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Columbine Goldsmith's L'ile Film

The internationally roaming photographer prepares to take on film for unsettling and voyeuristic imagery with an air of surrealism

Since we last spoke to the photographer Columbine Goldsmith she's been delving into the world of film and recorded a short film with co-director Allegria Torassa whilst on holiday. Her film-making style moves away from the documentary style of her still images and instead explores the strange, voyeuristic, dream like state often associated with the surrealist genre. We checked in with Columbine Goldsmith to find out more about her experiences as a film director and how it's changing and shaping her perspective.

Dazed Digital: How is working with film different from still image?
Columbine Goldsmith:
It’s easier to weave a strange story with film. With moving images, you can pull and play with the viewer. There is so much more suspense.

DD: Did you have any difficulties adapting?
Columbine Goldsmith:
Not at all. I've always struggled with the limitations of photography. Some photographers are super-talented and able to catch a meaningful moment in a single image that reveals an entire story. I am not one of those people, and can rarely accomplish that. Working with film has been a release for me, and I can create in a more layered and complex way.

DD: How did the collaboration come about and why did you decide to work on this project?
Columbine Goldsmith:
Allegria and I didn't plan on making this film. We were on an island – it was a vacation. We were in this enormous swimming pool with diving masks late one night. The swimming pool had an eerie green light which looked other-worldly and fantastic. We had visions of doing a surrealist film underwater -- in the mood of Luis Buñel. So we spent the following days running around the island searching for an underwater camera. We never found one. But in the process, we played with these white masks and explored parts of the island. We just became freer and freer.

DD: Was it harder to work with someone else and did it have an impact of the creative process?
Columbine Goldsmith:
It was fantastic to work with someone else. We both filmed, directed, played rolls, and the mixture of our styles created something that is both voyueristic and intimate.

DD: What's the inspiration behind the film?
Columbine Goldsmith:
It began with a vague sense of a mood/story. The island created this wild feel, and the landscapes were lunar and hidden and strange. We would just spend the day swimming and then put a mask on for a few minutes and do a few rolls of film. The landscape on the island felt like a mix between L'Aventura and Zabriski Point (both Antonioni films).

DD: Tell us about the story/meaning of the film.
Columbine Goldsmith:
At the time we were shooting the film, we didn’t know what it would be. But when we came back to Paris, we realized that the story was held together by the masks. Masks disguise the wearer and allow them to disappear, and yet paradoxically enable the wearer to entertain and act in ways they normally would not. Wearing these masks allowed us to assume the body "of anyone" and not of an individual. Ultimately, the masks enabled us to erase our identities so we the filmmakers could be anonymous subjects. Because there was no specific narrative, we created a film that is more like a mood and a mystery.

DD: How has you style/aesthetic changed or evolved since we last spoke to you?
Columbine Goldsmith:
I am less interested in realism. My photography has always been based on trying to take simple photographs in a documentary/reportage way. I still believe in directness and simplicity, but with these videos I want to push into strangeness and try to tell some special/awkward stories.

DD: What up and coming projects are you working on?
Columbine Goldsmith:
I just finished a film for Dossier magazine called "Wanderlust" and have a bunch more videos in my head. Allegria and I are planning our next one.