Interview With Valentina Schulte

Valentina Schulte is one of Art Pharmacy’s treasured photographers. Her love for travelling and photography has blossomed into a gentle serenade of the world around her. Her works highly revolve around the eccentric and mystical qualities of nature and the natural world. The softness of her photography style seeps a certain profundity as she contemplates and records the visual beauty she perceives around her.

When did you first start photography?
I first studied photography seriously when I undertook a Diploma of Fine Art at TAFE. One day one we were given our first assignment which was to take a 35mm camera and a roll of black and white film and discover details of our immediate area and record them – only one rule – absolutely no cropping allowed. We had to then come back to the wet labs and process our films by hand and print our photographs using the whole 35mm frame. It was a good first assignment and to this day more than 10 years later, I still think about those basic rules of composition every time I take a photograph.

How do you decide what you’re going to portray within your works?
I don’t really make any conscious decisions about what I am going to portray in a photograph. I will take thousands of images when I am deep within my thought sphere and allow ideas to flow from there. I am also of the ‘decisive moment’ school, which means I prefer the serendipitous discovery of an interesting subject and choose the specific moment to capture something interesting happening within that space.

How do you decide on the destination in which you’re going to photograph?
A lot of my work might seem like destination-based work or travel photography but it’s more than what appears on face value. I have been very fortunate that I have had the opportunity and resources to travel to some of our planet’s most incredible locations, but as a creator, I believe you need to get out of your own front door to find something spectacular as it won’t always necessarily be right nearby.

What’s your artmaking process?
Ever since beginning my art practise I have always kept a notebook with me; ideas sometimes come to me when I am doing the most mundane of everyday activities! Aside from this, I do take particular interest in the areas surrounding research in the environment, space, and memory. On a more general level, I usually take quite a lot of photographs, despite not specifically being for a project that I am working on at the time. If the decisive moment grabs me, I record it. It’s because of this method that my conceptual ideas sometime come to me when I am reviewing the images later on; they will formulate and I will start working on the series of work from there.

How do you choose which photos to use?
An editing process I have found extremely beneficial over the years is to choose all the images that instinctively grab me straight away and then print them all out as small individual proofs. Once the entire collection is on the wall in miniature form and able to be compared equally, I then spend hours at a time looking at them carefully, changing the order, referring to the master files on screen for details, removing, re-adding and grading them inside that first initial selection. I look for how two images relate to one another and what the overall flow of a series of images might be.

What role does nature play on your perception of your art form?
The evolution of nature in my work has happened by chance really. I think it comes down to the fact that I am curious about the world in all its forms. It started with photographing everything and everything in urban environments; searching for the punctum in everyday life.

These ideas led me to other research areas in science and philosophy and I followed my concepts to what natural anomalies can be thrown at us while we are searching for something else to larger ideas on the solar system, where we are as a species now, versus what might be there, and humanities involvement in the unknown, when we reach the end.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on two new series I shot earlier this year while travelling.

The first is Náttsól: The Resignation of Night. It considers the disruptive effect Iceland’s constant 24-hour daylight has on the natural environment and the animals and humans who inhabit its surreal landscape. It currently has (after exhaustive editing) approximately 45 images, and when placed next to one another in a linear form, the underlying idea behind the work will become obvious. Can’t tell all the secrets now! The first image from this series is titled “The Birds”; this was part of the collection of works I showed at the inaugural The Other Art Fair – Sydney in September.

The second is a cross-disciplinary video and photographic work called Texture / Contexture. It pulls abstracted natural details such as rocks, gravel, moss, water from various locations I visited throughout the world to form the base of an interwoven tapestry that makes our home planet the diverse, complicated and tactile wonder that it is.

In terms of my exhibiting works, three abstract video landscapes titled Proximate Cause, Drift and Error/ADRIPHT were shown at Paradise Cinema at the Paradise Music Festival late last year in Victoria’s Alpine region.

Be sure to catch Valentina’s exhibition as you won’t want to miss out. You can see Valentina’s works for sale here.

Words by Lotte Thomson-Vock