Photographer Interview: Sinden Collier

Photographer Sinden Collier
This humbled blogger is fortunate to have dedicated readers who believe in the mission of this blog and in turn reach out to educate me. One such reader did that earlier this year, sending me an email to introduce me to Sinden Collier's photography.

There were other revelations in that email, for which I'll write a separate blog post this week. Stay tuned! For now, enjoy this interview with this pioneer of African-American women photographers in commercial photography.


D&B: Where are you from?
SC: I was born in Nashville, TN, raised in Houston, TX, lived in London and currently divide my time between Los Angeles and New York.

D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started - any "formal" training?
SC: I am a Fashion and Beauty Advertising photographer and enjoy Portraiture as well.

I began taking pictures as a child and received an old Nikon from a boyfriend. I relocated to Los Angeles to pursue music. Upon securing a record contract, I traveled Europe and continued shooting. People loved my images.

One day I gathered some images and presented them to a photographer who had photographed my band. The photographer said I should pursue photography and not give it up.

I am self-taught with a little help from my friends (seriously). I have one photographer friend who is absolutely amazing and very generous with his knowledge.

Copyright Sinden Collier

D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use?
My personal camera is Canon 5D. On assignments I work with a Hasselblad H2 with Phase P30. I love contrast. I prefer simple lighting - natural light is my favorite.

I use Photoshop as a tool to expand my ideas – much like a painter with a canvas. Before digital, I loved shooting with the now defunct film – [Polaroid] Polagraph.

Colleagues used to say my style was a cross between Peter Lindbergh and Paolo Roversi – that was true with Polagraph because of the black & white and slow shutter I used at that time.

D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
SC: There was no one particular person that took me under his/her wings. However, I always received encouragement and support from family, friends, and people in the photography community that I worked with.

Early on I was fortunate to have my photo lab give me a solo exhibition. On another occasion, I was approached by a photo professional at a seminar who told me I had something special and that I really have to stick with photography because success could happen overnight or it could very well lie in my distant future.

I love images beyond categorization and see a lot of great talent in the world. There are many photographers I adore – Peter Lindbergh, Paolo Roversi, Koto Bolofo, Gregory Crewdson, and Rodney Smith.

I especially love the way that they think – it’s their mental perspective that give rise to their interpretative work. I love surrealism – I am working on incorporating that aspect more in my future work.

D&B: Have you experienced any setbacks or different treatment along your photography career that you would attribute to being a woman and/or photographer of color?
SC: This is an important question and I could probably write a thesis on the subject. I personally believe that the best person (man, woman, black or white) should get the job. But we do not live in the perfect world.

There is a great lack of opportunity given to African-American photographers. I see it and I live it. Unfortunately, this lack of opportunity also exists within the African-American community with its publications, advertising agencies as well as our own recording artists and actors.

While I have been rather fortunate to have had my work appear in such publications as Italian Elle, Italian Marie Claire and Flaunt, I find it personally rewarding working with African American publications such as Ebony. It’s like “Yes We Can!”

Ebony magazine gave me the opportunity to have two covers for its May 2010 issue with Paula Patton. After I photographed my first cover for Ebony of Terrence Howard last year, it was amazing the response I received.

Almost a year later, an African-American woman approached me in a gallery after seeing my name in the guest register. She said and I quote: “I was so proud that someone who looked like me had found success at photography. I kept saying ‘one day’ I will start taking pictures again. Then I met you and ‘someday’ is here.”


Copyright Sinden Collier

D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography?
SC: I have yet to realize it. Maybe that’s what keeps me going... the dream.

D&B: Describe your journey towards becoming a working photographer.
SC: It is still a journey and there is always more than one road.

D&B: What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
SC: The sky’s the limit. I am not interested in fame, but I appreciate its fortune and the opportunity to continue to meet interesting people.

D&B: What's your dream photography project?
SC: To have a career like Steven Meisel's.

D&B: What's the biggest (life) lesson you've learned through photography?
SC: Licensing and the value of Copyright – it’s a lesson in survival.

Upcoming Photographer Interviews:
Lauri Lyons
Justine Reyes
Michelle Nolan

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