KT: How did you get into photography after being obsessed with US/Russian space programs for the longest time?
VP: I’ve been interested in Outer-space and the associated illustration/graphics/typography since I was a child. There’s not necessarily a direct link between this interest and my photography – other than an abstract inspiration that’s been with me since my earliest memories.
KT: With your freestyle photography, you explore the personal essence and unfiltered rawness of young women. What is your fascination with them?
VP: I like that time in a person’s life where they’re still figuring it all out and are excited about the mysteries of the world. And are not afraid of trying things out in front of a camera. It’s interesting being around that kind of open endedness. That crazy unbounded energy is intoxicating.
KT: In one of your interviews you have quoted that “I have made a lot of compromises early on in my career that i wouldn’t do it again”. What compromising are you referring to?
VP: For starters I would say “NO” to a lot more!!! As a young photographer you get so much (bad) advice coming from all directions – from fashion editors, art directors, stylists, agents. It’s very hard to wade through all the conflicting opinions about what you should or should not be doing, and figure out for yourself what is the actual right thing for YOU. If I had listened to everything I was advised, I would NEVER have made ANY of the work I’m most proud of, the pictures that define me as an artist. The best thing I ever did was to find my own way of making work and stick to it regardless of outside opinions.
The commercial (fashion/advertising) photography industry doesn’t like mavericks, unless they procure, groom and crown those individuals themselves.
KT: You have been making books/zines for over 15 years now. What do you like about your photography in a book-format?
VP: I’ve loved artists books and zines since I was a teenager and discovered the amazing shop ‘Printed Matter’ in New York, which has been and still is a major influence on me. I saw loads of underground punk and art publications I would never have known about otherwise. There is so much freedom in making work in book/zine form, it’s limitless. I like putting physical work into the world – I think that’s really important.I don’t like looking at photography online, although I do celebrate the fact that it’s got rid of a lot of the preciousness of a seemingly out-of-touch industry.
KT: Your books have very dreamlike/fun titles revolving around women. How do you select them?
VP: I’m obsessed with words and titles. That is what hangs a piece of work together for me. It’s as important as the pictures. My titles are usually born out of the experience of making the work, in one way or another. They are often ambiguous and every one has a very specific meaning to me.
KT: How do you react when people try to box your work with overt feminism?
VP: I have no interest in other people’s categories. Everyone is free to make their own mind up about my work and how they want to interpret it. But I’ve never really experienced this reaction.
KT: What do you want to achieve with your photography in the end?
VP: I like real life – unsanitized, sometimes unpretty, but packed with spirit and curiosity and obsession.
That’s what my pictures are about. Originality is important to me. I want my work to be instantly recognizable as my own unique vision of the world. Most of my books and zines are autobiographical to some extent, and influenced as much by the life I live as they are by the subject matter. I don’t mind if people like or dislike my pictures, as long as I know I’ve made work that is true to my own experience of the world and of the person I’m having a photo adventure with.