Canadian film photographer Mariah Hamilton (@goodgirlnoproblem) has two things down to a science: film photography and her Instagram aesthetic. Mariah’s photos are brightly coloured and imaginatively styled, offering viewers a refreshing departure from the smorgasbord of Petra Collins-inspired film photographers whose work saturates the fashion and photography industry today, and her rainbow-coloured Instagram feed is nothing short of pure eye candy. Mariah let me pick her brain on what inspires her and her photography, how she chooses unique and offbeat subjects to shoot, and what draws her to the colour orange, her latest hue of choice. Here’s what she told me:
Let’s start with the question I’ve been dying to ask you: how did your obsession with the colour orange develop? It completely dominates your Instagram feed, as well as photography and personal style aesthetic!
Haha, this is so funny for me. Yes, it’s currently kind of an obsession but I didn’t know if anyone noticed. I’m not sure how it started. Orange can be so repulsive and attractive at the same time, maybe that’s why I’m so gravitated towards the colour! Colour has always been important to me in my work and something that I feel I am constantly driven and inspired by.
You hail from Hamilton, Toronto’s smaller, grittier and more industrial neighbour to the south. How do you feel your city has shaped your photography style? Do you think you would have the same photography style if you lived in Toronto, a larger and more well-known city in the fashion industry?
Hamilton is definitely grittier, definitely more industrial than Toronto. Studio space is also more abundant. Rent is more affordable. Things like this make the act of making a little easier for everyone here. Perhaps being in Hamilton has given me different opportunities in the arts community than if I were living in Toronto. There are some wonderful shared artist spaces here, and I find the people and community really supportive. Working in Toronto or commuting isn’t also that difficult, so there’s still a definite connection for me to the much larger city.
Stylistically, I’m not sure if much would change. I’ve always been drawn to bright, vibrant colours in my work, but maybe if I were living and working in Toronto, my work would come across as a bit more *polished*. I don’t feel the pressure to polish anything too neatly at the moment. Is this the grittiness of Hamilton rubbing off on me?
One thing that stands out when taking a look at your work is your choice of subjects: it’s obvious that you steer clear of the forced perfection that is so common in models today, and instead opt to focus on capturing more unique and “real” individuals. Why is this?
A lot of the people I shoot happen to be friends, or friends of friends, or people I meet on Instagram. A lot of the time when I shoot with models it comes together really collaboratively. I think a lot of this adds to the authenticity of it all. Through Instagram we see a lot of people and models come up that may have never gotten exposure before. Social media becomes very exciting to me when when I get to see people of all different types of backgrounds and identities start to get representation. As a photographer, it’s a really beautiful act and opportunity to reshape how individuals may see themselves and the others around them.
With the sudden explosion of photographers following in the pastel-coloured footsteps of film photographer and Wonderland Magazine darling Petra Collins, it can be hard to stand out as a film photographer. You’ve clearly made waves with your work in the alternative fashion industry and in doing so have gained a devoted and consistently growing following, so it’s no question that you’ve overstepped this potential limitation to film photography in today’s fashion and arts industry. What do you think differentiates you between other film photographers out there?
I try my best to be honest with myself: I am not trying to be anyone else and I am definitely trying not compare myself to anyone else’s work. I think the film photography community can feel kind of competitive or intimidating for a lot of people. For a while, I didn’t shoot because I was not happy with the equipment I had or I thought whatever I shot wouldn’t be as good as other people’s work out there. That attitude is toxic and won’t get you anywhere. Once I started to trust myself, and just work with what I had, it opened a lot of potential for me. I started to push myself more.
Finally, if you had one week to shoot in any country in the world, where would you choose?
Melbourne, Australia. I’ve been drawn to this city for a while. It’s all that I’ve been talking about recently! The fashion, art and design community seems to be very vibrant.
(Answers have been edited and condensed.)