Olivia C. Tonin

Where are you from/based now?

I'm from Montreal, but I've been living around upstate NY for a few years. I'm planning on moving on again pretty soon, though.

What is your background in photography? What got you started?

I can't remember ever not taking pictures. At first it was just rolls and rolls of pictures of my cats in different situations; then I branched out to clouds and landscapes, my friends, family vacations
etc., but it was always about documenting. It's been like, 15 years and I still take pictures of my cat all the time. I studied film in school, but never photography.

What equipment do you use?

A Pentax Spotmatic, Yashica MF-2 and Minolta AF101R, and I recently bought a Nikon 1 which is really fun to use. I like toy cameras a lot also and I had one that was like, Disney princess themed I think, point and shoot I got at Salvation Army for a dollar that I used to take some of the best pictures of my life. I'm still working through a 50' bulk roll of Fuji 160 that is long past it's expiration date.

What are your feelings on film vs digital?

I like and use them both pretty equally… I'll shoot film for a while until I get sick of beating myself up over not getting a shot I was really excited about, then I'll switch to digital until I get annoyed with how sterile and impersonal it seems. I've been shooting digital for about a year now, and I've just switched back over to film this past week.

Do you have a creative process? Are your shots mostly spontaneous?

Probably all of the portraits I've shot are spontaneous, and all the still lifes have been rearranged and reshot a bunch of times, even if they're on film.

Who or what gives you inspiration?

Coincidences, déjà vu, good timing, symmetry, orbs… I don't know, it's hard to explain like, I try to document real life but through depicting situations where something weird happened. I don't believe
in the supernatural or anything but I like to pretend I do when framing pictures. I want to show something kind of unnatural, but it has to occur naturally and not be too staged.

Is there a particular photographer, site, set of images or a photo
book that you keep coming back to for inspiration?

I read through National Geographic magazine a lot. They have kind of a bad reputation for using misleading photography, but the quality of work is always amazing. I'm reading a book right now called Reading National Geographic which really takes them to task, but also details
the process of making and selecting photos for publication which in itself is really inspiring.

Are you working on a particular project at the moment?

Right now I'm just trying to take pictures of everything in this town I've ever meant to take pictures of but didn't.


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