Apr 02, 2014

Phlearn Interviews Amelia Fletcher

Let me introduce you to an artist, photographer, dreamer, insect collector, and my friend Amelia Fletcher.

For as long as she can remember, Amelia has always been fascinated with photography and the opportunity to preserve a moment in time. She was raised in North Carolina, and will always be a Southern girl at heart. Her mountain upbringing has not only shaped her as a person, but in turn also influences what motivates her to create. Amelia says that, “It is impossible to separate my portfolio, and who I am, from my roots.”
In 2011 she graduated with a Bachelor of fine arts with a major in photography and minor in Art History.

Please join us in this great interview with Amelia Fletcher. In this interview she talks to us about her upcoming “Cross-Country Photo Trip”. A campaign that was launched on, and within 4 days met it’s goal. She speaks with us of her excitement, her plans, her inspirations, gives us a glimpse into her process with before/after(s), and she shares the details of her photography projects such as “Sugar Hollow”, “These Reckless Conditions”, and “52 Week Self Portrait Project”. I loved interviewing Amelia, and reading her answers.. Enjoy!!

How did you become interested in photography?

Ever since I was a child I wanted to become an artist, even though I didn’t really know what that meant. Out of all the activities, sports, and hobbies my parents put in front of me art was the only thing I ever stuck with, and the only activity in which I felt I could keep up with my peers. Drawing and painting were my favorite things to do.

As I got older I began to develop a fear of losing my memories, so I shot photos of everything I did with my friends and family and filled up a scrapbook so I wouldn’t forget any of those important events.

Do you have any formal training in photography, or are you self-taught for the most part?

Yes, when I began college, photography was the only thing that really appealed to me. I graduated with a BFA, concentration in photo and a minor in Art History.

Since graduating with a BFA in art in 2011, you have been spending your time assisting and freelancing. Tell us about some of your most memorable moments during this time?

Oh man! Most memorable… during college I had an internship with Aaron Nace and after graduating I worked full time with Phlearn. I’d say those shoots were by far the most interesting. Filling the studio with who knows how many tons of sand, placing an octopus on a model’s head, buying enormous glass vases from Ikea and then returning them, etc etc. I could go on for days.

What inspires you?

Sometimes I go through phases where everything inspires me, and then other long periods of nothing. I have recently realized that taking time to myself and spending time outdoors is one of the biggest sources of inspiration to my work. Those moments of peace and quiet in nature are really the best medicine for creative blocks. That must be why so many of my photos are filled with natural things.

What’s on your gear list? (camera, lenses, editing software cameras also)

It’s slowly growing. Right now I have a Canon 5d mk 2 with a 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8, and 35mm 2.0. Photoshop and Lightroom on my 15 inch Mac laptop, a Wacom tablet, and a 5 in 1 reflector. Not really shooting any film at the moment.

Indiegogo Campaign: Cross-Country Photo Trip.

On March 1, you launched a campaign on to raise $1500 to go towards a 5 month long adventure in an attempt to document the people and places of small town America, from the deep south to the northwest.
First, how long have you been thinking about and planning this trip/project? And what was the final push that made it all come to fruition?

I’ve always dreamed of doing a long road trip through the states but never quite had the time with school and working. About a year ago I had plans to hike the Appalachian Trail and they fell through. I was so excited to be outdoors and do a photo documentary project, and decided that even though the hike wouldn’t happen I didn’t necessarily have to give up the parts of it I was most looking forward to.

Can you give us a description of what your “big plans” are for the entirety of this trip?

I’m going to be staying with family, friends, and friends of friends in various spots along the loop route I have planned across the states. But mostly I will be living and working on organic farms through an international organization called WWOOF. In exchange for work my host family will provide meals and somewhere to sleep. I was raised on a small mountain farm in North Carolina and am passionate about local food and sustainable practices, I’m especially hoping to learn more about bees and organic vegetable gardening.

Here is a map of my itinerary, everything is pretty much set except for the northeast. Those stops are dependent on time and finances 🙂

Amazingly, within 4 days of launching this campaign, you reached your goal of raising $1500. And currently with another “13” days left to fundraise you’re standing at a total of $1795.

How did you react to the overwhelming support that you received in such a short period of time? How excited are you now?
Isn’t that crazy? I couldn’t believe it! I am so humbled and so thankful. There are no words to describe how encouraged I felt, that that many people believe in my work and this trip. It was, and is, overwhelming. There are a couple weeks left of my campaign and anything above my goal is going to be used towards keeping my car in good shape (new tires, oil changes, and any other needed repairs) as well as possibly upgrading my gear.

Ultimately, what inspires you to complete this 5 month journey? What things do you hope to accomplish while on this journey, and what goals do you hope to meet?

The biggest thing that inspires me is that I am restless. I’m not ready to get married, or get a 9-5 job, or whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing at my age. I want to explore and shoot and travel and meet people and tell their stories. Now is the best time there is.

Once I have completed the trip my goal is to publish a photography book of my travels that shows the kindness of the American people and the beauty our country has to offer. My hope is to also exhibit in various galleries to raise awareness about the positive impact small farms have on our culture and health.
I hope my experience, and the photographs that result, will inspire others to travel and meet incredible people themselves.

Previous photography projects & more..

In 2013 you completed a “52 Weeks” self-portrait project. How did you enjoy participating in and completing this project? And what things have you learned during your 52 Weeks project that you still apply to the work you create now?

Overall I enjoyed the project and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn and improve. However, at times it was really difficult! There were many weeks where I wasn’t able to put in the time I wanted, or didn’t come up with any good ideas, or the ones I did have weren’t panning out. Working through those challenges helped give me the confidence to do the work I’m creating now. There are so many little things about lighting, composition, editing tips, and more that I wouldn’t have figured out had I not done that project. It helped me to develop a personal style and ultimately determine why photography is so important to me.

Your self-portraits are incredibly beautiful, and they always seem to come from somewhere really personal. Would you say that you always put a bit of ‘yourself’ into your work?

Definitely. By the time I finished that project I was really tired of it and thought I probably wouldn’t do self-portraits anymore. But then I realized how therapeutic they can be, especially when I don’t have a deadline or obligation to post the photo. There’s something about doing self-portraits that makes me feel vulnerable but also open and more creative, less shy or constricted. Hopefully that makes some kind of sense.

Now that some time has passed I can see how much of myself I put into each one and how much I needed that at the time. I actually just shot one the other day, for the first time in months, with this silly blue-eyed dog my parents have.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get “the shot”?

One time I put dirt and moss and flowers all over my white bed.

How important is Photoshop and post-processing to the work you create? Could we possibly see a before/after of one of your edited photos?

I process everything through either Photoshop or Lightroom but in the past year I haven’t spent as much time editing as I did with the self-portrait project.

What themes and ideas are you trying to talk about in your work?

Childhood memories tend to pop up over and over in my photos even when I don’t plan for it. These include themes of home, natural objects, animals, and surreal portraiture. Each photo I create means something a little different, and some are more simple or documentary, but there’s always that red string of the natural and uncanny that I think connects each image.

“Sugar Hollow” – Amelia Fletcher

Can you tell us about your project titled “Sugar Hollow”? Is this a project you may consider adding to for the rest of your photographic career?

I was raised on a small farm purchased by my great-grandfather in the Appalachian mountains. For my senior thesis project I decided to document the property and my family in photos inspired by, here you have it, stories or memories from growing up.

As a way to force myself to slow down, and really consider what I was creating, I shot each image with a large format view camera and 4×5 film. Then I scanned in each photo and printed them digitally. At the time I was still in college and fortunately had unlimited access to the camera and darkroom facilities. Since I graduated I still shoot similar work on the farm but I haven’t added to that specific series. At some point I hope to get back to it.

What’s your favourite photo that you’ve ever taken? (why?)

My favorite tends to change a lot, but right now it’s “Sunny and Ellen,” two portraits I shot of mountain people that live near our farm. I went up there to photograph them on their front porch right after I moved back to North Carolina. It brought back so many memories of southern culture.

Who are some of your favourite photographers and/or artists?

Let’s see… Georgia O’Keefe, Kevin Russ, Sally Mann, Eric Valli, Mike Brodie, and many more.

Please tell us about your project titled “These Reckless Conditions” and what inspires this beautiful and raw series of photographs?

“These Reckless Conditions” are a series of scans using an Epson v750. The scanner is used for transferring film into high resolution digital files, and works similar to a copy machine. I laid each item on the scanner bed and left the lid open (which creates the dark background). The beauty of this method is that each tiny detail, sometimes more that I can see with my eyes, is made visible. It also has wonderful lighting and extremely shallow depth of field. (See below, bottom middle photo)

“These Reckless Conditions” – Amelia Fletcher

I’m very interested in the fragile relationship between humans and our environment. When I began this series my intent was to create a body of work that touched on the beauty of the small details, and transform the small and insignificant into a powerful symbol of our existence. As it developed I gravitated more and more towards bird imagery for their prominent role in folklore and our culture, and the stark similarities between their habits and ours.

As well as creating beautiful fine art, documentary, and portraiture work, you also participate in creating timeless wedding photography, as well as partaking in food & drink photography.Often in the photography industry we are told that we need to specialize in one area of photography first and foremost. What do you think of this opinion?

And how important would you consider it to be flexible in different areas of photography?

Ohh I’ve heard that so many times. To each his own, I have far too many interests to only shoot one subject for the rest of my life. I hope that my voice and style comes through in each image no matter what it might be. I love the challenge of photographing something new and the endless ways you can go about it. It’s part of the allure of photography for me. I’m still learning and figuring out what I like. It’s all experimental and if there’s a body of work I’m proud of then of course I want to include it in my portfolio.

So much of photography is in the details; the light, colors, framing… I think it’s important to be flexible so that you continue to grow. I may learn a lighting trick while shooting a wedding that I can later apply to a bowl of grapes. It’s all relative. You don’t have to keep every shot you take on your website but experiment with different areas you’re interested in as much as possible.

Many of us watched you start and finish a “30 Day food photography” project over twitter, and it was executed beautifully! What were some of the biggest lessons you learned while doing this project? And what do you like most about food photography?

Thank you! I stumbled across a few food photographers whose work was so beautiful and unique, especially Beth Kirby, and it inspired me to try it. I have a new appreciation for still life photos.

The biggest lesson was that it is much, much harder than it looks! As with the 52 week project there were days I just wasn’t feeling it. Or my avocados turned brown. I know there are many little things you can do to make food look appetizing but I ate it all, because you know, I took the time to make it and it would be delicious and I like good food. So, every little thing needed to be in place before it came off the stove to get the shot before it started cooling off (and looking not so great). Also my cat is all about sabotaging everything but that’s a whole other challenge.

The thing that I like most about food photography is that I can tie it in to my other work. Being raised in the south food brings people together, it generates conversation and is a symbol of comfort and community. Food is what you serve to guests, a reason to meet with friends for lunch, or share with your family over dinner. I love the simplistic beauty of it.

What are your plans from now until you leave for your cross-country photo road trip?

Mostly preparing! I’m contacting farms, budgeting, setting dates, and figuring out places to see along the way.

And as friend to friend here- How excited are you?!!!! 🙂

I am so nervous but so excited too. It doesn’t quite feel real yet!

And finally, do you have any advice to offer to us fellow photographers? Whether it be about photography or life in general….

Find art that inspires you and analyze why. Is it the subject matter, the colors, the concept? Then shoot whatever those things are over and over and over. Immerse yourself in photography and improving. Learn as much as you can. If possible, take a class or better yet assist a photographer whose work you admire. Know that you aren’t going to get better overnight and it’s a long process. Know that it is going to be much harder than it looks. Know that you’re doing it because it’s what you love, and that makes it all worth it.

Interviewed by: Angela Butler

To keep up with Amelia’s progress for funding on her Indiegogo “cross-country photo trip” campaign, you can do so here. You can also keep up with Amelia and her work through her Website, Flickr, 500PXTwitter and Pinterest. Thanks for reading!


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