I don’t really consider myself as a person who has a lot of role models any more; as a teenager, I idolised a lot of musicians but have since grown out of that and now focus my attention on incredible conservationists and inspiring photographers. That being said, the woman I take the most inspiration from, whom I am completely and utterly in awe of is Samatha Charrazac. I started following her on tumblr when I initially joined the site and whenever new work of hers pops up on my dashboard, I am instantly reblogging and lovingly studying her work. My mind is instantly awash with inspiration and ideas and I cannot help but aspire that my work will be as incredible as her one day. She is my number one role model and it was an absolute honour to interview her.
Hello. Firstly thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, I am somewhat in awe of you and your photography and it’s an honour to finally get to know the woman creating such incredible art. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
That’s very kind of you and it’s an honor for me to be featured on your website. My name is Samantha, I am 24 years old and I live in Aquitaine, France. I have a passion for many things including Nature, Tolkien’s universe, mythology, paganism, books, taxidermy, art, History, ancient civilisations and occultism.
Your photography is clearly heavily influenced by Witchcraft, European Folklore and ethereal themes, what else influences your work? Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from many sources : Nature, art, mythologies, paganisms, literature, alchemy, folk tales and legends, astronomy… Lately, I’ve mainly been influenced by spirit and victorian mourning photography which are things I have had a passion for for years but they only recently started to creep their way into my work. I have always been fascinated by these pallid and frozen faces and always found them aesthetically pleasing so I wanted to include them in my photographs. This may have something to do with my fascination for art themes such as the depictions of Shakespeare’s Ophelia, the « beautiful corpse » motif (the dead maiden celebrating her mystical union with Nature) and the Death and the Maiden motif. Life and Death, Eros and Thanatos, Winter and Spring, these are always present at the back of my mind when I take a picture.
The composition of your photographs is incredibly distinctive and unique and you use a range of props and outfits – where do your ideas for these aspects of your photography come from?
I am flattered you think so ! I try to make my photographs look like paintings. I made a series called ‘NIGREDO’ which was particularly influenced by Renaissance paintings using Chiaroscuro and Tenebrism. Composition is primordial for me and, in that regard, paintings are my main inspiration. I also deeply enjoy Pre-raphaelite paintings and I intend to take several photographs inspired by John William Waterhouse and Edward Robert Hugues in the future. Manierism is also a huge inspiration of mine as I pay a particular attention to the position of hands and fingers in my photos. I love photographing hands, as you may have gathered by looking at my pictures. As for the props and outfits, they’re just objects I decorate my home with and my everyday clothes. I also use large pieces of fabric or big scarves to drape myself or the person I photograph in to look like a night-cloaked figure of sorts. That’s about it, really !
Do you have to travel far for your photographs of natural landscapes and your self portraits in the wilds? Where do you go?
It depends. Most of my photographs are taken in the woods where my parents used to bring me mushroom hunting when I was a child. I distinctly remember roaming through those brambles and those trees, trying to find boletus mushrooms (which wasn’t a thing I was very fond of back then) without getting any spiders in my hair. I gladly go back there as often as I can to take pictures, now. As for other locations, I traveled as far as the Pyrenees (which are nearly 300 km away from where I live) and the beautiful Iraty forest to take some of my most cherished pictures. I can’t go back there as much as I’d like to and my heart breaks a little more each time I have to leave the mountains behind me. I hope I can live closer to these beautiful landscapes someday.
I’m aware that your significant other is also a photographer and a blogger, do you bounce ideas off each other often or do you try to keep your work separate? Do you do much collaborative work?
Being an incredibly talented photographer, he is the one who inspired me the most and who gave me the desire and the motivation to start taking pictures more seriously. I owe him everything in that regard. Since we share a lot of our interests and sources of inspiration — may it be art, literature, mythology, folklore or history —, it’s sometimes difficult to know who came up with an idea first. But even if we have similar ideas to begin with, our work and our post-production habits are very different, so our photographs never end up looking the same. We usually try to keep our works separated although we gladly help each other when one of us has a project in mind. And if we share a same idea to the point where we don’t even know who started talking about it, then we do indeed collaborate to create it.
What kind of post-production goes into your photography?
It depends on the picture, of course, and on which result I wish to achieve. I usually just play with lights and shadows, colors, edit a few basic settings, fade the blacks… Then I usually apply a texture to give the picture a blurred, misty look. Sometimes I also add a dusty texture and that’s it !
Are there any other photographers whose work you particularly enjoy you’d like to tell us about?
There are indeed photographers whose work inspires me a lot and who deserve to be recognized. The first ones to come to my mind are Courtney Brooke and William Crisafi — who is also a very talented illustrator and jewelry maker —, two amazing artists based in New England. They always summon powerful and spectacular visions filled with Nature, femininity and mysticism that takes my breath away every time. They never cease to amaze me. Nona Limmen is also a talented photographer whom I deeply admire. The haunting fractured-mirror-like feminine portraits she takes are simply otherwordly. There is something in her eerie and ethereal photography that truly resonates with my soul. The work of Charles Fréger regarding the Wild Man and the rituals celebrating the seasonal cycle, life, death and fertility that still take place in many European countries also had a huge impact in my life. I wouldn’t be collecting antique cattle bells if it wasn’t for his work. When the time comes, I’d like to try and take some pictures inspired by his. And finally, I couldn’t answer this question without mentioning Sylfvr, the very talented artist who shares my life and without whom I wouldn’t have any photographs to tell you about. There are other photographers whose work I enjoy too, of course, but these are the ones that came to my mind first.
What do you do in your spare time?
I go wandering through the woods and the meadows as often as I can. Another guilty pleasure of mine is going to flea markets. I just love looking for old treasures and I am lucky enough to live in a city where there is a huge flea market organized every Sunday. I also enjoy crafting. I’ve discovered the pleasures of cross stitching a few months ago and I instantly fell in love with it. It’s a pleasant and relaxing way to pass the time, in my opinion. I also I started making necklaces using gemstones beads and nature finds, too, and will try my hand at embroidery very soon.
You’ve said that you don’t consider yourself ‘Pagan’ but could you possibly explain your belief system to us?
I said that I don’t follow or practice any of the neopagan religions, not that I don’t consider myself a pagan. I just chose to create my own path and paved it with bits and pieces of myths and paganisms I love and can identify my own views with. The only deity I believe in is Nature : Nature is my god, trees are my idols and forests are my temples. In my opinion, gods and goddesses of every religion are merely embodiments of various aspects of Nature that humankind imagined in order to explain what they couldn’t understand, and some of these personifications of Nature appeal to me more than others. I have always been fascinated by the narrow link that exists between Life and Death so, of course, this combined with my undying love for Nature led me to feel particularly close to the vegetation and chthonian deities. The archetype of the god/goddess of crops and vegetation who dies in Winter and is reborn in Spring is one of my eternal favourites. About two years ago, I also developed a strong obsession for the figure of the Winter Hag and for the deer folklore that is sometimes associated with it. Therefore, the Cailleach, Persephone and Baldr are some of the deities I feel particularly drawn to. I could go on and on forever about it and I’d be happy to discuss it further but I think this answer is already long enough as it is !
What role has social media played in the production of your art?
It played a huge part in it. Being able to discover and follow fellow photographers keeps me motivated and inspired. But most importantly, I think art is meant to be shared — at least, for my part, I need to share it. I probably wouldn’t be as productive if it wasn’t for the support I get from people on Instagram and Tumblr.
Where do you get your clothing from? Do you have any recommendations for our readers?
Most of my clothes are from regular clothing stores like H&M and Asos although I mostly wear thrifted and second-hand garments nowadays. I also try to support small independent designers (Ovate, Noctex and Raintower for example) as much as I can. The only recommendation I’d like to give you is : don’t be afraid to search for secondhand garments on the internet or to rummage through piles of old clothes, may it be in thrift stores or at flea markets, because that’s where you can find the most lovely and original things. And most of all, wear whatever makes you feel confident, beautiful and comfortable. If you’re at ease with the way you look, it won’t matter what anyone else think.
Do you have any particular outfits you feeling particularly powerful and “You” in?
Lately, I’ve been feeling particularly comfortable wearing long dresses, lace bralets, lacy, crocheted or embroidered tops, victorian-inspired blouses, draped cardigans and wide shawls. I always wear multiples layers of clothes except in the summer when the weather sadly is way too hot for that. I love looking like a modern-age Nazgûl or a black-draped shadow of sorts. If I had to put a name on the way I dress these days it would probably be something along the lines of « crone in mourning » or « funereal old lady », I guess. The way I dress constantly evolves in every aspect but color. A few months ago I couldn’t wear anything but leggings and trousers, now I only wear dresses and skirts. Here are some of the clothes I wear the most nowadays :
Where do you see yourself in the future? How do you see your creative works evolving?
Hopefully, I will be living in a little house near the forest and the mountains and be closer to what really matters to me : Nature. As for my work, I intend to keep improving myself and be able to come up with more detailed and elaborated setups. But more importantly, I hope to include more landscapes and grand panoramas in my work.
What is a typical day in your life like?
Let’s talk about a typical day off, shall we ? I usually wake up early (or to be more accurate my cat wakes me up early) and start my day with a good breakfast and a huge cup of tea. After that, either I spend the morning crafting and roaming the internet or I go out to the market and, if it’s Sunday, to the flea market. Then I cook some delicious lunch for myself and my other half which we usually enjoy while watching some TV shows. In the afternoon, I exercise, take a shower and go out for a walk. Or sometimes, if I have an idea in mind that won’t go away, I stay at the flat and take some pictures (or go to the forest if I am in the countryside). Then it’s cooking time again, TV shows and/or crafting, I drink my tenth cup of tea of the day, and then I go to bed. That’s it, basically. Pretty exciting, isn’t it ?
Do you have a favourite photo you’ve taken or a particular self portrait you’re particularly proud of?
If I had to choose one photo I’ve taken it would be ‘Le Roi des aulnes’ (‘The Erlking’ or, literally, ’The Elder-King’). This is by far the one I’m the most proud of. I’d like to take a similar one of a dear friend of mine and myself one day called ‘Les Filles du Roi des elfes’ (‘The King of Elfland’s Daughters’) to go with it.
I’m interested in your home, your personal space – how have you made it distinctly you?
Decorating my nest is one of my biggest pleasures, I truly am like a magpie in that regard : I am drawn to everything that shines. I love to gather various old objects I find in secondhand shops and flea markets. The older and the stranger the better. That and all the beautiful things Nature provides when I go wandering outside. Basically, my place is filled with plants, books, skulls, feathers, crystals, antique frames, copper cauldrons, brass candle holders, wooden boxes, glass bells and jars filled with bones, shells and dried herbs… all of these being scattered around in a joyous mess. I also like to surround myself with prints of artists whose work I admire (Bill Crisafi, Sin Eater, Milkwood and Druidessart to name a few). Someone once told me that my flat looked like a curiosity cabinet or a museum, which is exactly the goal I am trying to achieve, I guess !
Where do you find the motivation to produce your photography?
As I said before, the support I get on social medias, the work of photographers I admire and the unending encouragements from my boyfriend are all I need to keep being motivated.
Do you have any musicians you particularly want to share with us?
The two musical artists that inspire me the most are Agalloch and Dead Can Dance. I also discovered a band called The Blue Angel Lounge a few months ago and have been listening to their album ‘A Sea Of Trees’ on repeat ever since.
What should we expect from you in the future?
I have many photography projects in mind including one related to one of my favorite myths — the abduction of Persephone — and another one in collaboration with SYLFVR inspired by our shared love for astronomy (which might take some time to put in place). I also plan on taking more pictures in collaboration with a beautiful friend of mine whom I recently had the opportunity to lure into posing for me, so expect a lot of new photographs in the future. Now that I have taken the plunge, it seems I can’t stop myself anymore.