The work of photographer and director Sam Cannon lives between still images and very short films. In addition to her commercial work for Nike, Apple Music, and the New York Times, her personal practice focuses on the manipulation of time, space, and female figures.

When and how did you fall in love with photography ?

I was making short experimental films and creating images by the time I was 11. For me, it was always about creating and exploring other worlds. I always preferred image manipulation, collage, and vfx to documentary work. My process of making work now doesn’t feel so disconnected from the dressup and pretending I did back then.

How would you describe your photographic sensibility ? 

I would say that my goals in creating are often evenly split between the longing to express something and the desire for a technical challenge. Because of this I am inspired by artists who create work that is both deeply moving and explore a variety of techniques for image making. The list of artists whose work I return to the most include Joan Jonas, Bill Viola, Nam June Paik, and Magritte.

Which photographic themes are dear to your heart ? 

Magical realism, distortion of time/space, exploration, dreams, the body (particularly women’s bodies and the ways in which images of those bodies are created and shared online), loss, loneliness and isolation.

How do you manage to build a relation of trust with your models ?

Recently, I have been creating a lot of work on green/blue screen. This requires another level of direction, as the model has no real environment or object to interact with. When working this way, I take on the role of director and storyteller, offering them bits of information and then asking a lot of their imagination. I’ve also worked with models in situations that can be extremely physically taxing, for example doing movement work in a cold pool of liquid. One thing I can say is that I’ve never asked a model to do something that I have not previously tried. For years before working with models I was creating self portraits and videos using the same techniques, which has helped me understand what it feels like to be on the other side of the lens. I am so grateful to all the models who collaborate with me to bring these worlds to life. 

Do you live room for personal experimentations ?

Almost every commission I get is based on a personal experimentation I share. A great piece of advice I received while in university was to always make and share the type of work you wish you could get hired to create; and then be patient. Sometimes it can be difficult to motivate yourself into dedicating your free time to creating more work, but I’ve found it’s been the one way I can steer my career towards the type of work I want to be doing. Plus it gives you ample room to fail without consequence which is good and humbling for the mind and soul.