In a digital age where moments are often distilled through a sterile lens, Colette Slater Barrass champions analogue in an attempt to breathe life into her works with a painterly touch. “Photography, to me, feels like painting with light, colors, and shadows,” she shared while reminiscing about her first experience in a school darkroom. That initial fascination at just 15 years old, watching an image materialize, became the foundation of her career.
Using her Mamiya RB67, she crafts images infused with a distinct touch, blending spirited colors and thoughtful lighting. Colette’s early days were rooted in experimentation, crafting scenes in her mum’s kitchen. Today, her work exhibits a synthesis of her graphic design background and raw photographic talent.
However, her photography isn’t just about the shot but the experience. She emphasizes intimacy, striving for authentic connections with her subjects. Evidently, it’s not just about staged perfection but the candid, natural moments that truly capture a subject’s essence. “I often limit the number of people on set to foster a sense of intimacy and authenticity in my work,” she explains.
“This approach helps my subjects relax and build a genuine connection with me, leading to capturing candid, in-between moments,” the 25-year-old photographer tells us. “Initially focused on technical perfection, I’ve learned to let go and allow for spontaneity and movement, resulting in more organic and dynamic portraits.”
Driven by a balance between personal freedom and the challenges of editorial shoots, Colette finds large projects push her boundaries. They offer not just exposure but also personal growth. She remarked, “Larger editorial shoots propel me into action. Editorial projects offer both significant responsibility and a chance to prove myself as a photographer, helping me to combat imposter syndrome. Once I establish a rhythm with regular work from publications and brands, I’m also in the right creative mindset to pursue smaller personal shoots.”
In her portraits, she captures more than just faces. Colette’s work is an exploration of authenticity and individuality. With hopes of collaborating with artists like FKA Twigs and Billie Eilish, her future in the field seems both exciting and promising. Ahead, the photographer walked us through some of her favorite moments to date.
1. “Priya Ragu”
I was commissioned to photograph London-based up-and-coming artist Priya Ragu for Noctis Magazine. The concept for the shoot was about self-reflection and shining a light on artists and their achievements within the music industry.
I wanted to make a comment on my British heritage with a twist. I followed a similar type of painterly lighting as well as referencing the classical painting Narcissus by focusing on the subject’s reflection in the mirror. From a far this costume appears to resemble that of Shakespearian dress, yet the pieces are, in fact, from modern fashion designers who focus on pushing form and gender boundaries.
3. “Fallen Angel”
I intended to explore the vulnerable side of masculinity and took a more gentle approach to capturing my boyfriend by directing him into a fetal pose with angel wings on his back and over his ears. I wanted to highlight the contours of his body through soft lighting from one softbox, adding to the pure and almost religious feel to the image.
I shot this on my analogue Mamiya RB67 camera. This allowed me to slow down and focus on the subject in front of me with complete attention. The velvety texture of the image was produced through continuous lighting and slow shutter speed, adding to the dreamy painterly effect.
4. “All About Me”
I captured this self-portrait using my favorite analogue camera, the Mamiya RB67. In this image, I carefully crafted a hyper-photographic fantasy realm, paying homage to retro aesthetics and showcasing my diverse collection of analogue cameras. My intention for this portrait was to convey the fiercely competitive nature of the photography industry. To me, it often resembles a delicate balancing act, demanding a continuous showcase of creativity and self-expression to thrive as a working photographer. This reality can leave many creatives feeling overwhelmed and exposed.
This image is from a series of photographic portraits that champion emerging creatives based in London and their various crafts, ranging from cake decorators, writers, photographers, fashion designers, and dancers. The subjects are represented in the form of highly curated fantasy worlds, with attention to color, styling, props, and set design. Alysha is a cake maker based in London and is eating the topping from the cake she made.
6. “Oh No”
I was commissioned by my friend’s slow fashion brand, Tummy Ache, to create a raw image of Kay in the Oh No Nightdress and consciously keeping the texture of the skin and sofa. The brand opens up an honest conversation surrounding mental health and empower those struggling to feel seen. The nightdress is an emblem of feeling, with some self-aware humor embroidered into the seams.