NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS AMANDA CHARCHIAN IN PARIS. THE TWENTY-EIGHT-YEAR-OLD PHOTOGRAPHER IS ABOUT TO CLOSE AN EXCITING YEAR. HER FIRST BOOK, PHEROMONE HOTBOX, WAS INTRODUCED TO THE WORLD LAST APRIL. BETWEEN 2012 AND 2015 SHE PHOTOGRAPHED AROUND THE WORLD, NUDES IN NATURE, FEATURING SOME OF HER FEMALE ARTIST FRIENDS, INCLUDING LANGLEY FOX HEMINGWAY, ANA KRAŠ AND LOU DOILLON, TO NAME BUT A FEW. IT’S NOT SURPRISING THAT THIS MONTH THE YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHER HAS BEEN INCLUDED IN THE LIST OF NAMES PARTICIPATING IN THE FIRST PHOTO VOGUE FESTIVAL IN MILAN, ON NOVEMBER 22ND. HER WORK WILL BE ON DISPLAY IN THE GROUP EXHIBITION, THE FEMALE GAZE, WHICH SHOWCASES THE WORKS OF FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO HAVE REVOLUTIONIZED - AND ARE REVOLUTIONIZING - THE WAY THE FEMALE BODY AND SEXUALITY ARE REPRESENTED IN FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY.
AMANDA SHARES WITH NATALIA HER THOUGHTS ON MAGIC, HER WORK, FUTURE PROJECTS, HER HOME TOWN, LOS ANGELES AND A CERTAIN INTERNATIONAL GIRL GANG.
When I say magic, what comes to mind first?
A magic altar.
RedMilk’s theme changes each month. I was talking to our mutual friend Anouska about the upcoming magic issue and she thought you’d be perfect for it. Why do you think she mentioned you as being fitting?
I am not sure (she smiles). It depends what you mean with magic. I mean, I was studying kind of different ancient traditions at one point, like Kabbalah, things that would be called a cult science. I do rituals sometimes, stuff like that.
I read in an interview that you were a little bit psychic. In what sense?
Actually, last night my boyfriend and I did this game where one would think of something and the other would guess what it was and I got all of it right. It’s weird. All my answers where right. I guess, sometimes I’ve learnt to just say the first thing that comes into my mind and I just think that’s all that being psychic means. Sometimes, you just have to open it up. Use your intuition; you know what I mean? My sister is a psychic, that is her job, so I think I’ve learnt from her as well.
What is magic to you?
Art is magic.
How did you get into photography?
I’ve always been taking pictures. My best friend – her name is Bea – started this line and she just asked me to start taking pictures for it. That was my first professional job, maybe three years ago, and I realized it was super fun.
That was around the time you started working on your book, right?
Yeah, I actually have it here, I want to show it to you. Around that time I started working on the book, Ana Kraš and I went on a holiday to Costa Rica. I couldn’t stop taking her picture and then I realized there was something that I think women have, especially the creative ones. I wanted to explore that and then I did a book. I included twenty-seven different artists in there; I called it Pheremone Hotbox.
When was the moment you felt it was finished. Because, I think, sometimes, when you do projects, as an artist, especially starting out, it’s not always easy to stop and say “Ok. I am done!”.
The end for that was more the deadline of the publisher. He was, like, “You must be done by this day!” So I just had to finish. Also, we had six hundred pictures to choose from and in the end there was only room for ninety or a hundred for the final edit. Yet it’s interesting that you bring that up because now, when I go on those trips, I feel I don’t wanna take those kind of pictures anymore, so in a way inside of me, I already felt it was done.
In what sense?
I don’t wanna do nudes in nature anymore (she laughs). I’m tired of it, honestly. I might not be done with nudes in general, but yes, with that project I am, at least for a bit; it was years of it! I also feel that I learnt what I had to learn from it: there is nothing more for me.
What did you learn?
I learnt about women. I learnt about what makes them insecure. I learnt about what makes them feel free. I learnt about what it takes to get them into that place, because it’s not like every girl will do that with you. It’s a very unique situation.
For the book you shot your friends, for the most part; it wasn’t professional models.
Yes, yet some of them work as professional models as well. Langley for example. Lou, sometimes. Obviously she’s a musician first. Langley is also an artist. But they’re models, too…
What’s the main difference you feel when you shoot a professional model compared to a girl who is not so used to being in front of the lens? If there is any difference.
Yes. They don’t give you any particular face or look, you know; it’s more about the energy. More natural. They are more acknowledging the in-between movements and moments. When you’re using a professional model, usually they pose with the click of the camera, and they keep switching at each click and that is the dance that you do. When you are not doing that, when you’re shooting a girl who’s maybe not used to being on set, sometimes she will hold that pose for five minutes and you move around; do you know what I mean?
Absolutely! I actually just shot with a photographer friend of mine and he is more like that: he likes to move around you. It was a bit difficult at first to work that way for me. When I’ve chatted with photographers before, I’ve noticed that there is often a mentor figure. Maybe they assisted someone or they had a really great teacher, a shifting encounter. What about you?
My biggest mentor is my agent Katy Baker. She’s very good about talking about my work with me. It’s a funny story how we met (she laughs). I was very aggressively writing to agents in Europe because I was realizing that in LA I was never gonna work, because basically all there is there is denim, swimsuits and celebrities, which are not really my main things. “I need someone in Europe!” I thought. I wrote to a bunch of them and I tried to have meetings. Her office ignored me. I didn’t hear from her, her people were telling me she’s too busy “She can’t meet anyone right now!” And then she had lunch with my friend Paola and she asked her, “Paola, who are the young female photographers I should meet?” And Paola gave my name. So she called me from a boat in Ibiza, “I’d like to represent you darling, I love your work” (she mimics a British accent). And the way she talked about my work made me feel like she really got me. And so I signed with her.
Now that you have finished the book, what’s your next project? I mean, I know you’re busy shooting fashion.
I have so many different ideas right now, of things I could do, but I can’t decide on one. This next month is mostly fashion stuff, but I know I need to have my own personal project. I am not super commercial, so I am working in this one little niche and that is fun! Yet I know I need to have my own creative outlet.
How would you describe your own aesthetic?
Intimate, for me. I am trying to maintain my energy in the pictures by the connection that I am having with the person that I am photographing. That’s what makes it unique! At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter where we are or what the clothes are, because what I remember from the picture is the moment that I had with that person and, hopefully, that comes across in the image… it’s a memory. It has to do with female connections and those kinds of things.
What is the Instagram hashtag #InternationalGirlGang ?
It’s you and it’s me and it’s everyone in the book and it’s all those women doing something creative with that feminine energy. It’s about not being competitive. I feel, like, in the 90s these bigger supermodels, well, they had their gang, but in a, “You can’t sit with us” kind of way. It’s kind of like the opposite of that. I hate that shit.
Is it because it’s something that you lived?
Yeah, definitely. And it has to do more with older women, not everyone of course, but I’ve seen it. You know those women: “This was my crew and this was my thing. And you can’t be part of it.”, and no it’s not. Everyone is available to experience these things with each other, why would you exclude? Why do you think this is only yours anyway? I think it is a new way of being. It’s about empowering each other. Also as a female photographer I’ve had so many weird experiences with some male clients and agents, when you don’t know what their intention is with you.
What is the quality you appreciate most in people and which do you like least?
Openness. Their inner power. I am always attracted to people with strong personalities. The ones that know who they are. I tend to be attracted to people who say “This is who I am.” I tend not to mesh well with people that don’t know what they are doing in their life (she laughs). And I don’t like liars.
If you were to meet your fifteen year-old self with the experience you have now and were able to give yourself a piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?
Maybe that when you’re alone that is the real you. You and your imagination. Find what you’re interested in and don’t be afraid to explore it, whether it’s playing with drawings or doing plays. To know that that is what your life is gonna be like, and don’t let anyone tell you that those interests are not important.
What is your best quality and what is your biggest flaw?
My biggest flaw is maybe that I am selfish and my best quality is that I am giving. Two sides of the same coin. But I think anyone creative has to be selfish sometimes, you know? It just comes with it.
Do you have a dream subject?
Yes. For sure. So many. Tilda Swinton. Eva Green. Charlize Theron I would really like to photograph. I don’t really get a chance to photograph older women, almost ever. It’s often 14 year old girls; they are still growing. It never happens, and that is something that really appeals to me. I think it’s an ageist kind of industry, unless they are, kind of, making a point, but it’s not often that someone very young and up and coming gets to shoot older women.
Is age the common link between those women?
Not completely, just that they have a sense of strong characters. They know who they are. It seems so mysterious in a way.
Have you had a favorite subject up till now?
Maybe shooting Georgia (Jagger), because she was so excited about it in a way. I was younger than the usual photographer and a girl, and she is also an aspiring photographer. She was in it to be creative with me instead of being distracted, which can happen sometimes with some girls; she was really there. In a way I was really obsessed with the Venus de Milo and she has that kind of goddess vibe. I find her energy to be very feminine and empowered by it, yet still very graceful and humble. Her face is just insane. She looks very young, but wise at the same time, like a witch in a way; young, but timeless. She wasn’t bratty (she laughs). I also loved to shoot Klara Kristin from Gaspar Noé’s Love. She was super fun, she got into the part, she was game for everything.
I think that is something that happens with actresses, they can access different layers of depth; they are not just “posing” in a way.
Where is home?
Home? That is a very difficult question for me right now, because I don’t know. I think it’s LA, but I also don’t want to go there and I haven’t been there in so long. The thing is that if I didn’t have my family there and my best friends I don’t know that I would like it that much. I just have all these people that I love there and they make week nights more interesting.
This interview has been edited and condensed.