Clarissa Bonet – Interview

The Chicago-based photographer Clarissa Bonet accepted to answer to our interview. I was particularly interested in her “City Space” series and her approach of the urban environment. I invite you to read and discover her work…


Hi Clarissa, how are you ?
I am well, thank you.

Can you introduce yourself  ?
I was born in Florida in 1986 and lived there my whole life until I moved to Chicago in 2009 to go to graduate School for photography at Columbia College Chicago. I currently live and work in Chicago.

Why did you choose photography?  When did you start ?
I got into photography at a young age. I took a photography class in high school and I fell in love with the medium. I wanted to learn more about fine art photography as well as improve my craft, so I decided to study photography in college.

Your work focuses on people. Can you tell us what do you try to explain with your photographs ?
My work focuses on the city it self. I am interested in the physical and psychological space that it has created for me. People are an inevitable part of that space. I find the city dwellers to be very interesting; there are so many people that occupy this space along with me. There is anonymity to the city that I find intriguing and mysterious.

In the “city space” photographs you work with the urban environment. There are people, architectural landscapes, lights and shadows… What was the idea behind ?
I’m really trying to represent what the city is to me. All of the images are taken in Chicago, Illinois in the US, but they are not about Chicago itself; they are about the city’s landscape and the impact it has on the body.  By the body I mean the city’s physical and psychological impact on the body.  Before moving to Chicago I had never lived in a big city.  The new environment came as quite a shock to me.

Do you follow any kind of process in your work ?
Yes, my process is a long one. For my City Space series all of the images are based on personal experiences and scenes that I have witnessed in public. I carry a small digital camera with me pretty much all the time and I take snap shots of things that catch my attention. Or I take notes in my sketchbook of ideas, feelings, or just anything I see people do that I find intriguing. Then I go back to my studio and I start to plan and form the concept for each photograph.  The people in my images are all cast. Either I use people I know or people that answer ads I post on the Internet.  Once the shoot is planned then we schedule a date where the weather looks good and then we make the picture. I shoot about 4-5 rolls of film at each shoot to get one image.

All of the images stem from personal experiences. It’s important for me to remake the images rather than document them when they happen because there is something that falls short at that moment. When I recreate the images I am able to charge them with an emotion or a mood that is felt in the moment.  I do this by utilizing light, color and atmosphere. That is why the weather has to be just right for the image.

What inspires and influences you ?
I am influenced by street photography, especially the work of Saul Leiter and Ray Metzker, although their process is very different than my own.  Saul Leiter’s use of color is extraordinary, as is his use of camera angle and perspective. The way in which Metzker uses light is powerful.  You can really feel an emotional tone coming from his work.
Overall, though, I am inspired by light it self. I know it sounds so typical for a photographer to say this, but what I love about light is that it has the ability to transform the ordinary into something profound.  I would say that a lot of my images are build around light.  I use it as a tool to bring an emotional tenor to the work.  Or at least I am trying to.

What does photography mean to you ?
What I love about photography is that is has the ability to transform our world into another.  The camera can create a world stranger than the one we live in.

Which book is on your bedside table ?
Well I don’t have a bedside table. But the most recent book I have been looking at/ reading is Harry Callahan’s New Color Photographs, 1978- 1987. He has some interesting double exposure images of the city, you can really feel the energy of the city in his photographs.

Some projects to come ?
Yes, I am currently working on a new project, still dealing with the city. This new project is very different. There are no people in it at all.  I don’t want to give too much away yet. It’s still a relatively new project.

The last word…
Thanks for having me on !



/ Interview Dennis Moya – november 2012 // All the photographs are ©Clarissa Bonet.