Shelbie Dimond

Interview 017 • Sep 26th 2013


You'd expect the playfulness of Shelbie's youth to be on display in her photos and you'd be DEAD WRONG, baby. There's a weight to her photos, see, a focus on evoking emotion in the viewer, on recreating emotion in the entirety of the image. where many of the young photographers of her ilk create work that is as disposable as it is ephemeral, her work sticks with you, lingers in your head. I go back to her photos again and again, never bored, always wanting more.

This interview has been edited for clarity and content.


How & when did you first get into photography?

It was the winter of my 16th year and had just started homeschooling so I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I picked up a camera and started taking self portraits.

My dad gave me his old canon AE-1 that he used for astro photography, and I was also becoming fascinated with polaroid.

Why self portraits, instead of pictures of other people?

After I started homeschooling I wasn’t doing theatre or band anymore. It was a way to express myself. It was also easier- I could shoot without needing a model.

And how’d you segue from that into shooting more seriously?

The more I shot, the more craved it. I enrolled in college around the same time and took a beginning course in black and white darkroom photography. My teacher really pushed me, but we didn’t always agree on what made a good image. I was also becoming apart of this community of young photographers on flickr, and that definitely had an impact on my work. People started noticing my work and I was getting published and started building a small clientele.

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Wait, you enrolled in college while you were starting homeschooling?

Yes, when I was 16.

Why so early?

Why not? I had the time, and that meant less classes to take in the future. I generally do better when I have some challenges to work on. Homeschooling didn’t really offer that.

What was it you and your teacher disagreed about?

He was all about the technical stuff. And he knew that I slacked a little. I just wanted to work on my personal work and I think he just wanted to really push me. He told me I had more creativity than I knew what to do with, but my technical skills were lacking.

Instead of matting my final myself, I took it to Michaels. I still got an A, surprisingly.

Do you find you’e still more interested in the creative aspects than the technical?

Yes and no. There are still some aspects that I need to practice and get down, like digital photography and printing. But once it’s down I feel like technicality can only get you so far. Technicality isn’t going to make your work stand out. The creative aspect of your work is what draws viewers in, and what makes it memorable.

Is that part of the appeal for you – if not “The Appeal” – letting loose creatively?


What is it you’re trying to express in your photos?

I’m still figuring that one out.

Maybe the biggest emotive that I like my work to convey is nostalgia? I think nostalgia is one of, or maybe the most powerful feeling your work can make someone feel.

Do you watch Mad Men? A quote from Don Draper: “Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent.” Teddy told me that in Greek “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

What’s that feeling of nostalgia mean for you?

Exactly that. Taking me back to a place where I know I am loved. “Home.” Nostalgia is a bitter-sweet feeling. It might be even more powerful than love, because you can’t have nostalgia without love being there first.

Is that how you feel about your past, bitter-sweet?

Yes, I guess you could say that. It’s sweet because it happened, but bitter because you can never have it again.

Do you think you’re trying to evoke a sense of your own childhood? There’s this sense of “serious kids at play” in your work.

My childhood was special, and made me who I am. I don’t want to lose that part of me, and I feel like photography is my way of holding onto that.

What is it about your childhood you’re trying to replicate?

Maybe I’m not trying to replicate it exactly, but I’m trying to capture a sense of home, and everything “home” brings, good and bad. I do see my working changing, as I continue to experiment, though.

Changing in what ways?

I’ve been dabbling in editorial work, as well as nudes, which I really love.

What is it about nudes you love?

I love how bare and honest nudes are, or can be. I like how nudes can go from completely innocent to highly sexy and erotic. I like testing limits.

Nudes are tricky though. Someone told me once that they are too easy – “Here is a photo of a nude human so it must be art” type of thing, which I definitely want to stay away from. Our society is so deathly afraid of human anatomy, even though nude art is a classical art form.

How do you try to stay away from that?

I try to make sure there is some sort of underlying narrative to go along with the images so it makes them have a purpose other than just being photos of a nude girl. I have yet to photograph a nude guy.

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Yeah, I’ve noticed a narrative feeling in a lot of your recent work. Do you have a story in your head when you’re shooting work like that? Or does it come out more once you’ve got it all back home?

It can go either way. I find that when I try to shoot with a story already in my head, the photos sometimes turn out looking really forced. My best shots, in my opinion, where taken when the shoot was more or less done by “winging it”. I usually always have a general idea for the mood and styling, but not necessarily an exact narrative.

More “trusting your instincts”, rather than coming in with an exact photo you want.

Yes exactly.

Have you always trusted your instincts in that way?

I guess you could say that. It definitely started out that way, and then there was a time when I would be really dead set on a shot I wanted, and I’d try and try and try to get it, only to come away from the shoot feeling exhausted and angry that I wasted so much film. Trial and error is what taught me to trust my gut in the end.

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

What’s a shoot for you like, nowadays? How do you interact with your subjects?

My favorite shoots are shoots with people who I know and inspire me. Those are the easiest. I find it challenging sometimes to find a model online whom I’ve never met, set a date 3 weeks out, and have only 3 hours set aside to shoot with them. I’m finding it’s really a hit or miss. My last couple of shoots have been successful in that I really hit it off with my models (and MUA’s). We put on some music, and go where the light is nice. I usually let the model start things off, and depending on how that goes I may or may not pose them myself.

Is there a lot of conversation involved?

Most definitely. It’s imperative that I have a connection with my subjects or else the images look very contrived. Also having a bunny around really helps loosen people up. Who doesn’t love a bunny?

Nobody I know.

What kind of people inspire you? Is it more difficult with models you don’t know because they don’t evoke that kind of feeling in you, because that’s necessary for you to really be engaged in the shoot?

Genuine people inspire me. I think that’s the broadest way to describe people that inspire me. Honest, soulful, driven, weird…

And yes.

Would you say photography’s cathartic for you? is it more about you showing others this feeling of nostalgia, or evoking it in yourself?

Absolutely. I don’t know how else to keep that part of me alive. And I’d say both – starting with myself and then showing others.

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Do you think that’s why you stick with film/polaroid, because they better evoke that feeling of nostalgia?

Yes, and I also don’t really understand digital photography as well as I do analog. I get really overwhelmed when I’m shooting with my 5D.

Why’s that?

It’s not as simple and straightforward.

All the dials and buttons!

They scare me!!

Unlike setting the shutter speed, aperture, setting the film inside the camera correctly – getting the light reading correct…

I don’t have to think about that stuff, it’s like… washing my hair.

I get ya. Do you feel like you want to play around with digital more in the future? do you have things you want to explore going forward?

Yes, I’d love to learn how to use my 5D and become as comfortable with it as I am with my film cameras. I want to get back in the darkroom, I want to collaborate with more people. I just want to keep experimenting.

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Experimenting with anything specific?

Still life, studio, self-portraits… are a few things I’m inspired to start shooting. Concept/fine art.

What is it that draws you to continue self-portraiture, now that you’ve got ready access to models?

It’s very personal. It’s my base. It’s also a sense of therapy for me, in a way.

How so?

Its just a way of expressing myself, a creative outlet. I have too much stuff building inside me all time time. It’s a release.

And you’ve recently started doing nude modeling as well, yeah?

No full nudes, not yet. And these photos may never see the light of day. I just really want to see myself in a beautiful way. I struggle with loving my body, so I’m hoping that I can finally see something that will change my mind.

So it’s for you, rather than wanting to show a different side publicly


How do you like it so far?

There are some people that I’d like to share this work with, but the internet is a very unforgiving place. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

I’m not really sure. I’ve only done one partially nude shoot at this time, and I haven’t seen all the images yet. But I did had a lot of fun while we were shooting.

Do you enjoy modeling for others as much as shooting?

I enjoy it, a lot yes, but not nearly as much as shooting.

Do you think modeling for others has given you better insight into your own photography?

Yes and no. I tend to want to model for people that have a different style of shooting than mine. I sometimes have to remember to keep the two art forms separate, because I feel that my own work might be blurred by my modeling for others.

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal

Why is it you want to model for folks who have a different style than your own?

It’s exciting! I love the idea of being someone’s muse, and seeing how they view me or how they want to portray me.

When you see photos of yourself that others have taken, that are very You, does that make you want to attempt to capture more of that aspect of yourself in your self-portraiture?

You could say that. Although I also like the idea of portraying myself as something completely different, not necessarily how I already am. I’m finding that sometimes it’s easier to do that with models other than myself though. I sometimes get stuck in my own comfort zone, or I get really frustrated with myself and decide to just use another muse.

What gets you frustrated in yourself?

Feeling inadequate, I guess. I put a lot of pressure on myself.

Has it changed how you see yourself, seeing how others photograph you?

Oh yes, definitely. I get to see myself as the people whom I really admire do, which seems to be a lot less harsh and critical. I loved working with Parker Fitzgerald, Erica Segovia, Hana Haley and of course, you. I also just shot with the lovely Anna Hollow- she took the most “me” pictures as of late. Pink, roller-skates, ice cream, bows and bunny.

So do you find yourself less self-critical of how you look, because of that? What about those pictures did you find to be the most You?

I’d like to say yes, but I am still a very harsh critic of myself. From my work to how I look, I’m not very forgiving of myself. Everything about the photos Anna took were “me”. They were photos of me and my favorite things! They were even taken on instant film, which is my favorite. Also, if you didn’t know already, I’m completely in love with my rabbit. Seeing him wearing a pink bow- I was literally speechless. I couldn’t take the cuteness.

Interview 017: Shelbie Dimond for The Photographic Journal