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Photograph © Annelies Štrba, from her Shades of Time book.

Clare Shilland, photographer, on a photograph by Annelies Štrba, from her book, Shades of Time.

GB Tell me why you chose this.

CS I really love this book and it’s always been something I think about from time to time. I don’t even own the book. My friend has a copy and I used to borrow it from her regularly. I could probably afford my own copy now. I could have chosen pretty much any of the pictures in the book. She shot photographs of her family over fifteen or twenty years. About five of them are of her kids asleep and I’ve always loved those images. I don’t think they’re sentimental images. Out of all the pictures of kids sleeping this one seems to be the most typically beautiful I suppose.

GB So when you first saw these images did they have a sensory effect on you, or did you see them with more of a professional photographer’s eye for technique?

CS It was more sensory. They make you feel first, then you notice other things: they’re quite soft, grainy pictures. I think she’s used a flash in this one but I don’t even know what camera she used. They look somehow unplanned.

GB This book came out before the days of Instagram. Now we’re used to people sharing every moment of family life on social media. Do you think this captures family life in a different way?

CS If you Google her you find references to people who have taken a picture of their kid that they think is in this style but most of them look horrible! The images are sharp and Iphoney – so they don’t have the charm and beauty of Annalies’s photographs. Nowadays people take so many pictures in a day. When you’re shooting on film you’re more precious with it so you look at things differently.
This feels like such a different aesthetic experience to when we look at other pictures online. It’s similar to the way I work, in that it’s more about the way it makes you feel than about making you think. I can definitely say more with a photograph than I can with words.

GB Do you think beauty is something she was aiming for with these pictures?

CS I don’t think so at all. They are very beautiful but the work is more about the relationships. You see her children grow up and change. This is the eldest daughter and you see her have a child of her own. It’s a real story. I’m a bit obsessed with youth and there’s just something incredible about those pre-teen years.

GB Do you aim for beauty in your work?

CS I think I do. I think the word beauty comes up quite a lot with what I do because it’s quite soft and feminine.

GB And do you think our ideals of beauty are affected by fashion?

CS I wish they weren’t but I think they are and I’m not sure thats a good thing. I love fashion but it does have a dark side.

GB Do you see these images as art?

CS I definitely see her work as art.

GB Can you look at images and distinguish between what’s art or commercial or documentary.

CS I think I can. There is a big cross over between art and fashion, particularly with interesting people like Mark Borthwick. Then there are photographers like Mert and Marcus who do pure unadulterated commercial fashion.

GB If this image licensed for a commercial would you be disappointed?

CS No I wouldn’t because more people would get to see it. And if she needs the money there’s nothing wrong with that.

GB Do you think a really great image can transcend it’s context and still have the same effect whether it’s in an art gallery or an advert for crisps in a magazine?

CS I’d like to believe that it could. I’d still love this if it was selling something.

GB Will you always love this book, regardless of fashion or other associations?

CS Some things I loved as a young teenager, like Monet, I don’t like now. Mainly because that was the only sort of art I had seen. But I discovered this book when I was in my early twenties when I was discovering other kinds of art and I think I will only ever love it more.

GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?

CS It has to be something with a personal meaning or connection. But anything can be beautiful. If you love something or someone they are beautiful whatever.

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