All photos by: Emily Dodd-Noble
Photographer Emily Dodd-Noble found her biggest challenge thus far and also her biggest inspiration in Berlin. Inspired by the energy, the stories, the vulnerability, the confidence, the fragility, the constant rhythm and boom of the city.
Where are you from and how come you moved to Berlin?
I was born and grew up in Oxfordshire, rural England. I moved to Berlin primarily for an adventure and to be voluntarily, comfortably uncomfortable. I moved in December 2020, lockdown, without knowing a single person. Honestly, the UK had a seriously low and depressive energy during Covid, so I was eager to make something out of a bad situation. Having had to move back into my family home from university, I felt I was regressing and wasting time which was immensely frustrating. Internally I felt full of creative potential and energy however I was so unstimulated by life in the UK, that my boyfriend and I decided to move to Berlin. My mentality was to make something from nothing, to choose to keep growing despite my growth being stunted by the world’s turbulent situation surrounding me. I knew there was energy in Berlin, a whole city to explore despite everything being closed. I knew that Berlin had opportunities for me, there was this magnetic pull and so I trusted my instinct and this current adventure began.
How did your interest in photography start?
My initial interest in photography began through watching art house films from the age of 13. I began to move through life with a cinematic perspective, pretending moments in my life were stills from a film. I was hooked on the poetic details of life, I sought out the under-appreciated details around me such as; the iridescent artificial light from the petrol station or an angular, decrepit, derelict building. The surrounding, insignificant details, seen by most in their peripheral vision, protruded right into the forefront of my focus. I became like a moth to a flame, seeking out, tone, colour angles and connection. I began focusing on the sounds around me and how all of these sensory factors together made me feel. I have always been aware of my instinct to look with precision and emotion. To look with my eyes but also with the other four senses. Photography became a tool that enabled me to flow through life in a way that made me feel as if I too were in a beautifully raw movie. I realised that I had the ability to visually curate my story and thus I began to see the world deeply and capture these moments through photography.
Why do you do photography?
I photograph to be present. To feel connected. To see and feel every stimulus around me. I photograph because it makes me feel powerful and energised. I photograph because it connects me with so many incredible people, it gifts me a moment of still and honest connection with so many people, people I probably wouldn't otherwise interact with. We share a bond which is so unique and intimate and I am so grateful for this. I photograph because through doing so I am choosing to physically and metaphorically look for the light. There is so much darkness in this world, however there is also so much beauty and light, and I believe one can choose to look for it. Our perspective is our choice and it is with this mentality I photograph. I photograph because it’s what I instinctively know how to do, it makes me feel whole. It makes me feel.
What inspires you in Berlin when it comes to photography?
Berlin has been the biggest challenge thus far in my life and also my biggest inspiration. I am inspired by the energy, the stories, the vulnerability, the confidence, the fragility, the constant rhythm and boom of the city. Aesthetically Berlin holds such power in its charming yet complicated demeanour. I am inspired by the pace of life, the night owls, the outcasts, the juxtaposition between the aggressive, brutal and natural urban landscape. The primary aspect of Berlin that inspires me are the people. Berlin is such a microclimate of accepted unique, unapologetically authentic outcasts. I am inspired by the fact I chose to move to Berlin to create my own personal narrative and that I have the choice to write it as I desire. I am inspired by the history of the city, its rich texture is tangible, the energy of the souls that moulded this space before I was here is always present. I love the liberal energy that is gradually painting over the suppression that once controlled this city. It is a city of spirit and possibility and this pushes me to grow each day.
You described that you like to shed light on peoples personality. How do you bring that forth and capture it?
The primary focus with my portraits is to capture the most honest, pure, authentic, raw version of the individual at that moment in their life. Comfort and relatability are two keys factors that determine a successful portrait within my practice. I express to the individual that I chose to approach them because I sincerely think they are beautiful and they ought to have a photograph to physically see this, to see their power. I so deeply and truly want this person to see the way I perceive them at this moment. Humans by nature mimic one another’s energies in order to relate to one another. We are pack animals in our primal state so I use this psychology to allow an individual to open up. When communicating I consciously have open body language, eye contact and active listening to ensure the person I am giving them my full energy and attention, making them feel heard and felt. I believe my ability to be sincerely calm and warm will be genuinely absorbed by the individual, allowing the space and energy created between the two of us to be open. Through this communal dance of calm communication the individual can feel safe and accepted. The portrait is held in this trusting space with the core tone being that I believe they are beautiful, therefore the images truly depict the personality of the individual.
You're inspired by subcultires, queer and underrepresented communities, tell us more.
I am inspired by subcultures, queer and underrepresented communities because I sincerely believe everyone ought to be seen and accepted for their authentic selves. This world would be full of so much more love if we all stopped judging one another and acknowledged that our differences are what make us beautiful. For a large majority of the queer bipoc community, they have struggled to be able to fully express themselves. For many, their communities, family backgrounds or religions are not accepting of their sexuality nor genders. I feel it is one’s right to be accepted as they are and not repelled for their truth. Within Berlin there is a large community of people that go against gender constructs and binary social norms that come together to celebrate their differences, and these are the communities I wish to bring light to. I wish to empower those that have lived in the shadows of their true form of self expression. There are so many incredibly beautiful people and one’s sexuality nor the way they present themselves should stop them from seeing this simply because of the constructs created for us.
What makes you stay in Berlin?
I stay in Berlin because it makes me feel the most authentic version of myself, thus far. Berlin pushes me, daily. It is a city filled with language, culture, community, love and connection. I am drawn to stories, of which Berlin has so many I am yet to hear. Berlin can be harsh and unforgiving, it forces you to think for yourself, to know what makes you tick, to thrive to be yourself and know that that is okay, that is enough. Berlin has such a tangible charm that I haven’t found anywhere else. Living here makes me feel proud of myself and that’s a feeling I am grateful for. Within my practice, Berlin has so many people I am yet to cross paths with and appreciate their beauty and hopefully share what I see with them, through my lens.
What does your perfect weekend in winter time look like in Berlin? Take us through a full day and night.
A perfect winter weekend in Berlin can be many things, primarily it requires me to be warm or I cease to function! I am currently loving my routine of a morning stretch and cold shower. There is power in looking after one’s body and mind to the best of their ability. I love taking time to go to galleries and see work made by others. I truly believe if you want to succeed as an artist, regardless of one’s material, one ought to learn from their peers. I love being inspired by surrounding creatives and using their work to improve my own. I always try to keep active in my learning from others and support them in their making. Being surrounded by those I love, my chosen Berlin family is an essential pillar of my time. A dinner cooked with, by and for friends brings me endless joy. I feel grounded when we make the time to catch up and be there for one another. Pisco Sours! Tempelhof has such charm all year round but a crisp, brisk winter sunset walk down the airport’s runway with friends always makes me feel whole.
I love to dance, it helps me process and digest the movements and rhythms of my life. There is a range of music in Berlin I search for. I look for music that is playful, intelligent and culturally rich. I search for music that encourages my body to move instinctively. I love music that gets right under my skin and pushes and pulls my body. Laughter, a weekend filled with laughter is a successful one for me. I try to speak to as many ‘random’ people as possible when I am out, there is so much to learn from so many people, it is one of life’s privileges in my opinion. A perfect weekend is one that I end feeling I have been surrounded by positive, progressive energy. I am super in tune to energies so I am always searching for ones that encourage love, power and connection.