Artist Spotlight: Shannon Wolf

ShannonWolf It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another Artist Spotlight. Today we feature a photographer that I have been hounding to get on the blog for a while. Shannon Wolf submitted to us when we first launched the blog and has had images featured on multiple Featured Fridays and during our Wedding Week last year. It wasn’t until she had beaten me several times at Words With Friends, that she decided to get the interview filled out for me. There is something about the way Shannon captures her clients and friends that makes stop for a moment just to take in the image. One thing that really stands out to me, is her use of expired Polaroid films.

You can find more of Shannon’s work at the following links.

Website | Instagram | Website


A little about yourself. Where you are from and what you do.

I am a photographer and visual artist and have been living in Portland, OR for four and a half years. I graduated with my BFA in Art Practices from PSU. Before moving to Portland I studied Creative Photography at UF in Florida. My art practice includes photography, video, installation, sculpture, mixed media, and printmaking. I spend my free time daydreaming and being an explorer of the world.


How did you get into instant photography?

I grew up loving to capture my life in photographs. First, as a child with my family’s film point and shoot, and later on with my first SLR, an old Canon AE-1, that my mother won for me at an auction in middle school. It was also in middle school that the Polaroid iZone and JoyCam were released, marketed towards kids my age. It was so much fun, especially as an impatient pre-teen, to take a photo and see it immediately. This was also right around when the first crappy digital cameras and camera phones were made, but the Polaroids produced even better instant-gratification because I could hold the images tangibly in my hands. Soon I got my first Polaroid OneStep and began eating through film like it grew on trees. At some point in high school I got an old Spectra and that took over. I have shoe boxes full of polaroids from high school. But by the time I entered college I had almost completely stopped shooting instant, with film prices so high and then the films being discontinued. In college in Florida I got a Hasselblad 500CM as an introduction into medium format film and bought a Polaroid back. I liked the immediacy of the images and though I liked the aesthetic of the small square image I was also slightly annoyed at the wasted space. I shot a little here and there but never feel deeply into it. Serendipitously, I found a Polaroid ProPack at a garage sale four years ago, soon after moving to Portland. That was when I truly discovered the wonder of peel apart film and the Fujifilm equivalents and have never looked back!


What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?

I just recently purchased a Polaroid 195 which I love, but I have some focusing issues with the rangefinder and am hoping to switch out the stock one with the better Zeiss one I’ve read about. I know it will become my favorite once I fix that bug. A few months before that I got the Mamiya Universal with a Polaroid back and completely fell in love with it (despite the difficulty I have focusing it in low light and the bulkiness of carrying it around). Having full-frame instant film cameras with actual glass lenses are the absolute best. I had loved that clarity and control I got with my Hasselblad, but the full-frame just makes it so much better. I also finally got my first (working) SX-70 last year, after about 8 years of wanting one (and buying several broken ones off of ebay). With film costs, availability, and quality being an issue before, I kept putting it off. Though once the IP Color Protection film was released and looked so beautiful, I had to finally buy one! I am excited to really learn the subtleties of the camera when I am able to afford IP film on a more regular basis. So far, I haven’t had the best of luck, but I know practice makes perfect. I still love the look of the images from my old Spectra as well, but incorporate it sparingly, again, due to the high cost of IP film and the degraded quality of the expired Polaroid Spectra film I’ve gotten most recently.


What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?

This list in reality could be quite long, as I always want to try out pretty much every camera that I see; I have a serious addiction! Even though I now have the Polaroid 195 that I was lusting after, I would still be interested in trying out a 180 for fun. I have always wanted to try out a SLR 680 as well. My absolute dream right now, though, is getting a large format 8×10 camera, a Polaroid film holder, and winning the lottery, so I could shoot IP’s 8×10 film. SO BEAUTIFUL, it makes me want to cry!


What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?

I will forever be indebted to Fujifilm’s FP-3000B and FP-100C for showing me three years ago that instant film is not dead and reigniting my love for the medium. They are both very solid, balanced films and have served me well. That said, I am so in love with the gorgeous tones of old Polaroid pack films like 669. I’ve finally given in, gotten a credit card, and decided to stock up while I still can. Of course some packs are total duds and that can be very frustrating, but when it works, it is pure magic! I’m also very excited about IP’s Color Protection films, as I think they are stunning, and hope to shoot them more regularly when I can afford it, with my new SX-70 and my old Spectra.


How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?

I try to always carry a few cameras with me wherever I go, at least one 35mm and one instant. I’d say that two thirds of my photography is just capturing the things that happen around me. I am fortunate to have beautiful friends who don’t mind me taking their photos. The other third of my work is more conceptual, planned-out shoots. On these I usually just fill a bag with as many cameras as possible. I may have one camera in mind, but I bring them all and just use whichever one feels right at any given moment. Aside from this, I don’t make any distinction between my cameras when shooting; they are all part of my regular workflow. Wether I am feeling 35mm, 120mm, or instant just depends on the moment.


How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)

I think that all of my photographic work centers around an attempt to truly portray my subject as a reflection of that particular moment and in relation to that particular space. Though this is true for me in both instant and other films, I think instant really lends itself to this idea. This is because instant serves another function beyond a finished image that will be seen and shared later. The instant photograph is able to be shared with the subject moments after it is taken. I see the introspection that it evokes in each individual. It’s magical to watch and can inform and change the dynamic of the remainder of the shoot.


Any personal projects we should know about?

I have recently begun my foray into photographing band’s and musician’s promotional shots (a long-time dream), incorporating concept into the shoots. I have quite a few scheduled so far and these will be shared on my photography website as I go. They will include instant, 35mm, and 120mm films. I have some other conceptual projects I will be working on soon, in 120mm, that will go onto my art website. As for projects specifically using instant film, I am just hoping to continue to learn my new cameras as I continue to shoot my instant portrait series ‘Instance’.

What other photographers do you look up too?

There are a few photographers who really inspired me to follow my dream as I made my way through high school and my fine arts degree. Roger Ballen, Diane Arbus, Alec Soth, Rineke Djikstra, Nan Golden, Gregory Crewdson, Jeff Wall. More recently, I’ve found inspiration in photographers I discover through Instagram, Tumblr, and Flickr, versus text books. Parker Fitzgerald has got to be one of the best discoveries I made about a year and a half ago, in regards to instant film, because seeing his work pushed me to finally invest in better instant cameras and expired 669 film. I am also inspired by many of the amazing artists featured on Snap It See It. They push me to work harder and take more risks. My favorite recent photographer discovery though has got to be William Eggleston. I don’t know how I never learned about him in school, but he is truly magnificent!


What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?

It is a commitment. If you are scared of commitment then you need to get over it or turn back now. You will spend lots of money, you will ruin lots of photos, you might cry, but only some of those tears will be in sadness and many will be from joy. There is nothing like that moment of peeling negative from positive and seeing that you created beauty (or watching it develop before your eyes).


Where do you get inspiration from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?

A little bit of both. I try to always have a camera with me, and when a moment is right I just know I need to capture it. At the same time, ideas also come to me and I feel compelled to turn my visions into images with planned out photo shoots. Unfortunately I’m not always great at keeping up with my ideas and a lot of them never get realized. One of my biggest goals for this past year was to try to get better at keeping a note/sketch book and not letting as many moments of inspiration escape me. I’m happy to report that I now have pages and pages of ideas for photo shoots that could easily take me through the next decade, with more ideas coming all the time and never getting lost in the ether.. now all I have to do is find the time and money to bring them to life. 🙂

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