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Sarah de Burgh

The young photographer takes us through her intimate portraits of the likes of Larry Clark and Theophilus London

24-year-old, self-proclaimed ‘city girl’ Sarah de Burgh approaches photography from a very personal angle. Focusing on femininity and relying on her environment and surroundings for inspiration, de Burgh has, to date, been very timid about sharing her work with the public. In keeping with her private nature, her photographs often provide an intimate view of familiar people and places.

This well travelled Parisian-born; New York-based talent, whose travels have taken in three continents: Europe, Asia and America, has snapped up people like Theophilus London, Larry Clark and Tiffany Limos. Her lyrical style is fast gaining recognition and admiration as borne out by some of her snaps recently appearing in two French publications...

Dazed Digital: Where did you grow up?
Sarah de Burgh: I was born and raised in Paris but my father is British and my mother is Chinese American.

DD: When were you introduced to photography?
Sarah de Burgh: In 2007, my uncle, whom I was visiting in Boston, gave me my mother’s old Minolta; she had left in the US before she moved to Paris. He taught me how to put film in it and we shot a roll of film within the hour. Then I went back to New York, shot a bunch of friends who encouraged me to pursue [my passion]. My camera was so old it had mould in the viewfinder! 
So when I felt like I was ready to admit to myself that photography was the only thing I wanted to do, I finished my studies in International Trade and took a one year course at a photography school in Paris.

You’re a Parisienne living and working in New York – why did you decide to move and in what way(s) do you think it has affected your style/the work you produce?
Sarah de Burgh: I don’t know! My mother lived in New York for 15 years so I felt like it was home.
I was going on about moving to New York for four years but I was just too scared to give up my life in Paris. Then recently everything panned out; my lease was up, I had finished my contract at my day job and my little sister had just found a job in New York. So I thought it was the right moment to give it a try. I don’t know if it has or will affect my style.

DD: What are some recurrent themes presented in your work?
Sarah de Burgh: Women and any form of femininity. The city - whether it’s Shanghai or Paris - I am a true city girl. I love how we have made our home so different to what nature gave us. It’s fucked up: we live in pollution, noise, garbage but I still see beauty in it every day.

DD: Give us some more insight into your focus on femininity...
Sarah de Burgh: I just love women. I probably am being way too political but I have come to realize that I am some sort of neo feminist. I want to take photos of women that are beautiful in their own way. I want them to show me their feminine side, their vulnerability and their sexiness without ever objectifying them. Being a woman is the best thing ever but it's hard, even in western societies so I have always felt a strong sense of solidarity. You should see the budget America has for pro choice campaigns! You ride the subway and see those horrific brain washing ads. That’s why I choose to focus on them. I can't say I do it as a conscious choice. Most girls I shoot are my friends or girls I had a girl crush on. I've shot beautiful models too but they were never just pretty girls, they were cool, cute and smart girls.

DD: You mainly shoot analogue, why do you prefer it over digital?

Sarah de Burgh:
I love the process of analogue, the anticipation, the “OMG I hope it’s gonna be good!!” I haven’t been able to reproduce what I do with analogue in the digital form. I still like to be as hands on as I can when I use my digital SLR, I use a 50mm lens and all manual settings.
That’s just the way I taught myself. I may be wrong on a technical point but it works for me.

DD: Which other photographers' work do you follow?
Sarah de Burgh: So many! I just never remember names! I love Mona Kuhn and Romina Shama for their poetic natural work. I also love the way Pieter Hugo documents and interprets what he sees.

DD: What project(s) are you working on for the future?
Sarah de Burgh: I have had a few ideas that pop in my head. I want to do more portraits and more fashion but I have so many and I feel like if I tell them to you and I don’t do them I’ll hate myself for being so behind in life again. 
I definitely want to go back to India (which is where my mother was born and raised before she went to America) and generally travel more.
 Also yes, if you know Frank Ocean you have to tell him that I want to shoot him!

Text by Zeyna Sy