Interview: Emma Orland on Photography, Everyday Inspirations, and Being Your Own Worst Critic

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One of the great things about living in a world where it's so easy to be online is the discovery of young talent, with platforms constantly available for teenagers to share their work when they're still learning, rather than waiting for gallery space or the validation of 'grown-ups'. Today I'm chatting with Emma Orland, a 16-year-old upcoming high school junior with a passion for simple, saturated photography. You'll find all of her links down below of how to discover more of her work, and you can follow her wonderful journey so far...

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Emma! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, will you tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Emma Orland:
My name is Emma Orland and I am a 16-year-old photographer and filmmaker based in New York City. I attend an arts high school with a focus in film and media and am an upcoming junior. I have been actively working as a photographer for 3 years now and have shot for various publications and outlets, both online and print-based. Since then I have grown further in my photography “career” and have branched from music photography to event photography, and portraiture as well. 

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your photography in three words, what would they be?

Emma Orland:
Oh my, this is definitely hard. I put my work down a lot, but I would have to say, “saturated”, “strange”, and “simple”


Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into photography? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in?

Emma Orland:
I first got into photography as a notion many, many moons ago. I was probably 7 and my dad and grandpa would let me use their DSLRs so I could play around with them -- obviously nothing good came about from these. Though, as I aged, my skills progressed and I was eventually taught by my grandpa how to shoot on and develop film, and just showed me the world in a whole new way. I wasn’t officially trained until freshman year of high school when my film teacher had started us out with photography -- which allowed me to expand my prior knowledge and get more technical and deeper into the subject. 

Magic & Musings:
Did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place where you could share your photographs?

Emma Orland:
Definitely, definitely. To this day I constantly put down my work and berate it. Regardless of the amount of compliments I get on my work, I find myself staring at photos until I no longer believe they are good, alhough I usually post them anyway and grow to love them again. It was only once I began doing everything in manual (for digital) and developing my own film (for analog photography) that I felt comfortable sharing it since it was something I felt proud of because I had complete control over its outcome.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your projects, which are you the happiest with and why?

Emma Orland:
I find that with every new shoot I do I tend to like them more. So, in light of that, my favorite project would have to be one of my two most recents -- one I did with my friend, Sophie, in my apartment where we utilized fairy lights, color gels, as well as simply natural lighting, or on the 4th of July I brought my camera to the fireworks and took some portraits of my girlfriend, Suzy, in front of them, and I just love the way they turned out.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying or non-binary artists and their work. Which photographers, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Emma Orland:
When I feel uninspired I find myself often looking at Savana Ogburn’s photos since I find it incredible how she takes ordinary situations and makes them extraordinary, Lauren Tepfer’s because I love the way she can make anything look like another world, and Hannah Diamond’s because she makes everything she touches into something more precious than gold. And even though this person isn’t a female nor someone who is well known, my biggest inspiration for my art would definitely be my grandpa because he just introduced me to everything and gave me the courage and knowledge I needed in order to be where I am now.

Magic & Musings:
That's so, so lovely to hear.
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?

Emma Orland:
I definitely find myself being productive in the weirdest places and at the weirdest times. I most frequently find my best ideas while sitting at a desk in school, desperately trying to pass the time, and really just going through my thoughts and experiences to find ways to express them creatively. I definitely look within lyrics and books for a word or a phrase that will spark an idea for a shoot or a video.

Magic & Musings:
I can relate to that a lot. I once got a whole idea for a short story by looking at an album cover!
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Emma Orland:
When I’m stuck in a rut creatively I always revert to this video. because it will always get ideas flowing and somehow is able to make me feel so good and all around inspired.

Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?

Emma Orland:
Even when I’m not working, I definitely am subconsciously working. I am always looking at situations thinking 'How could I make this into something more? Something beautiful, or intricate, or something just out of the blue'. Even something as simple as going to the store gets me thinking 'This would be a great location for a shoot.' Though I very much enjoy listening to music and watching TV/movies when I can, I can’t even say photography feels like work, so I tend to drift towards that in my free time.


Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organised?

Emma Orland:
I wouldn’t say I have any tools to remain organized, though I have recently begun making “moodboards” of a sort where I will, in a sense, draft a shoot, or an idea I have and reference it when I plan on acting on the idea. Additionally, whenever an idea comes to mind, I will always go straight to the notes in my phone and will write it down, and when I want to shoot but have no ideas, I will go back to them and grow the ideas further.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in a medium other than photography? Is this something you would consider in the future?

Emma Orland:
I currently would consider myself an aspiring artist in two forms: photography and film. I would love to branch out and expand my knowledge and skills in another medium, I just don’t know what that would be.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out as a photographer?

Emma Orland:
I wish someone had told me that it was okay to not like your photos, even if everyone else does. You are your own worst critic and very few, if any, people are zooming into the individual pixels of your photos examining them for flaws. By putting something out there, people are already impressed because we all know how scary making yourself and your art vulnerable is.

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Emma Orland:
I just recently reread The Bell Jar for the first time in a while and I was reminded just how much I love it. As for movies, one of my favorite films, that I have seen too many times, is definitely Heathers because it just has some of the most iconic lines in the dialog and is such a distinct storyline that is generally incredible.


Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? What’s on the horizon for you in the next few months?

Emma Orland:
I am currently working on co-curating an art show with my friend Caro called “Sonder” which will be taking place in Brooklyn in early September - for information on this, check our website: sonderexhibition.com. Secondly, I am currently in communication with adolescent.net and will hopefully be working with them in the near future as well! Further than this I have yet to know what the future holds for me, and yet I am extremely excited for what it might be. My work can be found at emmaorland.com and I can be found at @emma.orland on Instagram.

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