Photo: Sophie Appel

OTP short-forms: Sophie Appel



An interview with the San Francisco-based photographer via direct message.

We talk first cameras, Nicole Eisenman and getting hit in the face.

OTP What is your name? Where are you based? How would you describe what you do?

SA My name is Sophie Appel, I am from Los Angeles, I live in Oakland and I am finishing up my final semester at San Francisco Art Institute. I make things inspired by ideas of portraiture and mainly work with photographs or film.

OTP What’s important to you?

SA Representation, it is something I think about a lot because I am given so much trust by the people I work with. Most of my photographs are of the people I am closest to - friends or family. If I photograph someone I don’t know I’m always speaking with them, before, during and after the shoot to make sure they’re comfortable. People are very vulnerable when they are being photographed, they relinquish control in a very specific way when they allow you to depict them how you see them. I think it its a beautiful exchange and its something that I handle with care.

Photo: Sophie Appel

OTP Why do you take photos?

SA There are a lot of reasons: to depict people that I care about, to deconstruct ideas of the sexualised body, to explore the idea of portraiture and why I am so drawn to people and human-ness. It’s always been a creative outlet for me as well as a process for healing. I want to shift the way that the photography industry works (a lot of it feels exploitative and/or male gaze-y) and to change the history of the medium. There needs to be more space for people that aren’t white men.

OTP How long have you been a photographer? How did you get into it?

SA I got my first camera when I was 12 years old. It was a gift from my mom, who is also a photographer. I tried my luck at sports, but wore coke-bottle-thick glasses and had terrible depth perception, so I used to get hit in the face a lot with softballs and volleyballs.

OTP Artist Interview Sophie Appel Art Galley Exhibtion London Edinburgh Copenhagen 2019

Photo: Sophie Appel

OTP What would you like people to take away from your work?

SA A sense of mutual understanding and respect.

OTP Who are your favourite artists right now? Any recommendations for the reader?

SA In terms of visual artists, I think that Nicole Eisenman is a genius, the scenes she paints have got this mystic quality I find very inspiring - I have a huge crush on her. I also really love Pipilotti Rist, her installations are incredible but she does this video work that I find really fascinating. I read a lot. I think that Citizen by Claudia Rankine and Coeur de Lion by Ariana Reines are both very important books - everyone should read them.

Photo: Sophie Appel

OTP What about exhibitions? Are there are stand-outs that have had a particularly large effect on you?

SA The 2014 Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA (Los Angeles) caused a big shift in my understanding of the creative process. It taught me that I should use whatever the work demands, rather than what might be on-hand, or what I have used before. That I shouldn't stick too rigidly to any one medium. It was a very freeing experience, and felt really intense considering he had just passed.

OTP Are there certain things you always need when you work? Regardless of medium?

SA Not a whole lot, usually just a human, whether that be myself or someone else, and a camera.

OTP Do you have a favourite camera?

SA I don't kiss and tell. X

See more of Sophie's work: