The Photographic Journal

Amamak

Interview 014 • Aug 22nd 2013

Foreword

AMAMAK’s images embody an idealized reality, a zeitgeist of millennial youth. Gift-wrapped in a blanket of sunlight, their photos offer a refuge from our daily lives - young or old, male or female - presenting either a goal to strive towards, or the hazily remembered past of better days.

Aviva acts as a totem, representing an idealized-form girls want to be, and boys desire. When we connect with an image, we project all our fears and hopes, all of our ideals, onto the image. We want to see ourselves in the world AMAMAK have created. We want to believe it’s someone’s reality, even if it’s not our own.

Together, Aviva and Michelle craft a sun-kissed world, existing somewhere between Kubrick’s Lolita and an Urban Outfitters catalog. Typified by bright sun flares, a carefree spirit, film grain, and dare I say some fun, they capture moments that continually connect with their audience.

Interview

So tell me about the Orange Julep. What made you guys decide to capture some shots there?

Aviva Artzy

It’s a new summer tradition that started this year.

Michelle Karpman

It’s literally this HUGE orange, which is colored orange of course. They serve drive-in-style fast-food.

Aviva

Once upon a time they apparently had waitresses on roller skates. They have vintage car nights there every Wednesday. People will come and like rev their engines.

Michelle

It’s really cool to see. We always want to come and take pictures with the cars, but we’re too shy.

Nah, you two should totally do that. It sounds like it would be an amazing shoot to explore.

Michelle

We’re a little timid with new people. Clearly we know that they’re there to show off their cars, but I guess we’re just a bit shy.

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal

I had a red VW Karmann Ghia for a bit. I always wanted to do a photoshoot with it, but it never came together.

Aviva

We just want to have a friend like you, that would let us use the car for a shoot.

Michelle

That would be super fancy. If ever you get a cool car again, just drive over here and I promise we’ll have fun.

If ever I make the trek from Miami to you two in Montreal, I’ll make sure to. What were you two looking to capture at the Orange Julep?

Michelle

We actually don’t really plan a lot before our shoots. We’re much more spontaneous, and will solely choose a location. From there, a shoot just develops on its own.

Aviva

We’ll get recommendations for a location, wait for the right weather, and check if I have a cute outfit. A shoot comes together from those three things.

Michelle

We went to Orange Julep at sunset — as it’s our favorite time of the day, ever, like all the time. And we got to eat food, so it was extra fun! Dinner, sunset, and photoshootin’. It was just about capturing what was naturally there. Aviva really was drinking her giant drink the entire time.

Aviva

It’s like a six dollar drink. I held it the whole time. I told Michelle “We’ll split it…” Yeah, I drank the whole thing while Michelle was taking pictures.

Michelle

Half the shoot is Aviva drinking the six dollar monster, and the rest is her standing in these very strange bodily positions. People are always asking me, “Isn’t her butt sticking out?”

Aviva

A lot of people comment that I’m just pretending to have a butt, because I curve my spine so much. I’m just like “That’s how I stand dude.”

Michelle

So, that’s how our shoots are very organic. We don’t plan any of the pictures. We try and keep them as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal

I see. So for your two, not over-planning leads to a sense of spontaneity, where you just let a moment happen.

Michelle

Well, planning is a good thing for a lot of people. If I didn’t know Aviva very well, then I would plan out the shoot a lot more. It would be a stressful experience for me — one where I’d want everything to go well. I would choose the outfit very specifically, be much more conscious about the lighting, and all the small details really. But since we’re comfortable, we can move around and just see where the moment takes us.

I think that’s the key to your interaction together. Your photos connote a sense of fun, and it’s the reason I feel people gravitate towards your photography.

Michelle

Fun is such a central theme. I’m really glad that you brought that up. Have fun and then pretty pictures will come of it.

Aviva

That’s our main motivation. We had a shoot recently with another model who was visiting, Erica Jay. We just had the most fun shoot ever. We went to the middle of nowhere during a thunderstorm.

Are those the shots where you’re jumping in the middle of the road?

Aviva

Exactly!

Michelle

There was this crazy storm and we were a bit worried.

Aviva

But we made the best of it. We took pictures in the rain and started jumping in the middle of the road. In the end, we just had a lot of fun and when we looked at the photos they came out great. We took Erica to Orange Julep right afterwards.

Michelle

We totally did! If you come to Montreal, we’ll take you to Orange Julep and take some pictures.

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal

I’ll definitely take you up on that. Montreal seems like a great place to visit. I’ve always wanted to go. With growing up in Montreal, how long have you two known each other?

Aviva

Since elementary, in the third grade is the official answer. We were nemeses kind of. We didn’t like each other. I was really mean, and I thought Michelle was the weirdest thing —

Michelle

I was really needy. I really wanted to be Aviva’s friend.

Aviva

Once, we were cleaning Michelle’s room, and we found this piece of paper that she wrote in elementary school — in like grade five — and under “The person I most want to be friends with,” she wrote my name.

Michelle

Yeah (giggles) — I really wanted to be friends with her. She was so mean to me though!

Aviva

We weren’t friends until high school. We went to the same high school and Michelle still was like “I want to be your friend, because I know you from elementary,” but at the time I was like “Stay away from me.”

Michelle

Yeah. She wouldn’t be my friend until grade nine. So, we’ve only really been friends for like six or seven years.

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal

Aviva, you used to shoot and post more of your own photography work online. In general, has AMAMAK led you to shooting less, and posing for the camera more?

Aviva

I shoot a lot less than Michelle does. Most of the time when I want pictures of myself, I’ll just tell Michelle to come over — and maybe we’ll shoot pictures, and maybe we won’t.

But if I want a shoot… it’s the same amount of stress as Michelle trying to plan a shoot with a new person. I have to try to talk someone who I went to high school with, or someone who I know, and be like “Are you up for a shoot?” I’ll try and be kind of casual and underplay it, but then bring Michelle along because I’m not that confident in having shoots of my own.

If we get another girl then sometimes Michelle will take pictures of both of us, but sometimes I’ll take the pictures. I actually have three rolls of film to bring in — so I’m also very lazy and not good at bringing film in to get developed. It all contributes to the not shooting a lot idea.

Michelle

Yeah, we’re just really stressed about meeting new people. I think it’s mainly what we’re trying to get across.

Aviva

No. You’re stressed. I’m Lazy.

Michelle

You just said that you were very stressed about meeting a new person, talking to her, getting a shoot planned —

Aviva

Because I always have to do those steps. And then you just show up with a camera…

Michelle

Well, I don’t have to do them at all, because I am comfortable just shooting with you.

Aviva

(to Agustin) You see our problem here.

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal

It’s interesting. My next question was going to ask how you two started working together so frequently, but it seems like it happened out of a balance between a drive to create, and being extremely timid with new people.

Michelle

We shoot together because we’re really comfortable together and know each other so well. It’s just convenient. We don’t really think, or worry, too much about it.

We’ll just hang out, and we never plan to take pictures — but we almost always end up snapping pictures, because we really love it. It’s just a very natural progression ,versus if we tried to take pictures with other people, it would just be just weeks of asking ourselves questions. What are we going to shoot? What are they going to wear? I don’t know if I should contact them?

Even though Aviva and I will have shoots up to three times a week, sometimes each in a different location, when it’s a new person we’ll suddenly have no ideas…

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal

With shooting together you’ve obviously listed all the benefits. Do you feel there are any pitfalls, or things to avoid, when solely working as one model with one photographer?

Aviva

Luck?

Michelle

That’s not true. We do have some standard shots we do in almost every shoot. Something like Aviva looking over her shoulder — we do it constantly.

But lately, we’ve been adding new cameras to our collection. Each camera gives a different look to the shots, and gives a different feeling to how I want to compose the shots. I just got a new digital camera. And while we still love all our film, it’s given us a totally different view, with exploring more movement and quick-fire shots.

Aviva

I think Michelle made a good point with the cameras. We definitely go through stylistic phases where we’ll take all the different pictures, but we’ll gravitate towards posting only medium format shots for awhile.

So now we’re moving away from that, towards fun digital shots with tons of sun flare —

Michelle

And a ton of Polaroid shots this last summer! I think we’ve been taking more Polaroids than I think we ever have.

Aviva

Which is weird, because it’s so much more expensive now. It’s all Impossible Project film, and we’ve been taking so many. Michelle just cleaned her little desk where she keeps stacks of her Polaroid shots until she can organize them. The stack was huge from these past couple weeks.

Michelle

I can see how there are potential pitfalls, but I really don’t think we’ve run into any issues.

Aviva

Yeah. The pitfall is people asking “Why do you always take pictures of the same person?”

Michelle

Yeah, I get a lot of questions like that.

But obviously if Aviva is posing for someone else, or Michelle is shooting with another model, then it’s no longer AMAMAK — it’s something different, yeah? It’s what’s intriguing about you two. You’re not the norm for photography duos.

Michelle

Right. Usually they’re two photographers, like your interview with JUCO. I thought it was crazy when they said they would only shoot with one camera — passing it back and forth.

Aviva

We just couldn’t understand that.

Michelle

We have fights, well, let’s say small disputes if we both use the same camera, and we don’t know which person took which picture. I’ll ask her if I can post a shot on my blog, and Aviva will be like “I think I took that picture.” And then we’ll proceed to have a small tiff over that.

( both laugh )

Aviva

It doesn’t happen very frequently, but we just can’t share a camera.

Michelle

We can’t really share anything actually.

Aviva

I think it would just drive us both crazy if we posted photos, and we only knew there was a fifty percent chance that we took that shot. It’s not that the model of what JUCO is bad, it would just never work for us.

What lies next for AMAMAK? What are your goals?

Michelle

We mainly want to travel more for our photography, check out some new places and new people and continue having fun! It'd be great to do what we do now, but on a larger scale and in some new environments.

(to Aviva)
What do you think?

Aviva

Yes, to all of the things Michelle said – and definitely do some more collaborative work! Once we get over the stress factor, meeting new people and having fun adventures, while making cool things with them, is definitely something we'd love to keep doing. We'd also like to work on seeing a bit more of our work in a physically tangible form because we love seeing things printed. So, who knows!

We'd also like to work on seeing a bit more of our work in a physically tangible form because we love seeing things printed. So, who knows!

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal

Interview 014: AMAMAK for The Photographic Journal