A young photographer hailing from Santa Barbara, California, Olivia Shove constantly stretches the boundaries of her subject matter, while also exploring the means to publish her photographs across a growing spectrum of mediums. A friend of many at Breakfast, watching Olivia explore photography and meld her work with her interests continuously fascinated us...
1. Who are you?
My name is Olivia Shove. I’m 23 years old and currently living in my hometown, Santa Barbara, California.
2. Describe your medium & process for your photos...
My process for photography began as a form of documentation. I have one manual 35mm film camera and one lens, with which I have shot just about all of my photos. Most of my work happens after I've finished a roll. When I first started shooting film I had access to a darkroom, so I was developing and printing everything by hand. I’ve since had to outsource for processing, but I've spent most of the last year scanning my film frame-by-frame and learning as much as I can about editing techniques while I develop my style. I'm becoming more interested in the art of making an image, rather than simply taking a photo of what's already there. I think the place where “taking” a photo and “making” a photo meet is where I want to be. I’d like to tell stories with my photos, whether that be through the framing of an image, or actually constructing an environment to place a subject in. Regardless, I want all of my photos to portray genuine moments in time, whether I created the moment for the sake of the photo, or just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
3. How did you find your passion? Who/what influences your work?
It sounds cliché but I’ve been making art in some form since before my memory even begins. I've always had an interest in photography, but it wasn't until my 3rd year of college when I took a darkroom photo class that something just clicked. I got so attached to the little Nikon I borrowed from school that when I had to return it at the end of the semester I found the same model on eBay, and 2 years later it is still my most prized possession. I haven’t felt this strongly about a single creative outlet since I gave up ballet due to an injury 6 years ago, so I’m fairly certain this is going to stick.
I have several influences, but I think my surroundings are always the greatest of them. When I travel I shoot mainly landscapes and architecture, and when I photograph people I focus on the individual and the environment they exist in. Taking photos keeps me present and forces me to focus on whatever is in front of me. I try to keep my work honest and just capture my subjects as I see them without too much interference. Over the last year I’ve become increasingly fascinated by places stuck in the past and have been trying to portray a sense of timelessness through the photos I take of them. For instance, I came across an old motel that probably hadn’t been updated since the 50’s and just thought it was so strange sitting across the street from Target and Trader Joe’s, undoubtedly a junkie hangout, but I loved that it was just left there. I spent a morning driving around looking for more like it and started a little on-going series, which I’d like to turn into a book. William Eggleston is a constant inspiration to me. Pamela Littky’s ‘Gateway to Death Valley’ and Alec Sothe’s ‘Niagara’ were big influences in another recent series, thanks to a very lovely professor I had in my last semester of college. When it comes to portraiture, Ryan McGinley, Nate Walton, Nedda Afsari, and Francesca Allen are some of my favorites, but I can’t deny the enormous influence of the photographers I’ve modeled for, one of which has now become my mentor. I learned how to photograph people by being photographed, an opportunity which has given me a unique perspective that plays directly into the way I take photos, especially when I photograph women.
4. What excites you about your work? What do you struggle with?
Recently I've been having a lot of fun making zines and prints with my photos. I like shooting film because it feels much more like a visual art form. It's physical and gets my hands involved, but since it ends up getting digitized it's fun to turn it back into something tangible, rather than just taking a photo to view on a screen. I often forget I have a background in both visual art and multimedia design, so it’s exciting for me to combine the two.
Since this is still so new to me and I really only began to take it seriously over the last year, it's easy for me to second-guess myself and doubt my abilities, but I think that's the case for any artistically-inclined person. I put so much time and energy into everything I produce, it's really vulnerable to share it publicly, but I love it and don't want to do anything else, so I just wing it and hope for the best. So far, so good.
5. What are your goals? Where do you see yourself going?
Short-term, I want to make more zines, more exhibitions, more collaborations, and always have a roll of film in my camera. Long-term, I’d like to see as much of the world as I can, experiment with larger film formats, and put out a hardcover photo book. After just completing 17 years of consistent schooling, the question 'where am I going' is a daily crisis, but I don't think I will ever stop taking photos, even if it's just for my own viewing.