In Conversation With: Mischa De Stroumillo

Interview by Sophie Cull-Candy

Hi Mischa! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I grew up foraging for my father’s wild food company, which has taken me outdoors and into the wild. This exposure to nature and the apparent transformation you experience through the seasons inspired me to begin documenting my environment.

What first drew you to photography as a medium?
Both my grandparents were painters and I also went to a creative school. I found myself forever painting and drawing, but never felt content with the outcome. When I received my first camera at around the age of 11, I realised that painting was not the only form of artistic expression; I could recreate something I found beautiful without using paint!  I began playing around exposing and opening my camera to the sun and would get beautiful painterly results on the films surface, I realised I could paint with light.

You grew up in Sussex, do you think this has had an impact on your style of image making?
Definitely. I was fortunate enough to live on the edge of a forest, and along with the foraging, this allowed me to spend most of my days outside exploring. This has inevitably drawn me to flora as my primary subject matter.

I saw you travelled to Utah at the beginning of the year, what was that like?
Utah is like another planet, its incredible. I went there to do a project about Bears Ears National Monument, which has recently and unlawfully been reduced by the Trump Administration. This means it is now unprotected land and up for grabs to the abstraction industries. There is a beautiful red rock canyon landscape in southern Utah, home to many sacred and bio-diverse sites for the Native American tribes... It’s like the Wild West out there, everyone’s fighting for land.

It seems like travel is integral to your work, have you done any residencies or extended visits?
Over the last few years research and knowledge, in particular indigenous knowledge, has been a significant part of my process, taking me to exciting and beautiful parts of the world. Last year I did a wonderful artist residency in Panama on the Caribbean Coast, where I got the opportunity to live and work alongside the indigenous Kuna Community.

Your work expresses an interest in folklore, could you tell us a bit about your practice and what you hope to work on in the future?
Over the last few years my practice has been broadly engaging with ecology, exploring the tensions that arise between mysticism and the natural sciences. This stems from my engagement with the land through foraging and collecting, which transformed into a fascination with plant lore.  I am currently working on a series of books, each telling a story arising out of mythologies from ancient cultures. This is a continuous project that will take some time, as there are many more images and stories to be collected.

What’s you’re favourite camera to shoot with? And what are your thoughts on analogue versus digital?
I’ve always shot with film; at the moment i’m working specifically with medium format. I like the physicality and the craft behind analogue; it’s closer to painting. Like I mentioned earlier I kind of wanted to be a painter but was never good enough, so shooting with light is my way of painting.

Lastly, what place do you find most inspiring?
Remote places, in particular the Outer Hebrides.

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