Interview: Berta Pfirsich

August 31 2014

Alfred Eisenstadt said, “The important thing is not the camera but the eye.” Some form of that adage has been dredged up a lot since the advent of mobile phone photography (it is hard to argue against the handiest camera typology ever), but a professional without a bag full of fancy doodads and gizmos still seems like an impossibility. Catalan photographer Berta Pfirsich, though, has made one mighty portfolio using mostly itty bitty film cameras. Most recently, it’s been a Contax T2—a legendary little 35mm, but still rather far removed from the typical pro kit. She does occasionally dabble in digital, but regularly proves Mr. Eisenstadt correct by continuing to produce excellent portraits, editorials and reportage without a lot of equipment.

Did we mention she’s a librarian?

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. When did you first start taking photos?

Pfirsich means “peach” in german. My parents gave me the name Berta (even if it’s a typical Catalan name) inspired by  Big Bertha, the World War I cannon, because I was a very strong babe, heh. I’ve always felt the need to document my life, and taking photos is the easiest way for me to do that. I didn’t really want to make a career or anything of that, but it happened naturally.

Why analogue?

I try to mix both formats, especially if I’m shooting for a client, but I’m always more comfortable with analogue. It’s a romantic thing, I guess. I studied library science, I love the digital era, but I love things you can touch the most.

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You do a lot of traveling, how does this effect your style?

Almost everything I learned about photography has been from traveling and observing. New humans and new beauty. I don’t like to get stuck anywhere, at least for now. I think my style is really defined, the things that interest me the most are similar wherever I am. Even if the inspiration sources vary, the concepts are pretty similar and, at the end, are of course autobiographic. Living in Portland, for example, affected how I treat light. But in the end, what really has an effect on art in general is just life. This summer, I’ve been a little lovesick and I’ve been shooting more night and low light photos.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

How did you develop your distinct color palette?

I like to be around creamy, soft colors. That’s why fashion is important to me, it’s a visual aspect of the images that fills the skin. Color is everything.

How did you break into fashion and commercial photography? Does your process differ between shooting a campaign and shooting personal work?

Every client is a different world, so the process always changes. For my personal diaries, I like to feel like a witness to a private moment, like distant in space but candid and in the moment. That’s what some clients are looking for, so I can shoot like I usually do. But other times, everything is really really planned, every single detail. That’s the difference between campaign and personal shoots, I guess. Some are planned to look so natural. I always like to include messy details in the background, like personal objects or things that the model owns. I used to work for a lifestyle sporty magazine and I got to meet a lot of people, that’s how I started working for brands like Element , Eden and Volcom.

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What’s next for you?

I’m working on a horror beauty short film with Hana Haley: Heaven is Easy