Self Portrait In Phoenix. Roosevelt Avenue, 2017.

Self Portrait In Phoenix. Roosevelt Avenue, 2017.

Growing up my Dad had a photo box filled with polaroids and papery square photographs of himself. I was born when he was 45; he had lived an entire life before my sister and I came along. There were pictures of Dad on a cruise, at a wedding, in front of the White House. Dancing! Playing the guitar! Pointing a gun! Standing in front of house number 22.

Because my dad is both from another generation and country, his connection to me is strong and deep but essentially non-verbal. Attempts to know his story are generally waved away and promptly replaced by a command to eat. As a young girl his photos gave me what I wanted: access to his narrative, his preferences, things that brought him joy. 

Because my parents are divorced my Dad would pick us up every Sunday and take us to Greek diners in New Jersey and the arcade and the mall. On a regular basis he would take our picture with his Polaroid 600 camera, the perfect camera for the utilitarian photograph. Posing in front of his car in my 90's bucket hats and overalls, I received his direct attention. Coupled with the thrill of holding the photograph right away, the gods knocked me off a path of drawing/painting and toward photography ever after. My first love was that machine.

Since I was 15 years old I have interfaced with life through a camera. I have captured births, weddings, families, travel, landscape; everything from a self-portrait at 41 weeks pregnant to the placid face of an old boxer dog on a leash outside of a pizza shop in New York City. I have transitioned from exclusively digital to hybrid to exclusively film. Over the years the theme I return to, where the needle of my heart is affectionately stuck is with children. My muse is a shirtless 8 year old boy with a black eye. Working with kids opens the door to the themes that rule my creative heartspace: origins, wonder, timeless absorption in the present moment. Also unfair suffering, dark moods, emotional precariousness and the imprint of personality.

I use film because growing up I wanted to be a painter like my mom. Film allows me to create layer and texture with light boxes. My ever-growing collection of machines and methods best suited to the task. The films I use are experimental, often-antiquated, sometimes-lo-fi and full of grain and imperfection. Film allows me to render my subjects in time; not capturing them merely but cementing the moment in physical history with an artifact. Film is emotional. Film is poetry. We dream and we remember in film.  

In 2018 I founded Childhood On Film, an online collective gallery of film photographers from around the world. United by our love for film, we share the process, stock and camera behind our images of childhood. We host collaborative giveaways where film is awarded to a winner to create a small body of work for the feed. We do series such as On Film In:, highlighting what it's like shooting film in different cities. Our contributors share both images of beauty and their photographic process; we pull back the curtain on our images and transparently discuss technique, believing that as artists our growth is bound up in one another.

My motivation as an artist comes from the body of work dwelling within me since I was a girl. A visual bank that tells the story of my inner and outer experience. My current projects reflect the attempt to take those inner narratives and contain them in a frame.

Anastasia Campos