When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer?
I became interested in photography in High School. I was a total English nerd, taking every English/Poetry/Writing class my school offered, I thought I wanted to be a professor and write novels. I ended up signing up for the Newspaper and was able to go to a summer camp, one week being for journalism and the other for photography. I did terrible in the journalism camp and won every award in the photography camp. I spent the rest of High School working on the Newspaper and Yearbook. I then went to Columbia College in Chicago, still very naÃ¯ve about what kinds of photography there were and thinking I wanted to be a photojournalist. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I started working on large-scale personal projects.
Tell me about your project, Isolation – how did you come up with the idea to photograph the girl mannequin in various locations and how long have you been working on it?
In December 2008, I was in Florida working on another project of mine – Christmas USA – I had some extra time on my hands and was trying to think of a project to do. I was staying across from this small industrial area and started to visualize body parts – mannequin body parts – being left around. I called a friend and we started to talk about that idea and what it meant to me and it kind of morphed into thinking of a small child mannequin that was in these isolated places where she was abandoned. I went to a store display store and found her and convinced them to let me rent her for the week. I would go out after photographing the people with their Christmas lights and photograph the mannequin. After that week, I decided that I wanted to keep her so I had her shipped back to New York.
Who would your dream subject be?
I’m not sure how to answer this. I really like shooting regular people, maybe that are a bit of a character. I like to shoot older people and I’m always inspired to take portraits when I go home to South Dakota.
Who was the first photographer that really inspired you, and where do you turn now for ideas and inspiration?
Diane Arbus. I think her portraits are really true to who she was as a person. One of my favorite quotes from her is: “If I were just curious, it would be very hard to say to someone, “I want to come into your house and have you talk to me and tell me the story of your life.” I mean people are going to say, “You’re crazy.” Plus they’re going to keep mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that much attention and that’s a reasonable kind of attention to be paid. “
I can also relate to how she talks about being so shy with strangers but when she has a camera she feels like she can do anything/talk to anyone. I really relate to that. Mainly, my inspiration comes from something I see. It normally starts with the visual for me. I will see someone walking down the street that looks amazing and my mind will store that away – although now, for the first time I’m starting to walk around with a point and shoot 35mm camera – and later it may manifest itself into a whole concept for a project or single portrait.
(Danelle is based in New York City. See more of her work, here.)