Columbus College of Art & Design student Annie Noelker is only 21 and already mastering the art of photography. Noelker grew up with a passion for cameras and photography running through her blood and now she is following in the footsteps of her father, a fellow artist behind the camera.
Noelker has found her own passion through the lens by combining photos with her writings and music.
Selena Lundy: How long have you been interested in photography?
Annie Noelker: My dad is a photojournalist, so I’ve always had a camera in my face since I can remember. It wasn’t until my freshman year in high school when I was gifted an iPhone and I began shooting my daily life that I really became interested in image making.
I was immediately drawn to faces and the stories that came with photographing people. At 16, instead of buying a car I bought my first camera and I’ve been shooting ever since.
SL: Who or what fueled that interest?
AN: My dad definitely fueled my interest in photography. I would go out and shoot with my friends and bring the pictures back and he would critique them and tell me to shoot again and again. My mom also supports me in everything I do. I love her to pieces.
I really have had the best support system. My high school photography teacher, Jill Dulgeroff, also played a huge role in my art education. She allowed me to stretch assignments and pushed me to enter my images into competitions. I would not be where I am today without her influence.
SL: Most people have a preference when it comes to their passions. What preferences do you have when it comes to choosing how, when or who you take pictures of?
AN: I always have my camera with me; it has definitely become a security blanket of sorts. I think photographing has become such an integral part of my life that I am constantly subconsciously searching for the next image. I am drawn to storytelling, dramatic light, sound and faces. It kind of just all falls into place or it doesn’t.
SL: What aspects of the world or your life influence your photography the most?
AN: Music has played such a huge role in influencing how I photograph. I have always been drawn to storytelling and music is so incredibly far from visual art in the way stories are told and I find that so interesting.
SL: Tell me about some of your best or worst experiences while shooting.
AN: Human connection is so important for me while photographing. I like to talk to the person that’s in front of my lens, really get to know them and make them comfortable, and if that means completely embarrassing myself by being goofy, I’m down. When there is that disconnect, that’s when things go wrong and those days have been my worst experiences while shooting.
SL: Is there a message you’re trying to expose to the viewers of your photos?
AN: For me, it really depends on the image or set of images. For my music portraiture, specifically when photographing rappers, I like to strip them of costumes and glamour — oftentimes the icons of hip-hop are portrayed as characters, personas and exaggerated versions of themselves, and more likely than not, photographed and written about by men.
Furthering this idea of stripping away distraction, I like to photograph in black and white. I feel as though black and white imagery tells the story of the individual — it allows all distractions of color to melt away and you’re left with the person.
SL: Although it might be hard to choose from the many that you’ve taken, do you have a favorite picture? For what reason?
AN: Oh man that is so hard! I think I might have to say a series I worked on the summer after my freshman year of college, called “Windblown.” It was a response to a photograph I found of myself from when I was 9.
My dad took it in a U-Haul as we were driving cross country after selling our house. I was so terrified of being ripped from everything I had known and I just remember my dad rolling down all the windows and my hair catching the wind and laughing.
I took photographs of 57 people’s heads sticking out of my car window as we sped down country roads and photographed their hair twisting in the wind and it was bliss.
SL: Do you have any other hobbies that you use to combine with your photography?
AN: Last December I released my first publication called “MOUTH mag” about Columbus rap and hip-hop. I photographed each of the 11 artists myself, wrote their interviews and designed the entire piece. In making “MOUTH mag,” I discovered I love design.
I’ve found photography and design are very similar — in composition and in problem-solving. Writing has always been something I’ve done and loved my whole life, as well as music (at least listening to it, not so much the “making it” part) so to be able to combine all my passions into one thing is absolutely fulfilling.
SL: What do you hope to do with your photography in the future? Have any plans?
AN: In the future, I would really love to continue making “MOUTH mag.” I want to travel to different cities and document their hip-hop scenes and get to know their artists like I know Columbus.
I would love to go on tour with an artist as well as shoot fashion campaigns. I don’t want to limit myself to one genre of photography. I get bored easily and like to shift my focus often.
I have an ongoing series about my family as well that I would like to continue for the rest of my life. I graduate in May and I really don’t have a clue what I’m going to do — it seems NYC, LA, Atlanta and London are pulling me in all sorts of directions. I’m really horrible at decisions.
You can visit Noelker’s site here.