Q&A: Greta Van Der Star

Here at Glasshouse we’re doing all we can to forget about our current sun-less existence - while it would be nice to book a last minute holiday to somewhere warm, we’re contenting ourselves with escapist daydreams aided by images like these ones by photographer Greta Van Der Star of blue skies and golden light.

We met Greta last year as she passed through London on her way back from a month-long stay in Arizona. Based in New Zealand, multi-talented Greta is a photographer and stylist working with local and international clients. She’s also one third of the beautiful seasonal publication The Periodic Journal, along with Yasmin Ganley of Anyone Girl and graphic designer Natasha Mead, and one half of the newly launched General Sleep, a handmade pyjama label. Busy lady!

We found ourselves drawn to Greta’s quietly observational and beautifully-toned images, and upon hearing snippets about her time in Arizona, asked if she would share some of her photographs from that time along with some thoughts about her travels and inspirations.

Could you tell us a bit about your background, and how you got into photography?

I think my love of photography came from watching my granddad in his darkroom as a kid. I wasn’t allowed to be in there when he was developing, I would have to knock and wait patiently outside for the red light to go off. His darkroom was situated at the back of their greenhouse so you would have to shuffle your way past hundreds of begonia plants to get there. It felt like a special club! I went on to study photography after school, and just always have a film camera on me. I still work as a stylist, more and more I find the jobs bleed into each other, it’s great to have a strong visual for both components throughout a project.

How would you describe your style of photography?

I’ve always been intimidated by this question, but recently, after travelling with another photographer and shooting the same subject, I realised my style of photography is much more observational, and quite calm and quiet.

Who are some of your favourite photographers or image makers?

So many! When I was studying I loved Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, and wanted to create images that could be confused for paintings. Cy Twombly, Richard Avedon’s American West has always held my attention, Vivianne Sassen - I think women shoot women best, Mark Borthwick, Martin Parr. All quite different!

What or who’s inspiring you right now?

My friends! For their strong visions, and their generosity. Penny Sage, Sherie Muijs, Anyone Girl, Matt Nash..

Tell us a bit about some of the journeys you’ve taken, for your work or otherwise - any stand out moments?

Earlier this year I spent a month in Tucson, Arizona, house sitting for a dear friend. His home is a desert oasis, with a koi pond, fig trees, a community garden with bee hives and chickens. It was a month of desert explorations to ghost towns, the painted desert and also a time to go slow, and not think about what else I should be doing! It really cleared my mind, I’m so grateful for his generosity.

What kind of landscapes are you drawn to?

My instinct is the desert, there is something about the sense of space and the quiet, I will always remember a moment from my first trip to Joshua Tree, we went clambering over boulders from the campground, and over the other side of the boulders, all you could see was uninterrupted desert landscape, and the stillness was overwhelming, you could feel the quiet. I dream of being there whenever life feels turbulent.

What locations are on your bucket list?

I’m hoping to get to Mexico and Cuba next year. And a trip to India to visit our fabric weavers and makers for General Sleep which has just launched. We use cotton linen that is grown and hand woven in the South of India.

What are your packing must-haves for your holiday suitcase?

More film than you think you’ll need! There’s nothing worse than running out in a town where it’s just not available. Petalhead lipbalm, which is made on the West Coast of New Zealand, and a swimsuit.

Thank you Greta! Find her on Instagram, and see her website here.

Interview: Rosie Herdman

All images: Greta Van Der Star

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