Rosie Foster is a British photographer currently based in Cornwall. Rosie’s ability to capture strikingly intimate portraits has been sharpened over time by personal revelations and the recent birth of her son.
Do you remember your first camera? What did you photograph with it?
My Dad bought me some sort of early digital compact camera for my fourteenth birthday, I think it was my fourteenth, I was off school for a year, so had loads of time on my hands, I drew these pictures of clothes on post it notes and pegged them to my mums washing line and took pictures of those from some funky angles, edited them with the camera software and was hooked from then on. I was in my emo phase at the time so there was a fair few pictures of my friends looking particularly moody from behind their fringes and pictures of our hands in the sand edited in black and white at a high contrast. When I went back to school I incorporated my photos into my GCSE art by photocopying them to give them a harsh contrast and painted them on huge canvases, my art teachers told me they needed more shading and colour, I wasn’t particularly sold on the idea but compromised at red Gerard Way like drips around the eyes. Not much has changed since then really, I still steer clear from vivid colours, they tend to scare me a bit.
How was living and working in London?
London was a huge whirlwind for me, it seems like a dream when I think back. I met some of my best friends there though and learnt so much about what I wanted from both life and photography. I was far more uptight about my work when I was in London and felt a constant pressure to conform to what I thought was cool or what magazines or agencies wanted, I lost track of why I was taking photographs in the first place. I always tried to remind myself that what I really loved was shooting on film and strong portraits, fashion was just something that came after, but after a while with zero feedback, ignored emails and a trail of shit models turning up at my door I really lost heart. I hated shooting digital at the best of times but when I had my DSLR stolen along with my lenses and a beautiful 35mm I’d borrowed off of someone I was assisting that really was it for me mentally. Physically I was still shooting but I didn’t like my new DSLR, I only enjoyed shooting film and on a bar workers budget that just isn’t an option, I pulled a few nice pictures out of the bag but 99% of the time I wasn’t happy with what I was shooting. However when I think back I am so grateful for the lessons I learnt, I gained a lot of confidence through meeting new models and stylists on a regular basis, I’ pretty shy and generally find it difficult to interact with new people but shooting in London really pushed me out of my comfort zone repeatedly and I’ve come away with the confidence/audacity to ask a girl to take her top off or get into a strange position in my bed without feeling like a total creep.
You stopped shooting for a few years to have a child, what made you come back? Do you see photography in a different way now?
I felt like now was the right time. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my brother’s girlfriend, who is a seriously talented artist and my boyfriend who is a tattooist; so it was just natural for that creative spark to come back. I haven’t been ready up until now, when I had my son I told myself I would pick it back up again some day, but in my mind it would be when I was a lot older and had some sort of ‘proper’ career on the go, however being surrounded by talented people made me feel frustrated at myself for suppressing it, the first shoot back I was so nervous and I had so much caffeine before hand, I turned up at her house and probably seemed like I was a total nut case, touching all her stuff and talking real fast, not really focusing much, but it turned out to be better than I expected and really gave me the confidence to keep going.
Whats your approach to photography? Do you have a technique to how you work?
At the moment I tend to be going in blind, I really mostly on natural light, In my way of working I can’t find anything that looks better. If the lighting is poor in the area I want to shoot I’ll either scrap that idea and move to a different room or outside or I’ll rely on the trusty reflector. I don’t usually have too much of a plan, maybe a vague idea of the theme I’d like to run through the images but it definitely depends on how the model is feeling, I’ve found because I’m shooting ‘normal’ girls, they’re far more vocal about their insecurities, for example they’ll tell me what angle they don’t like or a part of my body they’d rather not have photographed, or their limitations on how much skin they’ll show, which has been interesting for me as both a photographer and as a female.
What inspires you?
As I mentioned just now it’s always been the people around me, my friends or if I see someone I really want to photograph I’ll imagine the shoot around them. Other than that it was Corinne Days Diary book, and her early photographs of Kate Moss, the ones where she’s in a t shirt and tights, and the fairy lights stuck to the wall, in my eyes that is where the bar is, I won’t be satisfied until I feel like Ive reached that level, her images did what I aspire to do in mine, which is to focus on the person in the photograph, not the story or some made up fantasy that fashion wants to sell. In contrast to Corinne’s low key shoots I’ve been really enjoying revisiting Ellen Von Unwerth’s work, I used her images recently as references, I love how the girls in her images are clearly so comfortable with her, you can really see the trust and it comes across as a friendship rather than an overly structured high fashion, retouched and polished shoot but the glamour in them in my opinion, really really stands alone.
Tell us about the creative industry in Cornwall? What’s the approach in comparison to London?
Cornwall is varied really, and to be honest I’m really new to it. As an outsider looking in there is a lot of what you’d expect, landscapes and beach themed things but there is also some interesting things coming out of Falmouth, and the party scene, things can get pretty grotty down here amongst the youths so some of the lifestyle pictures can be cool. It seems a lot more laid back and accessible compared to London but I guess thats because it’s a smaller place, its easier to have an in and you usually end up being related to someone that someone knows or friends with someone they know etc.
What can we see from you in the rest of 2015?