When she's not shooting high profile commercial work for the likes of Alessi, Harvey Nichols or La Senza, Karena Perronet-Miller
escapes to foreign climes to exercise a more liberated approach to taking her sensual, tactile and colour-soaked imagery. A lifelong love of India and its surrounding countries has fed into both her formal and tactical approach to capturing imagery. Here she tells EIZO about her inspiration, the ways she works abroad and how she balances the commercial with the personal.
What made you first start taking photographs?
My childhood was spent traveling and changing schools as my father's job required us to be uprooted regularly, so my parents instilled a healthy curiosity in travel and gave me a small plastic camera to take away with me to school. As my first language was Spanish, it was probably easier to communicate in images than in words really.
And you’ve continued to travel throughout your career, most notably in India. What sparked your interest in that country?
I’ve been going back and forth from India for about 28 years. I was exposed to wonderful images of India when I was a child from my Grandmother, who was posted to Calcutta. I had one of a Maharani which I put under my pillow as I thought that was how you dream of things. She had the most incredible look - they were all formal pictures so they always looked directly at the camera. Even as a child I was aware of the beauty and the magical quality of the silvery image. So India has been an enormous source of creative influences for me.
How does traveling alone shape your work?
People are often surprised that I am alone, but it makes me feel less of a fraud and perhaps they feel at ease to approach me without fuss. Traveling alone makes the whole experience intuitive, unmeasured in words. Intuition is a very different way of being; I am able to change direction at any time. I love the freedom and the element of "chance" meeting "preparation."
When does your intuition come into play?
Always! I’m always aware of trespassing into the sacred area of people’s beliefs. It’s important not to take pictures if the opportunity doesn’t unfold in an organic way. I spent a lot of time on the Ganges and there are moments when you really cannot take pictures because it would upset people too much. I wonder what I’d steal away from that moment and also what I’d leave, a terrible energy of having taken that picture. It would only be about my own vanity, which I question. That said, I do inevitably take pictures that upset people but this has to be weighed up at the time. I constantly evaluate the consequence of my actions (and my reason for wanting to take the image).
How does this differ to working on commercial projects?
Just as a good film needs an excellent script, good commercial images rely heavily on many factors such as good concept, a great client, streamlined production and an experienced crew. In the studio everything is so controlled as it requires a balancing act of understanding your client’s needs at all times. My personal work is more exploratory. You can’t make the image in the same way. It’s more about exploration and questioning.
You also switch between film and digital for commercial and personal projects.
It’s so important to understand the possibilities and restrictions between film and digital capture. I hardly ever look at stuff when I take it, unless it’s commissions. I’m tortured by that screen! The glorious thing about film is that lovely moment when you actually can’t look at it. You need to digest things; you can’t look at them straight away. I leave it for some time until I look for something that might have resonance.
When you’re looking at images on screen, you’ve chosen EIZO monitors – what was behind that choice?
You get a lot of equipment information and recommendations from top people in the field, that’s where the first recommendation came with EIZO
. I was looking for something easy, and when I say that I mean something that’s not too techy. It had to fit easily and I have actually tailor made it to my requirements. But it’s been really reliable colour-wise, everything is colour profiled well. If you ask me really technical questions I’m not going to be the one who’s able to answer because I’m more hands-on. I need to look at images, contrast, colour, I tried EIZO monitors and they worked for me.