Updated: Feb 5, 2020
In between her trips, photographer and travel journalist Erinn Springer offers a glimpse into her life, work and what inspires her.
Words by Rini Mukkath
Erinn Springer has made it her life’s mission to capture through her lens the gorgeous chaos that is life. From Turkey to Peru, she traverses through places and people, living a rich life that helps her storytelling.
One of her earlier projects included leaving disposable cameras around Paris and inviting people to use them. the results were stunning. “I placed bilingual notes and fastened disposable cameras in Jardin De Tuileries & on Pont D’Archeveche. The notes said: Use this camera as a way to show yourself & your world at this very place in time. These are the Anonymous people of Paris. The fairest of them all,” says Erinn.
Erinn grew up in Wisconsin and pursued her passion for the arts through her time at Parsons Paris, studying art, media and technology, and then through a BFA in Communication Design at Parson School of Design in New York. Having already worked with brands like Baron & Baron, Sephora, LVMH, BCBG Max Azria and El Camino Travel, she splits her time being a photographer on commercial design projects and being a travel guide who chronicles places on her personal site: www.springerinn.com.
Excerpts from an interview:
Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing/schooling?
I grew up in a very small family in a sports-oriented town in Northern Wisconsin. My childhood was very “Americana”. I spent my days climbing trees and playing on a farm. I went to school in New York so that I could have the most contrast from the first 18 years of my life. I always knew I wanted to live in New York because it was so different to where I was raised. The year I spent abroad in Paris is when I really started shooting and travelling. Living in Europe encouraged my early curiosities for different ways of living to flourish.
What were some of your early influences in terms of art and your work?
Australian photographer Nirrimi Hakanson. A friend showed me her blog one night when I was a freshman in college. I felt the emotion in her photos in a way that allowed me to feel like I understood her personality. That’s something I took with me and subconsciously portray in my work now. It wasn’t until probably early last year though that I took note of artists and truly learned about their life and outlook. I realized how valuable that can be to understanding my own process. This year has been all about Cass Bird — she just gets it.
What set your career going? What are some of the projects you have been involved in that really helped the trajectory of your work life?
There wasn’t a singular event that catalysed any major shift or career movement. It was a gradual process across a lot of disciplines. I studied graphic design, interned in video production, and pursued photography on the weekend. My first internship was with a creative director in the perfume industry who then introduced me to a production company that filmed runway shows and couture culture. I stepped out of fashion after I started travelling extensively and worked with a documentary platform in New York called Jungles in Paris that really fostered my interest in global storytelling. All of those things play a part in the photographer I am now.
What are you currently working on and what future projects can we expect from you?
I spent most of the spring working on my first gallery show in Mexico City. Since returning to New York, I’ve been working in post production at Baron & Baron on editorial campaigns. Photography-wise, I’m pretty excited about having just shot a documentary project for Sephora... I’d like to merge the two worlds I’ve been in and shoot fashion-focused documentary work or collaborate with global brands by using a journalistic approach to portray their story and identity.
Tell us a bit about your personal style and taste in terms of fashion?
Comfort and functionality. I’m always in sneakers, my purses are always backpacks (usually waterproof). I tend to lean towards boyish a bit and wear straight jeans and men’s t-shirts. Even my most feminine looks have a sense of utility to them. I think I try to pull textures in from different places I’ve traveled (and/or my grandfather’s closet). If I was let loose in a sporting goods store, who knows what would happen…
What is the one photograph that inspired and impacted you?
Mike Brodie’s A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. Specifically, the image of the young woman looking out on the train. There’s a sense of freedom and timeless youth that instantly spoke to me.
What drives you to travel?
A desire to be well-educated, well-experienced, and have the strongest and most diverse sense of self. My work and personal life reflect each other so, if I can see the world and photograph periods of myself through the people along the way, it ultimately becomes an exercise in self discovery.
Have you had a moment where you were surprised or some preconceived notions of people and cultures were dispelled?
Hmm… I usually go into trips with a very positive expectation. Casablanca was the most shocking because it wasn’t nearly as romantic as I had expected. But, in general, I try to go as a bit of a blank slate because it usually turns out different than expected (depending on the people you meet, the food you find, and the rhythm of your explorations).
What draws you to the moment of capturing an image? Are there Erinn-filters to things you see?
It is mostly emotion for me, really. This might be a silly analogy, but it’s sort of like when a good meme is created… they’re thoughts or visions we all have but don’t know how to put them into a single scene or single image. Images that convey those “YES” moments to people are the most impactful. Memes are funny, while photographs are touching. Both acquaint you with what’s already going on in your head, sometimes undefined until you just see it and feel it.
Is there something you always do when you go to a new place?
Yes! I always seek out the best supermarkets and pharmacies. It’s so fun… I love beauty products and food and I’ve found them to be so revealing of a culture. I could browse and sample for hours.