Through the lens of Erica Coburn
Hunt and Gather had a chance to chat to the young and ever so talented Erica Coburn, a photography student at IADT. Making waves with her ethereal, honest, and beautiful accounts of youth in Ireland.
Who is Erica Coburn?
Erica Coburn is someone I’m still getting to know. I thought I knew exactly who she was about a year ago but I was wrong and I’m pretty sure I won’t find out exactly for a few more years. She’s laid-back, ambitious and a huge day-dreamer.
What does a typical day consist of for you?
To be honest I’m pretty easy-going. I fear routine and I get bored very easily, so I try to keep each day as different as I can. I’m studying Photography in IADT at the moment, so when I’m not in class I’m either sitting down (my favourite thing) somewhere or cycling around with friends and taking pictures.
I personally feel like your picture let me relive my own youth through someone Else’s eyes, is there any particular style you find yourself shooting or do you tend to just consistently document your everyday experiences.
Thank you! That’s very lovely to hear. I used to shoot a lot of fashion and portraiture, mainly stuff that was construed and ’set-up’. I went away to Berlin for almost two months this summer and because I didn’t really have any contacts with models/stylists etc. over there, I wasn’t shooting fashion anymore. I was never really a fan of ‘documentary’ photography when I was a bit younger, but this Summer I really enjoyed capturing moments rather than creating them, and then blogging about them afterwards. It’s very refreshing to try something new, and push yourself to become better at it, and I’d never really done that before. With fashion photography editing would also take much longer, I could spend hours on one photo and then I’d have to take a break because I’m cross-eyed. Whereas with documenting photos I tried to do quick edits and rather than dwell on a photo I’d just move on to the next one.
Your images are fresh and authentic and often resonate with emotion where do you find your subjects or are they all just friends that you shoot?
Nowadays the main subjects in my photos are friends. I love travelling and meeting new people, and in Berlin I made a bunch of new friends and I loved photographing them. In Ireland I find that people shy away from the camera a lot, I think that’s because they’re afraid of looking bad, whereas German people see a camera and want to be in the picture because they want to look good. But I’m slowly getting back in touch with models that I’d like to shoot with, there’s a lot of ideas I’ve been dying to get working on.
Can you tell us what it’s like to be 19 years old in Ireland at the moment, in a time when youths are fleeing the country for better opportunities abroad? Is it a precarious time for 23 and under in Ireland? What your personal experience?
It’s both difficult and great. It’s difficult to see people you know emigrating, mainly because I wish it was me. I adore travelling, there’s a huge world out there and I haven’t seen that much of it yet! I’m enjoying life in Dublin at the moment, the people are fantastic, the craic is great, but it’s just so expensive to live here. We’re being ripped off so much but it seems like people just either accept it or emigrate, which I think is pretty sad. After I graduate I’m hoping to travel for a year, find a city I feel at home in and stay there for a while.
How do you capture the off the cuff essence you have in all of your images? As a result of social media most people are usually quite conscious when there is a camera in their vicinity. Yet everything and everyone in your images always looks so natural and unsuspecting.
I’m a big fan of just chilling out when I’m taking pictures. Whether I’m shooting with models or with friends I much prefer when everyone is comfortable with each other, and I think it’s important for people to feel at ease and have a laugh with it rather than being really serious. Before I start taking pictures – particularly with people I don’t know – I like to have a chat with the people I’m with, get to know them and just have a bit of friendly banter. A camera is much less scary to people in a welcoming environment.
Do you shoot much film or only digital?
During the year when I’m in college I shoot film as well as digital because there’s a darkroom I can use! I really love shooting medium format film, and there are a few projects I’ve been thinking about that I plan to work on in the near future.
What’s your favourite weapon of choice? And by weapon I mean camera.
My weapon of choice is a Canon 5D mark ii, and I either use a 50mm f/1.4 or an 85mm f/1.8. But soon I get to work with an amazing 5×4 large format film camera, and I’m pretty excited about that.
You give a really beautiful and honest peek into youth culture in Ireland is this an intentional narrative or just one that happens organically?
I guess it happens organically! I’ve noticed that I rarely intentionally think of narratives when I’m shooting, but somehow I end up with one. I think my brain is subconsciously quite active, I have a great memory and I find I’m always thinking about a lot of things at once without really realising it, if that makes any sense at all.
Care to share one of your wildest adventures to date?
In March a few friends and I went on a little road-trip around Ireland, in 5 days we made it the whole way around the country, seeing things like the Cliffs of Moher, the Gap of Dunloe, and the Giant’s Causeway. One of my friends from America, Kristian, was travelling around Europe for a few months so it was a great opportunity to show her the country and experience it for myself. I had only ever seen sights like those when I was a kid and I didn’t really appreciate it at that age, so it was so nice to see the country now that I’m older and with a fun group of friends. If you and your friends get a spare few days I’d highly recommend it!
You’re a vibrant example of the well of talent the next generation of Ireland has to offer, where do you see yourself and your work in 5 years?
Thank you! If you had asked me that question last year, my answer would be totally different to my answer now, and next year it will probably be different again. Ideally I’d like to be living in an open-minded, arty city with lots of different types of people, working with a funky creative agency, and have time and money to be working on my own personal work.
Words: SBK Fox