Text by Alec Coiro
The inimitable Bibi Cornejo Borthwick takes portraits that reveal old souls. Perhaps this is because she uses the old techniques. We sat down with her to find out!
What is your process like when you do a portrait of someone?
When I shoot a portrait it’s a pretty personal and intimate moment both for myself and the subject. I think in order to take a strong and honest portrait you need to take the time to speak to your subject, to understand them, to find a weakness of theirs. That’s usually where the magic and honesty comes from.
Why is shooting on film important to you?
I learned on film, and for me it’s all about the process of it. I love taking time. We live in a world of chaos, and I think the beauty of film is it can’t be rushed, there are no shortcuts. I treat it similarly to how I treat my everyday life.
We live in a world of chaos, and I think the beauty of film is it can’t be rushed, there are no shortcuts
Do you think the glut of phone photography will change what it means to be a professional photographer?
I do and I don’t. There are so many photographers who have gotten their fame from social media and I don’t find it real. I never want to be a socialite or known for who I am. I want my work to speak for itself, and I don’t think that’s possible just through an iPhone’s photos.
Can you tell us about your work in Swaziland? What are you doing there and how did you get involved?
I first went there years ago with my father. I was assisting him on a job. We spent time on an AIDS camp understanding the way the charity ran and also how so many people were fighting for their lives who were suffering from the disease. Not only did Africa change my life, but seeing the beauty of these fighters and survivors and their culture completely moved me. Since that trip I’ve gotten involved in regular fundraising, and I’m in the process of setting up my own charity which will focus on the music and arts in South Africa, providing children with the access to these programs in their daily education.
As a native New Yorker yourself, do you think that there is certain characteristic that define those born and raised in New York City?
I was actually born in Paris and just relocated to LA. I love New York and I think it’s an incredible place, but I knew for myself it was time for a change, a different pace and move space. New York made me fearless, but it’s really exciting to apply that to a new place.
Do you have any upcoming photo projects that you’re excited about?