Libby Holmsen



Interview with Libby Holmsen

In September we had the pleasure of interviewing Perth based photographer Libby Holmsen.  Libby seeks out uncluttered streetscapes with interesting characters to produce classic minimalist images.  She photographs locally in Perth and loves to travel regularly.  Where ever she shoots, she manages to produce absolutely beautiful work which is almost instantly recognisable.

You can find more of Libby's work on her Instagram feed @libby_holmsen

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live now and where do you photograph?

I grew up in Melbourne and now live in Perth where I do most of my photography. I am not a professional photographer but photography is very much a part of who I am. It is my joy, my rock and connects me with the world in a very special way.



Tell us a bit about your background with photography. How and when were you drawn to the street genre?

I’ve always seen the world a bit differently - I see it in pictures. I discovered photography in my early 20's and experimented with a range of genres including portraiture. Eventually I was drawn to architecture, street art and streetscapes. At first I avoided including people in my images but eventually they wandered into the frame and so began my street photography addiction.



How do you define "street photography" in relation to your photographic style?

Street photography is an evolving genre making it difficult to define. There are no fixed rules so there is a real sense of freedom that I love. I would describe my style as minimalist. I seek out uncluttered streetscapes and interesting characters. I am attracted to colour and the beauty in every day moments. I am also fascinated by contrast, shadows, lines and shapes that lend themselves to black and white.



Are you more of a "walk and watch" or a "wait and see" kind of photographer?

It feels more comfortable to move with the natural flow of the street, so I guess that makes me a “walk and watch” photographer. However if I can find a vantage point out of plain sight, like a balcony or walkway, I enjoy having more time to compose my images and see the street from a different perspective. 



Do you feel you have a different mind set or approach when you are photographing at home versus when you are travelling? (Tell us a bit about your travels, and how you view shooting in your home town).

I travel overseas once or twice a year in search of new photographic experiences. When I am travelling without a doubt I am more relaxed, confident and inspired. My favourite destinations include India and Vietnam where photo opportunities abound.

When photographing at home my mind set is different. Time is usually limited and some days it can be challenging to "see" something new in the familiar. 



 In what ways do you think being a woman has affected your work? And do you think being a woman is an advantage or disadvantage in street photography?

I don't think that being a woman has affected my work at all. I have worked alongside men and women street photographers and it seems we have a lot in common and share the same challenges. Like overcoming our fears. If women are advantaged in any way, it might be that we are seen to be less threatening when it comes to photographing women and children in the street.



Can you tell us about your experience doing a Magnum workshop in Japan and how it has influenced your work and ideas?

Attending a Magnum workshop last year in Kyoto, Japan was wonderful, challenging and emotional. Wonderful - being in the presence of Matt Stuart and a group of six talented street photographers from around the world. Challenging - it turned many ideas I had about street photography upside down, exposed my weaknesses, forced me to face my fears, be vulnerable, get up close and personal with strangers in the street, work to deadlines and overcome my perfectionist tendencies. Emotional - I think I cried most days! There were overwhelming highs, lows and physical demands. In a nutshell it was an unforgettable experience.



Can you tell us more about your Non la project? 

My Non La series came about after a visit to Hoian in Vietnam. Like most photographers before me, I was captivated by the colours of the ancient port town. It wasn’t until I returned home and converted some images into black and white, that I discovered the beauty in the shape of the Non la (traditional Vietnamese conical hat) and the contrasting light.



Is there a special project you are working on now, or is there a certain theme or series that often comes up in your work?

I am savouring my photographs from a recent trip to Morocco. I am also putting together a couple of articles for Australian Photography Magazine where I am a feature writer, including one about my experience at Magnum. Cuba is my next photographic destination so I am starting to do some research.



You have a strong following on Instagram, are a moderator of @globalfotografia_streets and a member of several groups. Can you tell us how you developed these connections, grew your photography profile, and how you would advise newer photographers to develop their profiles and gain confidence in promoting themselves? What platforms do you like to use to promote your work?

Instagram is a great way to get your work out there, get feedback, connect with and be inspired by other street photographers. It took me a long time to gain the confidence to share my work but it has only been a positive experience. My following on Instagram (@libby_holmsen) has grown organically, starting slowly then gathering momentum. Posting regularly, being featured in galleries and joining in competitions attracts new followers and great opportunities. Some of my favourite galleries include @StreetPhotographyInternational @1415mobilestreetphotographers @myspc @life_is_street @thestreetphotographyhub @womenstreetphotographers and of course @unexp_collective and @globalfotografia_streets.


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