Southern Light

We chat to photographer Ithaka Roddam about the landscapes and light that inspire her most–from growing up in LA’s golden hours to village life in Notting Hill and to her annual trips to the Sierra mountains.

How would you describe yourself and your journey towards becoming a photographer?

Ever since I was little I loved the idea of daydreaming and fairy tales and wanted to create my own worlds, which I did through drawing and painting until I realised I could create my own photographs with a camera. My parents were both in the film industry and introduced me to classic Hollywood and European cinema from a very young age. I was highly inspired by films like Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast and the 1935 film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle. I was given my first camera when I was 5 years old and then entered a competition at 11 years old called ‘Through the Eyes of a Child’. My two images were selected and I was asked to shoot, along with some of the other participants, the children’s campaign for Jigsaw clothes. My image of Kesewa Aboah was then put up on the back on several London buses. This was a huge moment in my little life where I saw a future with photography. My father later gave me his 1970s Olympus OM2 camera when I was 14 which is really when my passion and art started to transform. I still shoot with this camera today

Who have been your biggest influences and inspirations?
Apart from old classic films and a love of 1930s to 1970s photography, I was very drawn to photographing my 3 younger sisters. They were my muses and I spent a lot of time dressing them up and shooting them in meadows. My parents always pushed us to follow our creativity and to be adventurous, they were very influential and opened my eyes to many great artists. I later assisted fashion photographers Frederike Helwig and did photo archiving for Juergen Teller which opened me up to the world of fashion photography. I loved the early works of Tim Walker and Paolo Roversi. I was awarded ‘Best in Show’ at university for my final degree pictures by Tim Walker himself, which felt like a pinch-me moment.

Are there any themes or specific places that you keep coming back to in your work?
I would say I am naturally a portrait photographer but travel and nature have always played an integral part in my image making. My partner is Argentine and we go to the Sierra mountains in Cordoba, Argentina every winter. The wild flowers are exquisite there and it’s a place that every year I look forward to going back to and shooting the landscape. My work is very feminine and I am constantly drawn to the idea of the female gaze and daydreaming which features in my photos often. My aim is to create untold narratives where the viewer becomes lost in the dreamlike quality and ambiguity of the photographs.

“My aim is to create untold narratives where the viewer becomes lost in the dreamlike quality and ambiguity of the photographs.”

What attracted you to shooting flowers?
I’ve always found joy and inspiration from nature and flowers. I think it started from a very young age, my grandfather had the most magical, beautiful garden in Gloucestershire and we would always walk around it and he would teach us the names of flowers and plants in Latin. We always made sure to go there at certain times of year to see the different flowers in bloom, like the blanket of Crocus, or the cascade of Daffodils and the tree of wedding Roses in June. I used to love pressing flowers and I also studied the language of flowers when I was 12 years old. When I later developed my own style in photography, photographing flowers and nature came so naturally to me and the idea of pairing it with portraiture and editorial became a signature of mine.

Tell us about the colour palette you work most with?
Having grown up in my early years in Los Angeles and spending a lot of time in Mexico, I think that southern light and golden glow was imprinted in me. I only work with natural light so warm summer light is my favourite time to shoot. I am also drawn to soft palettes and shades because I have always been highly inspired by the film tones of the early 1970s photographers like Deborah Turbeville and Sarah Moon whose soft focus and pale dream-like colours made me want to create my own work in this style.

Where have been your most inspiring trips?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Argentina in recent years with my partner and our daughter and I am always blown away by the landscape. I recently went to Patagonia for the first time and would highly recommend it. Not to mention again the incredible array of wild flowers and giant trees.

Where should we visit in springtime?
I actually think London is one of the best places to visit in spring. Many streets are lined with cherry blossoms and magnolia trees and every park is full of daffodils and multi-coloured tulips. You get a real sense that springtime has arrived. Lots of the woods are also filled with bluebells and primroses.

What have been your favourite florals you’ve discovered whilst travelling?
Many of the wild flowers of Argentina, there are so many varieties I’d never seen before and the fact that the weather conditions are more extreme makes them even more appealing to me as they pop up all over the land after a rainfall. They are often so small and full of beautiful intricate details. Also the abundance of marigolds and chamomile flowers in Mexico have a strong imprint in my memory.

Which part of the world is home to you?

London has always been my home but I grew up travelling with my family all the time. My father is a film director and my sisters and I were home schooled until I was 14. This gave us the chance to move around often, we lived in Los Angeles, Australia and Morocco and spent winters in Mexico and summers in France. I am very at home when travelling and this has inspired much of my work along the way. Although having my home base in London where I was born has always been comforting and a place that I can find rest. Living in Notting Hill is like a village that is full of creative and artistic bohemian characters and makes for a great environment where you’re surrounded by like-minded people.

How would you describe your personal interior style?

My home is a mix of antiques from brocantes and markets which are inspired by the south of France, mixed in with touches of South America. We bought back all these beautiful antique colourful rugs from Argentina that bring a splash of vibrancy into our home against the pastel colours of the walls. I think the answer to a balanced space is not to have clutter and to love every piece of furniture or item you see in a room.

"I want the viewer to look at the images and feel as if they are in fact themselves the flowers feeling the warmth of the sunlight on their petals"

What are your favourite objects in your home?
My collection of Wedgwood memorial mugs, each one signifies a historical moment in time and the designs and illustrations on them make them so unique. My framed Native American photographs from 1913 by Roland Reed, my mother bought them for my father when he was shooting a film in Montana. My Olympus camera and the collection of beautiful art and photography books that were passed onto me by my parents, every now and then I look into them for inspiration.

How has the wild played a role in your life and your work?
To be patient. We live through the seasons and have to adjust and grow with each month that passes. When you live in or are surrounded by nature, time becomes slower and you learn to appreciate the land and your environment. Nature brings me tranquillity and when I’m in need of some inspiration or adventure I am drawn to the wild. One of my motivations when shooting wildflowers is how my images are portrayed to my audience. I want the viewer to look at the images and feel as if they are in fact themselves the flowers feeling the warmth of the sunlight on their petals, the light breeze of wind rustling up their leaves and caressing their stems. The vibration of a near buzzing insect drawn to the pollens in the centre of each flower. The process for me is to feel not as though I am just shooting a plant but as if I am the plant itself, as if I can see the personality of each being and become part of the botanical nature and emotion in that moment.

What do you love most about spring?
Apart from the spring flowers emerging all over the place bringing joy and colour after the long winter; The beginning of longer and lighter days and seeing the newly shot up buds coming through the ground, giving a sense of hope that new life is upon us. I also love the idea of a spring clean and making one’s home and working space fresh and new! I buy seasonal flowers to bring life and colour into my home like daffodils and hyacinths and make sure I get down to a bluebell wood as soon as they are out just for the beauty of it. I love mimosas, they are like little yellow pom-poms of sunshine and I can’t resist narcissus for their heavenly scent.

Finally, any upcoming projects you’d like to share with us?
Apart from a new baby daughter in May, I am working towards a solo exhibition of my wildflower photographs that I hope to
open in spring 2024.

Discover Ithaka’s dreamy world of wild flora @ithakaroddam