New Establishment: Petra Collins - ELEPHANT

You might say that the twenty-two-year-old Canadian photographer Petra Collins has defined the very concept of an art selfie, turning the camera onto herself, without an iPhone in sight—she uses film.

From The Teenage Gaze series, 2010-2015 Petra Collins photographer female
From The Teenage Gaze series, 2010-2015

What does being an artist mean to you?

To me, an artist is someone who needs to create, someone who instinctively needs to make sense of the world through creativity. It’s someone who would die if they couldn’t do that. It’s the ability to share ideas and opinions with people. When I began shooting pictures it was just a really interesting way to see the world, and I wanted to share that.

You’re known for your hazy, dream-like photography of women. How has your style evolved?

I think at first I was just shooting friends or people that I knew. A lot of pictures of girls at home, lying on a bed, about to have a bath. I was really interested in that moment just before or after the proper picture. That place when you’re just relaxing and unaware of the camera. I wanted to capture that.

From The Teenage Gaze series, 2010-2015 Petra Collins photographer female field girl
From The Teenage Gaze series, 2010-2015

You talk a lot about the word “babe”. What’s the relevance?

Babe is a word I use a lot and it’s also the name of my new book. The book is an amalgamation of works by my favourite up-and-coming female artists. It’s a funny word because it’s usually used in a sexual way towards someone. The reason that I love it is because to me it sounds like something to describe a powerful, sexually in-control woman. Someone who knows what they’re doing and isn’t afraid of their own power. There are a lot of different artists in the book like Dafy Haigi, Julia Baylis and Beth Hoeckel. To each of them babe means different things, and I think that means a lot of different aesthetics.

You shoot teenage girls a lot. Why do you find them interesting?

It was what came naturally to me. It was my instinct as an artist, the best ideas to follow are the ones you’re really interested in. I started taking photos in high school and was just wanting to capture my world and my friends’ lives.

From The Teenage Gaze series, 2010-2015 Petra Collins photographer female car
From The Teenage Gaze series, 2010-2015


This feature originally appeared in issue 32

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