Daniella Zalcman is a photojournalist who has worked for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and National Geographic, among other outlets. When she moved from New York to London, she decided to create a series of double exposures to marry the spirit of both cities based on a combination of negative space, color, and contrast.
Daniella’s double exposures create beautiful imaginary landscapes, and are captured entirely with her iPhone 4s. Although she ordinarily uses professional-grade DSLRs, she enjoyed using the iPhone for the freedom it afforded her, feeling more at liberty to experiment with techniques which would be out of place in traditional photojournalism.
In line with other hip “smartphone photography,” like Chase Jarvis’ The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You, Daniella’s photos speak to something beautiful about travel, through a lens which is portable. She agreed to answer some questions on and share her work with Matador, and we encourage you to check out her Kickstarter campaign, which runs through May 11.
AY: Why did you initially get into photography? What was the inspiration?
DZ: I showed up at my student newspaper the first day of college because I already knew I wanted to be a journalist -- but back then, I thought I was going to be a writer. It took a photo editor classmate's assignment emergency and some misplaced faith in my ability to figure out how to work a digital SLR to make me fall in love with photography and photojournalism.
Why were you living in New York, and why the move to London?
I moved to New York in 2005 to attend Columbia University, and stayed until 2012 while working as a contract photographer for the New York Daily News and then The Wall Street Journal. It's an amazing city, and a great place to start your journalism career. My fiance -- who I met while working at the Columbia undergraduate newspaper -- is a sports writer who was hired as the Sports Editor of The Wall Street Journal's European edition, which is based out of their London office. It was an amazing opportunity for him, and I'm always up for an adventure.
What is a double exposure, and how does it differ from a normal everyday picture?
A double exposure is a photographic technique that was likely accidentally invented when some analogue photographer forgot to wind his film to the next frame and took two images over the same part of the film strip. The result is a composite image of two (or more) superimposed photographs. The same effect is easily achieved with digital images in post-production, or, in this case, with an iPhone and a simple editing app.
What was the inspiration behind your New York + London Double Exposure project? What were you trying to express about both places?
I think New York and London are two of the most beautiful urban spaces in the world. In my last month living in NYC, I really found myself looking at the city differently through a haze of nostalgia and realized I needed to pay homage to my 7 years living there. I stockpiled iPhone photos during those last few weeks, while on assignment or while frantically running around packing and tying up loose ends. When I got to London, I knew that I wanted to capture not just the sensation of leaving NYC, but also of exploring a new city and making that environment feel like home.
For anyone studying photography out there, like our MatadorU Photography students, what was the process you used to combine exposures? How did you make your selections?
The actual editing process is very simple. I used an app called Image Blender to make the composites (almost always a direct 1:1 correspondence with no masking or tweaking), and then applied Instagram's filters. The selection was the hard part -- I probably scrapped 10 or so versions of each double exposure before arriving at the final product. It takes a delicate balance to create an image with the right spatial distribution and influences from both cities. Fortunately, London's perpetually gray skies work really well in double exposures!
Why did you choose to work with a smartphone instead of a traditional film camera or a DSLR? Did anything significantly better or worse happen with your project as a result of your decision to use a smartphone?
I've recently fallen in love with iPhone photography. Many of the images for New York + London were taken while I was also carrying my 5D, but there's something very informal and undemanding about smartphones. You don't draw any attention to yourself when you hold up an iPhone, whereas a pro DSLR definitely elicits stares, or worse, people hurry to get out of your way. The iPhone makes casual street photography a little more natural. The only real downside is that these images are a lower resolution than photos produced by an SLR, so they can't be printed as large as I'd like.
Did you discover anything new and interesting about the cities you were photographing through your work on the project?
I think it made me notice a lot of little infrastructural details that I wouldn't pay attention to otherwise -- like how much Brits have marked up their streets with arrows and giant reminders to "LOOK RIGHT" and "LOOK LEFT" so non-Brits won't get run over when crossing the street. Those show up pretty prominently in some of the images. It also made me realize that New York tries very hard to feel and look like a new, young city of glass and steel, and London tries very hard to look and feel like an old city that preserves its architecture and tradition.
Where do you look to for inspiration in your creative projects?
For the past week, I've been finding a ton of inspiration on Kickstarter -- I'm totally blown away by some of the photo projects I've seen up there. Beyond that, Twitter is my main source of photo news, via places like the New York Times' Lens Blog, TIME's Lightbox, Photo Brigade, PetaPixel, Photo Shelter...there's an unlimited number of excellent photo blogs out there featuring amazing work.
Any advice for photographers just beginning their own creative works?
Be patient and work hard. Never take yourself too seriously. Be just a little crazy. Surround yourself with good people who will provide warm support and honest critique. If you're trying to be a photojournalist, be someone who's pleasant to work with, and editors will want to work with you. And if you're a photojournalist, always make time for your own personal projects; they keep you sane and fulfilled.
Any other thoughts you’d like to leave us with? What’s the best way for our readers to connect with you and/or support your project if they’re interested?
You can find me on Twitter
, where I post way too much iPhone photography, and on my blog
, where I occasionally post my newspaper work. And I'd love it if you would support the Kickstarter
campaign -- I know I've already surpassed my goal, but additional funding will allow me to expand the book and add extra gifts for backers!