Samee Lapham

Samee Lapham

How did you get started in photography?

I was aware of photography from a young age, but it wasn't until I had the option to choose it as a subject in high school that it clicked with me as a way of capturing how I saw the world. I was about 13 and I was shooting 35mm black and white on a borrowed camera, mainly of my favorite friends, my mum's garden and my dog. I wish someone had told me to stick with film. I was about 15 when my parents bought me a digital camera and I remember the shock of my friends at school asking me why I wasn't looking through the lens. 

What role has your iPhone and Instagram played in it?

I'd say it's true that the best camera is the one we have with us, and on a daily basis that's now my iPhone. I was publicly "anti iPhone" (to my close circle) and when my trusty flip phone of four years decided to quit on me and I ended up with an iPhone I hid it for a whole week before telling anyone. I think it's amazing how far the medium has catapulted photography and how people now approach it. Friends of mine who have never picked up a camera have now been introduced to photography thanks to their phones, and they take brilliant shots! Instagram has given us an incredibly accessible outlet to keep practicing,

and to be inspired; everyone is getting better and better, even my dad. 

By scrolling through my own Instagram feed, I can see how much I've grown too, even in a small space of time. My phone allows me to take a shot at a moments notice, and that level of accessibility keeps me taking photos on a daily basis. 

How has London influenced your perspective? 

London is incredibly photogenic, as is the whole of Europe. Having moved from Sydney where I had to drive to get most places, I am now without a car and walk everywhere everyday, often for hours and hours of a weekend. It opens up morepossibilities – I can stop as many times as I like and take spontaneous detours onfoot, clocking up 100s of photos (a blessing and a curse!). London has enhanced my perspective in a short space of time – the people I've become friends

with through Instagram alone have shaped how I push myself to keep improving on my shots. There's this intensity, of the positive kind, that makes me want to take more and more pictures.  

Where are your favorite places to go in London? 

One of my most favorite places to go in London is Hamstead Heath; a day out walking amongst the trees and ending at the local pub for a hearty meal is a Sunday well spent. Though in terms of taking pictures,

I love the summer months riding my bike around the quiet streets of South London after work, looking at all the houses. Riding a bike on the road was a challenge I wanted to conquer and it's given me another way to find interesting shots that I wouldn't have otherwise found. What I love most about London is that you are always finding something new.  

What are you inspired by? 

I tend to pull inspiration from anywhere and everywhere! And I don't mean that lightly. I'd have to say though that going for regular walks is definitely an important refresher, and can lead to inspiration I wasn't even really looking for. 

What are some of your favorite shots? 

Some of my favorite shots are those split moments in time that you're lucky enough to capture. They're the gems. A friend laughing, those candid moments; birds flying into your frame; strangers on the street conversing; a guy in

a quirky outfit that happens to match the house you're capturing and has got his stride on. Those kinds of things. 

In the last year I've hiked up quite a few house portraits too, namely influenced by my unintentional desire to "collect" interesting numbers. Since this started I have not only come across interesting house fronts and been confronted by some interesting characters, I have been able to see how my framing and my editing has grown. Some of these have become my favorite shots. 

What gave you the idea for the Neighborhood Numbers tag? 

I had moved into a new area of Sydney in 2012 and walking around the streets I couldn't help but notice all the house numbers. They were all really different and full of personality. I thought it would be interesting to start a series of shots of the numbers I'd seen and liked the idea of collating them in a tag, which was something I hadn't done before. I encouraged my friends to join in and eventually built up the confidence to comment on other people's photos on Instagram to add their shots to the tag too. And so it goes.

What do you find fascinating about shooting them and doors and generally “everyday" subject matter? 

I like the character of house portraits, and how it can tell a kind of story about the people who live there. It's not a difficult subject matter in a city like London to be fair, so I think that's definitely assisted in the escalation of their appearance in my Instagram feed! 

I can't help but look at the things around me in any city and frame a shot around a number, a crack in the wall, with drain pipes and some weeds popping out, and maybe some graffiti or some worn sign writing. Am I sounding too cliche? I actually don't know what it is that fascinates me about urban facades like this, I just see a shot and I take it. I like that I can essentially create something out of nothing; out of something you and I would walk past without necessarily noticing.   

How does color play into your work? 

Color plays a huge influence in making or breaking the shot for me. color is what will stop me in the street; how colors that are put next to each other by default, and not by choice, usually make for the most interesting frames. It also comes down to lighting. There are certainly limitations with "iPhone only", and it wasn't until I returned for a visit to Sydney without my DSLR that I realized how different the light was between our hemispheres. I had to adjust how I would take a shot to compensate for the harsher highlights and how the colors were translating. The London light is certainly more even on a more regularly basis! 

How does being a designer influence your photography and vice versa? 

I studied design a long time after picking up a camera, though I guess my knowledge as a designer now influences how I approach photography without even realising it's happening. This question is interesting too because not all designers are good photographers! (Sorry team). Some would say

being a designer helps with photography and vice versa; you get the rule of thirds, you consider your frame, your crop, the balance of your shot, etc. Though these types of things don't always have to be applied or even known to take a good shot. I think it really depends on what your motivations are to take photos in the first place, and how much you practice and build on your aesthetic. I love taking photos and would happily spend every weekend doing so, whereas some of my other designer friends couldn't care less. I'm a big believer in the whole "eye of the beholder"; I think everyone has an individual style and is entirely capable of taking a brilliant shot, it all depends on what you're trying to say.

Interview by Jack Sommer

Kevin De Los Santos