[A]s a self-taught freelance photographer living in New Jersey, Erica Snyder knows how to explore the suburbs to find the hidden gems. Whether a neon lit diner or a derelict swimming pool, her photography exudes intimacy and exemplifies the nature of suburban situations. With the world obsessing more and more over anything neon, what better than escaping to truck stops in the middle of nowhere and mystery motels to capture the aesthetic in its most iconic form.
We caught up with Erica to learn about the trials and tribulations of being a suburban photographer, check our interview out below:
How do you feel living in the suburbs has affected your photography?
Living in the suburbs, photography became a relief from the monotony and boredom. I think the suburban landscape is an interesting one to attempt to shoot as it is mostly strip malls and commercial plazas. These places are not generally considered architecturally or aesthetically pleasing so it became a challenge to bring them to life. Photographing the suburbs also requires a significant amount of driving, I tend to find myself traveling further and further from my home to find new locations that I haven’t already photographed. Many of my shots have been taken out of a car window or after several u-turns. It becomes quite an adventure.
You can definitely feel that in the photographs, they tell stories of journey. Your series often explore tales of ‘night moves’ and ‘day scenes’, if you could pick an ideal day setting to shoot and an ideal night setting to shoot what would they be?
It’s difficult for me to articulate an ideal setting for day and night settings because often times I’m just trying to make the best of the location I find myself in. I try not to lock myself into too many preconceived ideals, so I can be more open to create in the moment. However I am drawn to older buildings, retro signage and vintage cars, they tend to have more character than the sterile architecture of recent years.
The world is obsessed with neon at the moment, what is it about neon light that inspires you to photograph it?
Ah yes, there is a lot of love for neon right now, its a curious trend. My involvement in photographing neon began out of convenience, due to work I wasn’t able to shoot much during the day. My only free time to shoot was at night and I needed a subject I could actually capture, neon was the perfect light source. I quickly fell in love with the colours and various fonts used in the signage.
Was there a defining moment that you knew you wanted to be a photographer?
Since I was young I’ve always been interested in art, I had a deep desire to express myself in a visual medium but I was terrible at drawing and painting. Instead I began casually exploring photography but never took it seriously. About two years ago I started to dedicate more time to shooting and studying the craft, there wasn’t a specific moment where I knew I wanted to be a photographer it was a slow build of experiences that ultimately brought me here.
If you could photograph one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
It may seem corny but I would be content with only photographing sunsets for the rest of my life.
Do you feel like you photograph people and scenery in different ways?
It depends, sometimes I like to include people in landscapes as though they were part of the scene. I feel a human presence can add a lot to a photograph – a story can be formed around the interaction between the person and the landscape, which is something I am very interested in. Who is this person, why are they here, what are they doing? Other times I will shoot in a more traditional portrait style, the person as a central focus and the landscape falls to the background, becomes less important. If I do not have a person on hand to photograph I try to make something in the scene become the subject instead, this leads me to find interesting cars, buildings or neon signs as I am not very comfortable with photographing strangers on the street.
Do you feel living in suburban America in these political times has affected what art you want to create?
Yes, I’ve been thinking about this frequently. I am not comfortable at all with the political or economic state. Tension and anxiety in America is high right now and I have shied away from the news because I find it mentally and emotionally draining. However, there is a lot to be said about this administration and the destructive effects it has evoked in American culture. I aim to push my work further to become more political, I have reached out to my creative friends who feel the same and we are collaborating on projects, photo and otherwise that will hopefully be completed within the next few months.
What can we expect next from Erica Snyder?
I’ve recently started to explore more portraiture along with video and collage! I want to challenge myself to create work that emanates deeper meaning and emotion <3.