Critique

Portfolio: Claire Harbage

In column “Portfolio” young photographers showcase their work and answer questions of our staff

In our rubric “Portfolio” the Bird In Flight staff shows photos of young photographers working in different genres, and asks them to share why they decided to start doing photography, what goals they are trying to pursue, who they learn from and how. Today’s issue presents portfolio

Claire Harbage, 27 years old

Documentary photographer, lives in Athens, Ohio (USA). Graduated from University of Ohio, has an MA in African studies and one in Photography. Currently works as an instructor at Maine Media Workshops and teaches a photography class at Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication. The university also funded her field work for multimedia project “Dakar: Rap City”. Last April attended prestigious New York Times Lens Portfolio review.

When and how did you become a photographer?

I became a photographer when I was in high school. It was a way to explore the beauty of the world and try to hang on to and remember small moments. I think I’ve kept that way of looking at things but have become more focused on how human beings are defined by their life experiences, and how we can visualize feelings and experiences.

What kind of photography do you do?

I do mostly documentary photography, somewhere in between the worlds of photojournalism and fine art. I like to make photographs that go further than showing what I saw but attempt to share what I felt in one moment at one time. I guess I might call it experimental photography.
In 2012-2013 I was working on a documentary project about young people, 19-28 years of age, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. These guys and girls weren’t that different from their American counterparts, but at the same time their future often was already predetermined and unsafe. They are trying to escape poverty and inequality, while looking at American expatriates and tourists with big money. The essay is about the thin line between hope and hopelessness.


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Why do you think that photography is your thing?

I think photography is a really powerful way to share experiences. I think that in life as well as in work I am drawn to understanding and sharing the experiences of other people.

What makes a photograph good?

I don’t think there is any specific thing that makes a photograph good. Probably the best thing would be the way the photographer cares about the work they are doing and cares about the things they photograph. If I can understand that through their images then I like them.

What kind of difficulties in the industry you face as a photographer?

There isn’t enough time or funds to pursue the projects that I want to do and also figure out how to make money regularly.

Who are you inspired by?

Alex Webb, Alec Soth, Charles Yesenczki.


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What camera do you use?

5D Mark 2.

Do you make your living by photography?

I make my living working around photography. I teach, assist other photographers, and occasionally do some freelance.

What else interests you?

Making films.

What are your goals?

I would like to make a positive impact on people’s lives with my photography. I hope that people who see it leave with a better understanding of others’ experiences, so my goal would be to continue to improve doing what I’m doing. More specifically, I would like to do more with documentary filmmaking and also get my work out there for people to see.

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