In an age where film is nearly obsolete, photographer Sara Winkle has grown attached to its unpredictable outcome. She uses a combination of film and digital processing to paint the stories of her mind, gaining inspiration from old withered buildings and paintings by artists long since passed, and elders she acquaints herself with. Winkle has had a long history of art, weaving in and out of different mediums throughout her young life. She began her artistic endeavors as a young child in Germany where she learned to paint, eventually growing into the arts of ceramics, photography, and animation. Let yourself wander through her work, and unfetter your imagination as you create your own stories from the cobwebs of your mind.
Many of your photographs have a beautiful and haunting quality, almost as if the subjects were ghosts. How do you create these concepts?
I am attracted to the juxtaposition of beauty and decay. There is something oddly compelling about walking into an old building or looking at a discarded object that once had meaning to somebody.
We can be long gone but what we create is indelible and has a lasting impact on our surroundings. As an artist, I have puzzled over the meaning we attach to things. When we only have fractions we are left to fill in the gaps. It is the untold story that compels me—and whatever gets lost in between the lines. That’s when as artists and observers we are allowed to make up our own narratives. The portraits are reenactments of that idea. I hope to get the viewer to wonder about them and create their own story.
Where do they come from?
In the beginning it can be as simple as an impulse that gets the idea going, observing how somebody moves or the sound of a voice. I spend a lot of time with the subject and I know beforehand how I want to portray them. After the shoot, the artwork could take a totally different direction. It is a very free and joyful process.
If it is a commissioned piece it is different. For those kinds of projects I plan out everything. The images—from initial idea to finished piece—I plan as I would start out the composition of an oil painting. I have references, mood boards, I know which color palette I am going to use. Working with clients, sometimes there is less control over the final outcome, so I try to keep as much control of the initial set up of my work.
Do you know all your subjects?
I am close to the people I photograph. They are family, people I grew up with, artists I work with, and people who surround me in my daily life.
Does your knowledge of them affect how you portray them or does it all come from your imagination?
I think there is a vulnerability and honesty that can be captured in an image when you know the person that you are working with well. In these portraits, I try to dive into the essence of the subject and build visual landscapes around them. In the end, the images are a projection of what I think I know about the people, placed in a surreal setting.
What does your art mean to you?
Art has always been the only natural way for me to express myself. I started painting and illustrating as a child; later I moved on to create ceramics and photography. All of those things are a vital part of my life and define me as a person. Also, this is what I am good at. This is how I make a living.
Lastly, what does wild mean to you?
Being wild means being free. Free of the constraints society's rules put on us, and the constraints we put on each other in interpersonal relationships. As artists, being wild means to think uninhibitedly, to not give a crap about what others think of our work, and to do what we want to do. It means to be an anarchist at heart.
Interview and text by Kelli Radwanski
Sara Winkle is a multidisciplinary artist from Germany currently residing in Los Angeles. Her scope of work includes photography and graphic design with a background in fine arts. To see more of her work, click here.