Reema Selhi

Reema Selhi

How did you get started in photography?

I first used a 35mm camera in a photography class 12 years ago and learned to develop film, but I wasn't patient enough in my youth to foster technique or style. I enjoyed photography in phases rather than continually, but each time I go back to it my interests are expanding. 

What role has your iPhone and Instagram played in it?

The platforms and technology were there before iPhones and Instagram but I had never actually taken them up. I had a small digital camera, just as mobile as any smartphone but it didn't open me up to photography in the same way and nor did other image-sharing apps. 

Perhaps it was Instagram's easy usability or the amount of interesting content I saw on there that encouraged me to do more. I was eventually hooked and suddenly had the desire to stop what I was doing and take a picture.

How has London influenced your perspective? 

I haven't lived anywhere other than London, so really it's all I know. But I've lived in lots of different neighborhoods and I feel a certain familiarity or even nostalgia in some places. When I revisit them, I try to get something personal in my photographs -- the memory of the way something was a few years ago. Over time photos can unwittingly produce a micro history. That's something I like seeing.  

Where are your favorite places to go in London? 

My photos are concerned a lot with small details, patterns and colors so I don't rely so much on specific locations. The best thing about London is the access to culture, and the fact that so many galleries have free entry is what makes this place excellent. It stops art from being an insider's clique and it means you can go into a gallery, spend a minute and leave without any commitment. 

What are you inspired by? 

Gallery hopping is something I do almost every weekend, so it inevitably inspires me as a place -- whether it sets me in a mood to look out for something in the streets or if I want to interpret an artwork in my photo. I love taking the train (not the underground) and seeing inside homes and offices and peering over back streets. That usually leaves me deep in thought.

How long ago did you start gallery hopping? 

Going to galleries was encouraged greatly by my art teachers so it became a habit in my teenage years. It's not always fruitful and sometimes you can reach peak art but it just takes some time away from them to want to visit again. 

Galleries are funny places in a way because many of them are commercial ventures. In some respects, it's like going into a shop where you don't intend to buy anything just to peruse the marvels inside. There's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you get a real sense of the “game” in some of the galleries --

i.e. that they're more interested in sales figures than they are in showcasing work. I'm fond of public galleries, especially mid-range ones that can be slightly more experimental about the work they show. Often galleries in London will set themselves up in clusters so there are certain roads or neighborhoods you'd go to if you wanted to find something new. 

What are some of your favorite shots? 

Perhaps I'm overly sentimental but some of my favorite shots are those loaded with meaning for me rather than just being aesthetically pleasing. From

images I've posted to Instagram, I'm particularly fond of a photo of the window of a greetings card shop that has balloons painted on it. I took that shot and posted it just when I'd found out I got a new job. I was so happy then, and if I look at it now it can help me get through a bad day. Any photos from a good moment in time or with a good story (like the one with the cat in the sink that marks a tale from driving on the Pacific highway) are all close to my heart.

If you had to choose, what color would you say is your favorite? 

That's a really hard choice to make! My friend and I both fell in love with a sort ofturquoise/green color that is really popular in hot climates. I saw it a lot in both India and Mexico -- houses would be painted this color while banana plants would grow besides the wall. It's great to chance upon it in London, though it

doesn't quite evoke the same feelings of warmth over here -- which is why it's hard to call a color a favorite as they're always shaped by their environment. 

What role do colors and patterns play in your work? 

For images I've posted on Instagram, colors and patterns are everything.

I want all the photos to look good together on my grid, maybe a little too obsessively, but I think it needs a nice mixture of textures. I'm unlikely to post anything that doesn't fit in and sometimes I find using an app like Instagram can be a little stifling unless I push myself to get over silly obsessions like that. Going back to film photography after a long break has helped to take me out of that zone a little.

When you used a 35mm camera in the past, were you shooting small details as well? 

When I first started photography I didn't shoot details or things that pique my interest in the same way now. I started with black and white film so I went for contrasts. A cast iron gate creating line shadows on the ground was ideal. 

What catches your eye and draws it to a certain frame to be photographed? 

An interesting or unusual color for a certain setting will always catch my eye first,but I'm also drawn to light like a magpie, especially reflected light. It doesn't happen often as the weather is so frequently overcast here, but this summer I went down a street by the Barbican and the sunlight shining

off the windows opposite gave the effect of a swimming pool -- watery light bouncing everywhere and mingling with the brickwork. It was magical.

Interview by Jack Sommer

Kevin De Los Santos