Having had an eye for details since childhood, Aamina has been taking photos, capturing her surroundings, and cultivating her artistic style for years. She currently attends Virginia Commonwealth University, in pursuit of a BFA in Photography.
In addition to cultivating interests in graphic design, bookmaking and coding, she sells prints and other items featuring her work on Society6 and shares her compositions on Instagram for the world to see. With all there is to capture, Aamina can be spotted around Richmond, VA taking pictures of anything that catches her eye. — Aamina Palmer’s bio from www.amipalm.com
AV: Growing up in Richmond, what gravitated you to photography?
AP: I started actively taking pictures for my own enjoyment in middle school without really thinking about it, and continued into high school, just documenting my surroundings. I didn’t really consider photography as a job or as art-making until late high school, and then expanded that through being exposed to so much at VCU. When it comes to my subjects, I feel like I’ve been evolving my style, while adding to my skill set.
AV: Do you remember having your first camera?
AP: My first camera I remember having was an Elmo character 35mm film camera, as a kid who was barely three feet tall. I don’t really know what photos I took on it. My next camera was a small camcorder, that no longer works, but I still have it. Since then I’ve gone through an iPod touch, older iPhones, and a Fujifilm camera, with the last two being where I cared more about what was in the photos. The camera matters most in that it works for what you need, not so much exactly what it is.
AV: Did you always know you wanted to go to school for it?
AP: First, College had always been something I heard about and was expected to do, but I didn’t know that art schools were an option/existed, much less that I could major in Photography. After learning these things in my Junior year, and stressing about all the mail from colleges piling up on my desk, I made a spreadsheet of all the schools, did research into what programs looked interesting (+location, costs, etc.), and reached out to the art teachers at my school about how to make a portfolio. Though I was nervous about asking people I hadn’t talked to before for advice and help in the process, I registered for Art I as a Senior and made it work. I’m glad I did. Also, staying close to familiar surroundings doesn’t mean you won’t get as much out of college, as your experience depends on your choices and experiences you seek out or agree to.
AV: How did you develop your eye for urban landscapes and fashion?
AP: I think it just happened over time, because I can’t really pick out how I went from just documenting outings, closeups of bugs, and wide city shots, to work more focused on details of non-living subjects and people when viewed as still lives. The oldest photos I have access to, still had nice lines and shapes present, but a much less unified purpose and intentionality within them.
AV: You have an eye for color composition and textures. What draws you to those elements?
AP: I’m drawn to collect the different situations I feel are sculpted by happenings I haven’t seen, small moments we all pass by, and repetitive shapes in different places. I often pair images after taking them based on the colors and shapes in frame, recontextualizing the situations I found into a sequence or way of seeing different from how you would see it out in the world. A big inspiration for me is Pop Art, and all the ways artists continue to elevate and reframe ordinary objects.
AV: Your portraits are well-composed with dynamic poses. Is there a reason why you stage them this way?
AP: I found that aside from the usual chest up portraits I see when thinking of the word ‘portrait’, they encompass full body photos too, and from there I tried to experiment with poses I found interesting in visualizing the lines and forms you can make with the body, as well as styling the models per shoot.
AV: Can you tell me about your installs and how you put them together?
AP: The past two years I have made a conscious decision to put as much effort into installations as the actual photo making, as possible. The choices to print and how to do so, sizing, and placement are all very important when working with photos. Also, as I work with digital files usually, I have had the option to work digitally as well, by incorporating coding into my art practice. A tip I have for planning projects and installations is to make lists and sketches of what you subjects to use, what to make, and how to display it. The Critique Handbook is a great resource into how to consider placement of art objects as well as sizing and material choices.
AV: What does your research process consist of?
AP: A professor of mine had us create a research document with artists, topics, and quotes from articles/interviews we find useful to our practices and in seeing how others work. I also use Pinterest to catalogue the images of works and install techniques.
AV: Do you have photographers, artists, designers you look to for inspiration?
AP: Of course I do! It is hard to name everyone, as I have a very long research document, Pinterest board, and follow great artists on Instagram, including my classmates and professors making great work.
AV: The layout of your website is colorful and unique. How did you get into coding?
AP: My first interest in coding was when I used to use Tumblr as a blog platform and sought out different themes for that. I would customize the HTML to change my blog’s look, remove watermarks and add music that would play automatically. My favorite part was changing the shortcut icon (shows on the tab).
I took two classes last year for Web Design and Coding, almost in reverse order, but learned a little bit of what goes into making web-based content. I used that knowledge in my photo projects too and I am looking forward to another class this Fall.
AV: The excerpts of the books on your site display the variety of your practice. How did you get into bookmaking and do you ever plan to put any of them out?
AP: I made my first photobooks in a project class in my freshman year as a group activity where we all brought in images every week and storyboarded on the walls to plan them out. Though many of the photos were jokes, a few of us used the books as ways to show images we actually liked. I remember being excited learning about full bleed presentation and spreads. Later I came back to books as opposed to free prints in classes on digital imaging and on sequencing. From there I took almost every opportunity to make books including taking a book making class to learn the structures of bookbinding, because previously I had only done perfect binding using a hot glue machine we have.
I hope to make a book with the purpose of sharing it (digitally or physical copies) this coming year, but so far I have only made editions of one, which I don’t want to part with.
AV: How long have you been doing graphic design and how did you get into it?
I don’t really think I have outside of the books the past few years and the posters. The book binding class I took was by a professor in the graphic design department though. I kinda absorb it all over, and keep in the form of work I buy at art fairs, work I save on Pinterest and watching how friends work (at least by final product).
AV: In the age of social media, images zoom by on people’s feeds faster than ever. How do you remain focused and grounded in the work you create?
AP: I try to work with my interests and make work for myself that I want to share as a result, whether in-person or online. I remind myself that things don’t have to come out exactly as you expect, and can still be exciting and worth the effort put in.
AV: In your free time, what makes you happy?
AP: Free time is something I treasure, whether I want to sleep in on a weekend, spend a few hours walking to take photos, stay up late watching a show, or hang out with friends all day.
AV: Who is someone that motivates you?
AP: I’m grateful to have many supportive friends and family cheering me on. My Mom, Aunt, and Uncle are all very creative, entrepreneurial, and driven people, and their pursuits and successes inspire me to go after what I want. As a more direct answer, I motivate myself by watching, listening, and learning from those around me pursuing their goals.
AV: Favorite songs/albums and why?
AP: I listen to a lot of different artists, but tend to stick to my playlist of strong voiced emotional music. I don’t limit those songs to the English language either, so there’s plenty out there. I enjoy the COLORS Youtube channel to find new people or just play all the videos as a playlist while working.
AV: Favorite books and why?
AP: When I need tactile inspiration, I enjoy flipping through photo books, artist books and magazines when I can. It’s great to see the different ways people tackle the task of making these objects. Though I rarely feel like reading them in the moment, the articles and books suggested by my professors have turned out to be very informative and interesting as well. Seeking out info on working artists is always helpful when trying to figure out new ideas I have but can’t figure out how to make happen.
AV: Favorite movie/documentary/tv show and why?
AP: In general, I watch a lot of Youtube videos (artists studio vlogs, lifestyles vloggers, fashion blogs, music videos, and select beauty gurus), Korean dramas, and often end up watching movies based on looking up a particular actor or actresses IMDB page. The most memorable movies in the past few years for me have been Get Out, Us, Into the Spiderverse, Incredibles 2, and Moonlight. For TV shows, I gravitate toward crime dramas, and dramas in general. The last documentary I watched was about the Helvetica typeface.
AV: You’re a senior in the VCU Photo+Film department, how has your college experience impacted you?
AP: First, it has made me grateful for various opportunities and experiences, a lot more humble and empathetic when considering people outside of myself. Second, I have become a lot more independent as a person, handling most issues myself, and only really asking advice of my parents. This is sounding like an essay question to let me graduate… In short, I’ve learned a lot from the people around me and have become more confident in myself and my abilities. Also, I learned to ask questions and for help when needed.
AV: Are you looking forward to your Senior Show?
AP: I am looking forward to the making, the results, and the experience, but the stress is something I could do without. I know it’ll work out, as my professors, classmates and I will make it happen, with hopefully few mishaps.
AV: Do you have plans after graduating?
AP: I don’t have concrete plans yet, but I’m researching jobs I’d want and grad school programs. I think I’ll be in Richmond at least a couple years after, we’ll see.
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