writing, but also enjoyed the editing and design side; compiling words and images into something worth someone’s time— though that’s maybe up for debate. Have you not heard of ‘The Tortoise Telegraph’ or ‘The Pig Post’?
Your blog is very personal. Does it ever frighten you to be so candid online knowing anyone can read what you write?
CF — It’s personal, but still very much a work in progress. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to feel comfortable sharing snippets of my own life with my readers. People want to read a blog with a human face, and I have to accept that! But the positive response to my recent post on invisible illnesses has given me the courage to keep sharing bits and bobs of my own life, both good and bad.
You are an advocate for chronic illness. If you are comfortable sharing, have you had any personal challenges connecting to illness and disability?
CF — I don’t know, I both am and am not. There’s a rather tiring idea that anyone ill or disabled is an advocate and an “inspiration,” simply by existing. But I do think it’s important to be open about your own experiences of illness and disability, because if we don’t talk about it, then there’s no chance in hell that anyone else will! Illness is hugely isolating (especially when your friends are out clubbing) so I feel some responsibility to talk about it so that others feel less alone. I’m actually working on a documentary about invisible illnesses at the moment. Of course it’s been challenging: it’s very scary when your body— the one thing you feel is truly yours— stops working as it should. You put on a mask of “healthiness” every time you leave the house, so end up lying even to close friends about the full extent of your condition. People have such trouble getting their head round the idea that you can look well and be ill, or look young and be disabled. I’m very glad that there’s growing awareness for mental illness, but with that comes the idea that if you’re unwell, well then it must be anxiety or depression, because it couldn’t be something physical at “such a young age!” Chronic physical illnesses are massively mis- and under-diagnosed in young people, because doctors often dismiss physical symptoms as side effects of mental illness.
What are your goals for your blog but more so, where do you see yourself in five years?
CF — I want to interview more of the creative people I admire and I want to improve my writing. I’d also like to feel less self-conscious writing about myself. Of course it’d be an added bonus if Instant Stories could reach a few more readers. In five years, I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight! I hope I’ve been able to do some travelling. I hope that writing is a part of my job. Eternal happiness and health would be nice. And so would a dwarf hamster.
Favorite local place?
CF — The Churchill Arms pub in Notting Hill is amazing. Its outside is completely covered in flowers. Inside, it’s a traditional cosy pub, but in its back rooms there’s a delicious Thai restaurant, with tons of hanging plants.