Women And Children: Vanina Sorrenti on The Series of Family Portraits That Got Her Back into Photography
What’s the power of a portrait?
“I like the connection you make with the subject. It’s like a meditation between two people. Every sitting is different because your relationship with each person is unique. It’s improvised. It’s exciting and challenging. You’re a nurturer. You need to gain the trust of the subject, like a parent with a child, because they are in a vulnerable position, and the more open they are, the more truthful they become and you make more of a connection. Sometimes you don’t make a connection at all. It can be unharmonious. It’s like a dance. You can be in tune and have a rhythm with some people but other people are off rhythm – but that’s still a connection.”
How did the portraits series unfold?
“My brother lent me his 8 x 10 camera and we left it set up in the studio. The pictures were taken over the course of a year. It wasn’t overly thought out. It was more about spending time and sharing this moment with friends and family. It was spontaneous. If someone was in the neighbourhood they would pop into the studio. I also felt like everyone was growing up so fast. It was precious to capture it on a large negative.”
from left: Lennon Buchet Sorrenti and Arsun Sorrenti.
What’s so special about the 8 x 10 format?
“With a large camera, you can’t operate it by yourself. You need an assistant or sometimes two. It’s a process. You have an 8 x 10 inch negative that you need to load into an 8 x 10 film holder. There is a blackout tent to load and unload the film and you must wear gloves. There’s a large Polaroid machine and printer to process the Polaroid, You have to be careful it doesn’t get damaged. Large format is larger than life. When you look at the picture it almost jumps at you. The amount of detail that is on an 8 x 10 negative compared to a 35mm negative is much greater. The details are heightened. It’s much more present. It’s a harp, rather than a guitar – I’m using instruments to describe it because it is an instrument. It’s a drum of light. The way the light travels within such a large body is the same as sound. Like a painting, you have to set it up. The subject has to be quite still, as the amount of light you need for that negative and those lenses is 2.5 light F stops more than a regular negative.”
“The 8 x 10 camera is an elephant in the room – it makes people aware of themselves and that is interesting to capture. It’s harder to do movement, but for still images and the stillness of a portrait it’s incredible. It is like a gong when you are meditating. When you hit it, the sound vibrates though everything and creates an incredible stillness and awareness in the room. You are documenting the ritual between you and the subject.”
from top: Ku-Ling and Cody Yurman.
How does it compare to working with a digital camera?
“It is more methodical, more artisanal. It’s not instantaneous. There’s a craft. It’s like comparing a weaving machine to Photoshop. It’s handmade. Everything is more premeditated. The more you stretch your bellow, the more light you need. There are a lot of different measurements that you have to think about. It’s a craft. It’s alchemy. When you see a large 8 x 10 Polaroid come out you go, ‘Wow!’ because you have all these uncontrollable elements. One might be a little green, a little red. Each one is different, depending on the temperature of the room and how old and expired the emulsion is, as they don’t make the Polaroid any more. It’s all aged film. That’s the attraction. The Polaroids feel more like watercolour, whereas the negatives are more consistent and more controllable.”
What do you see when you look at the pictures?
“I get very sentimental. It’s nice to look at my daughter so young and my teenage niece and nephew on the brink of adulthood. I have known my friends Jade and Ku-Ling since my teens. We all had children around the same time and they grew up together. I am very fortunate to have that love, familyhood and tribe. My life at the time was mostly surrounded by women and children. Women and Children documents a small part of that. I had stepped away from the editorial frenzy of the fashion industry for a few years when I had my daughter. I made that choice to spend more time with her and only do specific commercial work or personal work.”
from left: Lennon Buchet Sorrenti, Gray Sorrenti and Blue Lindeberg.
How did this personal series get you back into editorial photography?
“I started posting personal pictures on Instagram, and when Sophia saw the 8 x 10 Women and Children images she contacted me. I was so happy! We hadn’t worked together in years. We decided to shoot the Victoria’s Secret models in an intimate series of lingerie portraits on the large-format 8 x 10 Polaroid. We found an expired box of semi-damaged Polaroids on eBay and paid five times what they would have originally cost. They were opened and expired, and each emulsion was completely different. It was super-fun to peel each Polaroid and see what would come out. It was a nice re-entry into editorial and a great way to rekindle my relationship with Sophia.
Photography by Vanina Sorrenti. Taken from Issue 65 of 10 Magazine – FAMILY, FOREVER, LOVE – available to purchase here.
from left: Lennon Buchet Sorrenti, Secret Snow and Jade Burreau.
Ten Meets Charlotte Knowles, The London-Based Label Crafting Clothes for Girls Who Bite Back
Ajak Deng Poses for Vanina Sorrenti in Prada on the Third Cover of Our Brand New Issue 63