At just 18-years-old, photographer Petra Collins has already caught the attention of key players on the international art and fashion scenes with her provocative, raw portraits of blossoming teenage girls, like herself.
Petra is a photographer and visual artist who lives and works in Toronto, Canada. She is the founder and curator of The Ardorous, an online art collective showcasing the works of young, female artists. That’s the project she says she’s most proud of. Petra works and learns from the best – she’s the casting director for famed photographer Richard Kern and was selected by Tavi Gevinson to be the staff photographer for her new online magazine, Rookie Mag. Petra’s work has also been published in Vice, Complex and Jacques – a luxury erotic publication. Ironically, she was only 17 when her work was first shown in Jacques and not legally allowed to purchase it!
i-D online caught up with the (depressingly) young Petra to talk photography, sexuality and growing up.
How did you get started at such a young age? I always liked art and film and I took a photography class in grade 9 or 10, so I was 14 or 15 and it made me realise that photography was a better way to tell a story for me than film. So I just started taking photos.
What inspires/ influences you? There are so many things that inspire me, but mainly it’s my teenage life – me and my friends. I want to tell their stories with my pictures.
What characteristics do you look for in your models? A lot of my models are my friends. I really look for girls with a unique personality. It’s important for me to shoot a girl that’s impressive and interesting. I don’t want her to stand there and look pretty… to me that’s boring. I want them to have something to say.
Why was it important for you to start The Ardorous? I wanted to start an art collective, to give a platform to young female artists because I thought it was important and it didn’t already exist. The Ardorous is not just about photography; we have illustrators and collages and hopefully we’ll be adding video soon. I wanted it to be something really fun to look at, something that would draw people in. It took me a while to get it started and a while more to come up with the name. I made up the word Ardorous.
You’re the staff photographer for Rookie Mag, Tavi Gevinson’s online magazine. How did you start working with her? Tavi had an open call for submissions on her blog so I submitted my shots and she liked them. Actually she was already following my work, which surprised me, so from there we started working together. We were on vacation in Los Angeles at the same time last summer, so we got to shoot together.
How has working with Richard Kern influenced you? How did your relationship with him start? I met Richard in Toronto about a year ago. He was having an art show at my boyfriend’s gallery and we hit it off. I ended up modelling for him and then I started doing his castings. He shows me the technical side of photography – it’s really interesting to see how a professional photographer shoots. He’s kind of like my mentor.
What do you say to people who describe your work as controversial or are uncomfortable with your pictures? People are shocked that a young girl is showing her sexuality. They get uncomfortable. It’s not shown very often is it, from a girl’s point of view.
Future plans? I’m in my first year at OCAD University in Toronto. I hope to be able to do photography as a career.
Text: Tina Gibbens-Tenneriello
Photography: Petra Collins