pauline aellen's photography interview

by sophie kalagas

Despite being born and bred in picturesque Switzerland, Pauline Aellen enjoys taking her photography to a slightly darker place, a little bit left-of-centre and at times unnervingly comical. Giving an edge to the everyday, she snaps away at howling ladies, ageing tennis coaches and desolate forests, all to striking effect.

We asked Pauline a few questions about her captivating shots.


What is your name and how old are you? Pauline Aellen, I'm 27 years old.

Where were you born and where do you live now? I am from Switzerland. I was born and grew up in Bienne and now I live in Lausanne.


How does where you grew up and where you live now affect your photography? It's difficult to say. Maybe now that I live in a city and I no longer feel like I need to escape, it makes me want to explore and see where I grew up in a different way. Somehow I try to make this place magic, so it affects my photography in such a way that I want to explore my origins further.

What areas, things or people in your neighbourhood do you most like to photograph? I'm lucky to have a garden, so I take some pictures of the flowers I grow or the view of the lake during sunset (it feels like it's Miami Beach sometimes), and the nearby forest. But it's more for my Instagram or pictures I use for memories, nothing right now for my usual projects... I also like to do portraits in my garden, there are nice trees that make good backgrounds!

What do you shoot on (digital or analogue) and why do you choose to use that type? I do both. It depends on what I want to do or where I go! But I still have a preference for the colour of analogue film.


Is there a certain camera or type of film that you wish you could own? I would love to have a Mamiya 7 ii - it's a really good analogue camera. Also a Nikonos, to take underwater pictures.

Is there a running theme to the work you create, or do you just make whatever comes to mind? Most of the time I take what comes to my mind. But I know I will look to change it in some way: it could be absurd, it could be subversive, with black humour... these are part of my common themes and interests.

What kinds of ideas and things are you working on at the moment? I started working on a project that deals with who we think we are, who we really are and how others see us, and the lies we tell ourselves to entertain the idea. It's not really clear just yet, I've got some ideas and I know I'm going to blend some drawings and pictures together. I am also going to take pictures of some incredible masks I saw in a theatre piece recently.


What kind of subjects interest you the most? Flowers/vegetation, dreams, absurdity, death, black humour, axes, knives, the long hair of girls.

Do you prefer to create set-up photographs, or just wander the streets until you see a photo? For my regular work, most of the time I only create set-up pictures because I like to construct and feel more comfortable controlling most of the elements during the shoot. It is mostly because I'm not a very big Photoshop geek and I don't want to change everything by computer... However, when I'm not working on a specific project, if I see something in the street, I take pictures of course. Most of the time those pictures will finish up on Instagram... it keeps me active somehow!

If you were to teach a photography appreciation class, what kind of lessons would you try to teach your students? I think I would tell them to not be afraid to fail and start again. I would also make them do something that is out their comfort zone, just to look somewhere else once, even if it doesn't work or nothing good comes out of it. You need to try in order to know what you are good and bad at, and in order to be sure there are no other possibilities.

What are some of the challenges that you are facing in modern times as a photographer? Being original, but somehow classic for clients. I have to find a way to be both because I do either one or the other. And of course to find work as a photographer, because there is not so much work and there are so many of us in the market!


What is the strangest thing or thought that has inspired a photo? I think it was for my project autolyse-manuel. At first, I wanted to take pictures of gardening equipment, the sharpest you can get, and suddenly it ended up being a manual with objects painted in white and instructions on how to use them to kill yourself...

What other budding photographers do you love? My best friend Jean Noel Pazzi is really great, you should have a look at his work. Also, I have big crush on the works of Jaap Scheeren and the couple Cécile Hesse & Gaël Romier, but they are not budding at all anymore.


What do you enjoy doing when not taking photos? Gardening and drawing. And thinking of Kishwaukee by drinking cocktails. And I don't know where it comes from, but somehow I am a bit of a geek, so I like to construct internet websites.

Where can we see more of your work? You can see some pictures of my adventures at, and my website of course:


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