Canvas: Marlaina Read Interview

April 1st 2011

Memory works in funny ways. For me, every time I step into the laundry powder aisle of a supermarket, I am transported to the back seat of my grandmother's car. I have no idea why – did she stockpile it there for washing emergencies? – but, oddly enough, it's comforting.

Photographer Marlaina Read deals very much in the realm of memory – but of the visual, rather than olfactory, persuasion. Creating rich, dusky images, she is currently showing a group of prints at Kudos Gallery in Paddington that have the ability to transport the viewer back to a memory – though it may not be a memory of their own. I recently chatted with Marlaina about her memories and the show she has created around them.


The title of your new exhibition is “Do You Have A Recurring Dreamscape? Can you describe it to me?” – can I turn that question back around to you? Do YOU have a recurring dreamscape?

Yes, usually involves being inside a green and lush forest. Away from all the noise, away from indications of human society. Usually there is a tree I can climb and be inside, like a house. I am always alone at this place.

Could you describe the show to me?

It's a photographic exhibition. I am an avid fan of landscapes so there are depictions of trees and earth, but perhaps in some unexpected presentations. I like to play with scale and colour – to create something a little otherworldly.

Most of the final images in the show were taken in Germany, Canada and the USA. There were a lot of natural environments overseas that I have never encountered before – deserts, pine forests, snow … and being there, walking though them, was very mystical and unnerving. In a way the landscape helped me to be still, to slow my movements and thought and this kind of slowness is evident in the pictures. They images in the show are almost like film stills – small moments from dreams or the imagination – starting points to a bigger story.

You've described your work as 'lo-fi". Obviously this is a technical feature – but do you also seek out the subtle in your subjects?

The monumental or the extreme have never excited me. I think there is beauty and trepidation to be found in quieter moments. I don't want people to feel awed or overwhelmed. You don't want to stop people before a journey has begun. Quiet and slow revelations draw people in, they put up less of a barrier. In a way the overt has less to explain – it's all there in front of you. The subtle demands more and is harder to quantify. That's part of the question – 'can you describe it to me' – you may know it (the dreamspace) but there is hesitancy and uncertainty in wanting to define it and where it takes you.


 Let’s talk a little about those technical aspects – you shoot on all analogue – what are your tools of choice?

I use a Mamiya RB67 medium format camera. It weight about two kilos. You should use a tripod when shooting, but I prefer to hand hold my camera. This can lend to some blur, however having my body be part of the process is very important to me. I also use an old Pentax 35mm camera.


How do you go about finding a camera and film that ‘fits’ your vision?

I am not very snobby about tools I must admit. I tend to mix and match my films – some work better in some lights than others – and some are better for trees, or the ocean. If take a lot of images like I do you get a feel for the films and which will suit be


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