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Streets Ahead Interview: Christine Mignon

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This week, the Women’s Mobile Street Photography Collective (Streets Ahead) is pleased and honoured to feature Christine Mignon in our interview segment.

I first noticed Christine’s work when she posted some photos on the Hipstamatic page. Her composition and ability to capture moments caught my attention. She has a knack of catching juxtapositions and humorous situations as well as expressive portraits of people on the streets. I find it fascinating that she shoots most of her street shots from the hip without looking through the viewfinder. I highly recommend a visit to Christine’s gallery where you will see some of her other work as well as her street photography. ~ Cara Gallardo Weil

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/100698820@N02/

 

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© Christine Mignon, “Self-Portrait”

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where do you live? If you work outside the home… what is your profession/professional background? Have you always been interested in photography? Are you (or have you been) involved in any other art medium… such as painting, sculpture, writing, music?

I was born and raised in Tirol, in the little city of Innsbruck, Austria. After school I studied History of Arts and moved to Vienna. I didn’t plan to stay that long, but 19 years later I’m still here – though I never finished my studies. After my son was born in 1999 I worked as a decorator in a big furniture store for years. I would arrange, paint and decorate those fake rooms that were inside the store – it was more like working on a building site than a creative job. Now I am learning to be a social worker. I have always been interested in the arts, but I have no talent when it comes to painting or drawing. I like photography, and my deep passion for it developed after finding the Hipstamatic app for the iPhone.

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Which mobile device do you use to take your photographs? Also, we’d be very interested in learning what camera apps you use (if any)… as well as post processing apps.

Because Hipstamatic was only available for iOS, I have always used an iphone. At the moment, I am using the 5s. Sometimes I also shoot with other apps such as Leme Cam, Pop Camera or 645 Pro, but my heart belongs to Hipstamatic. As I’m not just into street photography, I also use a lot of post processing apps to create collages. My favorite ones are Blender, iColorama S, PhotoForge2, Pixlromatic, Juxtaposer, Decim8 and Elasticam.

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Is Street Photography a genre that you predominately focus on in your work?

In my work I’m not focused purely on street photography. I’m torn between “normal” subjects (like portrait, nature, still life, macro or close ups), street photography and AppArt. I wish I could decide on one to concentrate on in order to delve deeper in to the process, but I just can’t keep still if there is a beautiful sunset in front of me.

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© Christine Mignon, “The Poser”

Do you see street photography mainly as photojournalism? Or do you think that this genre intersects with the art world?

My opinion is that the two categories can’t be strictly separated. I also don’t see the need to separate them. A good photograph will have both of the qualities. Every face tells a story and is a document of time. Every good picture that shows a certain moment of history will have artistic qualities. These photographs might be the ones that will be seen by further generations.

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© Christine Mignon, “Never Get Old”

There is a general question among some people about the morals and ethics of taking pictures of strangers in a public environment. Many think that this is an infringement of an individual’s rights and privacy. What are your thoughts on this? Has the question about “privacy” been an issue for you in your work? Have you had any negative experiences taking street photographs in your home country or whilst travelling abroad? How did you handle them?

The question about privacy, morals and ethics are big issues for me. Whenever I take a picture of a stranger, it is not my intention to make fun of that person (although I admit that sometimes I can’t resist…). There is usually something in his/her face that fascinates me. But it doesn’t always work – the recipients see it in a different way, and sometimes this makes me feel bad. Where I see a face full of sadness, despair, loneliness, love, happiness or grief others might just see a dumb and empty face. I always try to imagine that the person in this photograph might be someone I know, a member of my family or me, and I ask myself if I would still post the picture – but sometimes the temptation is too big. One time, I was caught by a very cute guy in Greece. He looked so sad and serious amongst a happy crowd that I wanted to take his picture. He got really angry and asked me why I didn’t ask him first. I smiled and said that the photo would not be the same and not as good. He then started to smile and said that I was right, but he told me to move on and leave him alone.

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© Christine Mignon, “Lottery Lady”

What kind of situations, characters, and/or environments appeal to you? Why?

It is hard to say which situations attract me. Mostly I am attracted to faces that tell a story, and most of the time in a rather sad or desperate way. This is why I love to take photographs of elderly people – their faces have much more to tell. This is one of the reasons why I am much more active in the winter, as this is when many people are generally in a bad mood and grumpy. I’m fascinated by how older people manage the their exhausting urban life. But I also love tiny people in landscapes. It makes them look so unimportant and lonely in our universe.

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Do you think that women bring to photography, especially street photography, a certain perspective that is not necessarily shared by many male photographers? If so, can you elaborate on your thoughts?

Women are said to be more sensitive and emotional than men, but I can’t confirm this general assumption looking at the street photographs that I’ve seen. I suppose the only difference is that men are more courageous when it comes to getting closer to your subject. Some might also dare to put themselves into certain situations that women would avoid, like dark alleys and back streets, or close to people who are fighting. I’ve seen pictures where I would have tried to get away as fast as I could instead of shooting.

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Are there any women street photographers/photo journalists who have inspired you in your work? If so, who are they? And what inspires you about their work?

Honestly – no. At least not when I started street photography. It just happened. Now I am more aware of some of the great photographers, like Vivian Maier or many not so well-known artists whose work I see on facebook. I just go out there and shoot – there is still a lot to learn!

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Do you think that more women are getting involved in this genre because of the democracy and immediacy of mobile devices? What are your thoughts on this?

I once read an article about women and iPhoneography. It said that the biggest part of women in this genre are single moms who don’t have time for other leisure activities (I can’t confirm whether this is true or not). Maybe they used to be painters or make pottery when they had the need to artistically express themselves – but… well, you can imagine. Going for a walk with your stroller gives you many opportunities to photograph, especially with your phone instead of a heavy camera. I do believe that it is partly true, because that is just what I was doing when I started – a single mom who had forgotten what she used to do before having a kid. Does it make it more democratic (regarding the costs of most mobile devices)? I don’t know… Reading my own words, I am beginning to think more about gender roles than about democracy…

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

What are your thoughts on post-processing mobile street images? Do you post process your images? Can you share with us an example of your workflow process?

I think it’s ok to post process an image as long as it’s not totally manipulated (like adding another subject). If it’s just about straightening, cropping or adjusting the light/color I’m fine with that. My personal ambition is to become so good that editing not necessary anymore. But I still have a long way to go! I usually use PhotoForge2 to do the things mentioned above, and I keep it as minimal as possible. I like to keep it real!

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled” (Picture A)

Can you share with us a few of your images that you feel give us good overview of your work… we’d love to hear what you were thinking or felt when you took these photographs. What moved you?

Picture A: This picture will always be special to me. It’s one of my first street photographs and a key moment for my future love for this genre. I love the man’s expressive face, while the lady in the back seems to be looking at me suspiciously.

 

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© Christine Mignon, “Some Like It Hot” (Picture B)

I followed these girls across the street, taking photos, and I really had to smile when I saw the result. It reminds me of the scene at the train station in my favourite Marilyn Monroe film, “Some like it hot“.

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© Christine Mignon, “Pinch It!” (Picture C)

I love these moments when the static environment interacts with human beings.

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled” (Picture D)

This shot was taken in Venice. I suppose most (street) photographers know the moment of joy or disappointment when you see a certain situation and shoot, but are uncertain as to whether you got it or not – until you look at the photograph.

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© Christine Mignon, “Sacred/Profane” (Picture E)

This was shot at the “Naschmarkt“ in Vienna, a big food and flea market. I like the juxtaposition of the profane and the sacred in this one.

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

What are your personal artistic goals and aspirations?

To get better and better. Even though I’m not sure how to define “better“!

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Are there any artistic aspirations that you have for the mobile street photography genre overall?

Yes –  in my perfect imaginary street photography world, time would freeze for a second or two… No, seriously – the most important point for me is to show respect, photographers as well as beholders.

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Where do you show your work? What social networks are you on? On which platforms are you most involved?

I show most of my work on facebook. I am on other platforms too, but I keep on forgetting which ones… and if I remember them I have probably forgotten the password. That is why I don’t post enough in Streets Ahead!

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Do you have any mobile street photography tips or tricks that you’d like to share with us?

Most of my street photos showing close ups of people are taken without looking at the screen, shot from the hip. The Hipstamatic app is perfect for that, as you can enlarge the screen with a double tap, and the whole screen becomes a release button, so you can’t miss. And I always look the other way, not at my subject, so I don’t get caught.

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© Christine Mignon, “Untitled”

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

Don’t be afraid to shoot and share! It’s not about the number of “Likes”, it’s about satisfying the need to express yourself and have fun! If you get just one “Like”, you managed to make one person happy for a moment – and that is better than none!

LInks to Apps Mentioned in the Interview

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By JQ Gaines and Cara Gallardo Weil

JQ's background is in painting and printmaking at the Pratt Institute, she also owned and operated a Books Arts & Textiles Studio in NYC. Three years ago JQ discovered mobile photography and her work has been exhibited in a number of exhibitions around the world.

Cara is a Graphic Designer and amateur photographer with a passion for mobile photography. Born in Hong Kong to Filipino parents who moved there in the early 60s to work in publishing, her early life was spent in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines. She studied graphic design in London and spent more than 20 years here before returning to Hong Kong, where she currently resides.Cara brings to her street photography a wonderful international and cultural perspective.

5 replies on “Streets Ahead Interview: Christine Mignon”

i have adored christine’s photography from the first time i saw her photos. i recognize so many of the photos in this article as to me her photos are unforgettable – just great! she has an amazing eye and such a gift for capturing the unexpected and also the meaningful. bravo, christine! loved reading more about your experience as a photographer here!
lee XO

What a wonderful interview. I am feeling very inspired now. Fantastic street photography. 🙂

Love C’s unique and creative eye – has a real awareness of everything going on in the environment – nice interview.

Christine has a perfect eye for streetphotography. I have been blessed to see her at work and admire the pictures she makes. Sometimes you see pictures which, deeply inside your heart, you wish you made yourself… Christine makes those.

Wow, I just saw all your comments and feel so honored. Your words mean a lot to me, thank you all so much! <3 Big hugs! <3

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