For Annie Collinge, Black-and-White Won’t Do

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Photo: Annie Collinge

Annie Collinge, 32, describes her work as “childlike, but slightly dark.” So it’s surprising that celebrity portraiture started her career, even before she graduated from Central Saint Martins and the University of Brighton. “I started assisting when I was 17,” she says, “so it seemed very exciting meeting famous people.” She marveled at David Blaine getting shouted at by hotel security, a seamless backdrop falling on Richard Branson, and accidentally getting stuck in a revolving door with Goldie Hawn. “Inevitably, I didn’t want to do [that],” she says, after sharing her glamour-filled memories, so she struck out on her own, mostly to photograph people in colorfully floral costumes. “People always put me in the quirky bracket,” she explains, “but [others] feel my work is refreshing, because they [usually] see a lot of the same things.”

After pitching a few post-collegiate ideas to Tank, she landed that magazine as her first client, moved to New York in 2008, and has gone on to shoot regularly for The Independent, Vice, and The Sunday Times Magazine. These assignments include a fair bit of celebrity —  Usher, Chloe Moretz, and Malcolm Gladwell were recent subjects — but she uses those contracts to finance her own projects. She’s currently self-publishing a book based on Margaret Atwood’s 5 Poems for Dolls, which involves buying dolls at flea markets and dressing humans to match them. Essentially, she says, it’s about “the idea that I’m translating this doll that is a vision of life back into life.” Click through our slideshow to see more of Collinge’s work, and to hear the thought process behind her pictures.

Photo: Annie Collinge

On her inspiration:

“My style comes from books I read as a child. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much impact they’ve had on me, like the illustrations. I like this slightly homemade style. It’s childlike, but it’s slightly dark. For [other] inspiration, I like going to junk shops, like I go to the Chelsea Flea every weekend — I love it, [but] I hardly ever buy anything!”

Photo: Annie Collinge

On her process:

“I literally think of the exact photograph I’m going to take in my head. I find that if I can’t imagine what something’s going to look like, then it doesn’t work.”

Photo: Annie Collinge

On her use of color:

“I find it weird when people take digital images and make them black-and-white now. People are very anal about the printing of black-and-white. I used to do it — I had a darkroom in my parents’ basement, I did 35mm. That’s actually what made me interested in photography was the whole process. You know, getting the developing tank and seeing what comes out. But, I think I’ve shot like three black and white films in the last fifteen years!”

Photo: Annie Collinge

On her first picture:

“I did a project where I dressed three of my friends identically — this sounds terrible — they had matching wigs and I had them in a bath together. I mean, now I look back and I’m like, ‘Oh, God.’ But it was the beginning of something: a lot of my work is about adornment, people wearing strange costumes, and looking slightly depressed.”

Photo: Annie Collinge

On fashion photography:

“I do love fashion photography. I find that it’s one of the most creative veins of photography, and yet, a lot of people don’t exploit that. They just shoot models in white studios.”

Photo: Annie Collinge

On spontaneity:

“This picture was strange because I did it with a friend of mine who’s a set designer, and one afternoon we were just messing around with some stuff in the studio. Then there’s another friend of mine who’s a photographer. And it was completely spontaneous! We shot it in, like, ten minutes. At the time I was not sure about it, but then loads of people loved it.”

Photo: Annie Collinge

On upcoming projects:

“I’m working on a book project based on a poem by Margaret Atwood. I’m self-publishing it, but it involves picking up ladies on the subway! No, basically it involves getting to dress up. It’s about the idea of a doll, so I’ve been buying strange dolls in junk shops, and then I’ve been finding the life-size outfit based on them. Then I find people that look like these dolls.”