Annie Noelker Comes to Life
Annie Noelker's Top 5 Creative Influencers:
Art-ing: A Spotify playlist by Annie Noelker
Three Views of Work
My grandmother recently passed away and I find myself thinking about that idea of “was she really here? Did she exist?” Her dentures are still in her cup. Her makeup is still in her drawer. Her clothes hang in the closet but she isn’t here. I turn to photographs and I see her face. I am instantly transported to that moment — this is the idea I find so powerful.
When I initially learned of my grandma’s illness, I knew that I had to trace what must remain forever. I began photographing my family, drawing inspiration from the works of Sally Mann and her relationship between the camera and her family. With these ideas strongly in mind, I returned to the places from which I came and the many moments that allowed me to start over. I titled it Origins.
Wet, slobbery, windblown, and undeniably happy. I finally get it. I now completely understand why my dog sticks her head out the window. An image, taken in 2005, ten years ago of myself by Jim Noelker (my father), exhibits a happy, goofy and very windblown nine-year-old — at least that's the way it would appear. In reality, I had just been ripped away from everything I had ever known. It was the worst day of my life. It was the day my family and I packed all of our belongings into a U-Haul, I hugged half my family goodbye, and my dad and I set out towards Ohio. It was awful. I had never seen absolute nothingness for miles, I had never been away from my cousins for more than two days, and I had never not been able to hug my mom every minute of every day. As a nine-year-old, it was my worst nightmare. Yet, something happened in that moment — that precise moment when my dad rolled down the window, the wind caught my hair, and all I could do was laugh. Nothing was wrong. I forgot the world. I was so happy. Sticking your head out the window is bliss, it’s relief, it’s pure joy. Recently, I rediscovered that photograph and it inspired me to do a series of my own. Windblown.
Swept with red and gold robes and bone white intentions,
you sank — heavy. Vines curled around your knees and pulled you in, your screams silenced with the weight of his ribcage and wanting to forget.
Here he prayed upon your lips and filled your throat with the memory of his dead brother. Do you daydream of Before?
He is stone, my darling, unaware of the scars he left on your wrists. Cowering in the shadows of your memory,
he is a boy and little boys take. But he cannot rob you of your strength for you are his salvation.
Annie Noelker is a photographer with focus.
Some teens go for cars. Not Annie Noelker (Photography, 2018).
“I can’t remember if I was 16 or 17, but instead of buying a car, I bought a camera, and I started shooting all the time. I would drag my friends to abandoned houses and we just made it an adventure, we made it really fun. I always liked photographing people — I’ve always been drawn to faces,” she said.
She still uses that first camera, a Canon EOS 6D DSLR.
Noelker comes by her talent honestly: Dad, Jim Noelker, is a photojournalist and a videographer with Dayton’s WHIO-TV. Growing up “I always had a camera in my face,” she remembered. “When I was little, I loved it. As I grew up, I kind of shied away from it.”
But she started shooting, first with an iPhone she received her freshman year of high school, and then with the digital camera. “I really loved it. I would bring my photos to my dad and he would critique them. Then I would go out and shoot again. … My parents were always supportive from the beginning,” Noelker said.
And over the years, portraiture, fashion photography, and even photojournalism have captured Noelker’s interest. “I found that I love photojournalism, which I never thought I would like, because my dad was always into that, and I wanted to be different than my dad, but I have been drawn to that. … I want to do everything, really,” she said.
With one exception: “I want to do all kinds of photography except food photography. I cannot do that,” she said.
Noelker, the eldest of three, grew up in Farmersville, Ohio (outside of Dayton) and credits her high school teacher, Jill Dulgeroff, for introducing her to Columbus College of Art & Design.
“She was the one who told me about CCAD and pushed me to do their College Preview program the summer before my senior year. And she pushed me to enter the Scholastic Art and Writing awards — which, my photo ended up my senior year actually going to Nationals, and I got to cross the stage at Carnegie Hall, which was super cool. And then I placed Top 25 in the Governor’s show … and from that, I got a really nice scholarship,” she said.
In her three years here, Noelker has found herself challenged by classes such as studio photography, invigorated by her fellow student artists (friend Hana Mendel, a fellow Photography major and third-year student, “really pushes me to be better and do better,” she said), and supported by faculty.
Duncan Snyder, Chair of Photography and of Cinematic Arts, “is like a father in the photo department,” Noelker said. “He’s just always there, always willing to listen, always willing to work with you, always has the best advice.”
Outside of the classroom, she keeps herself busy working at the Student Agency, freelancing as a wedding photographer, creating personal work, and writing poetry.
She also regularly finds herself working with other students across majors.
A lot of photographers shy away from collaborations, but Noelker embraces them. “A lot of the time, photography is seen as a one-person kind of job. As if there’s just one person behind the camera. … But there’s so much more that goes into a single photograph. I think that the more people you can bring in, the more minds working together, the better,” she said.
Looking at Instagram
In a platform that can too often be littered with ill-lit food photos or cloying inspirational quotations, work like Annie Noelker’s (Photography, 2018) stands out.
Her meticulously curated Instagram account, which has been going since September 2011, features dreamy and intimate portraits (via her Canon 6D or her Nikon F4 film camera) of friends and classmates that celebrate their strength, their vulnerability, and their freewheeling spirits, highlighted by Noelker’s unexpected — and powerful — decisions about lighting, composition, and props. Below, she discusses her approach to Instagram, as well as some of her favorite photographers on the platform.
What is your approach to Instagram?
I save my Instagram exclusively for my photos. Because I like writing you’d think I’d like captions, but I hate captions more than anything in the whole entire world. Because I feel like my photos say enough — I want them to speak for themselves.
How do you choose which images go up on Instagram?
After a shoot I go through and edit and I'll usually post the photos I'm most excited about first. I like to hop around so you're not seeing the same shoot six posts in a row.
Once a photo is up, does it stay up?
I like to keep stuff up just to see how my lifestyle changes over time or how it reflects a certain mood I had at a specific time. It’s kind of like a diary.
Do your photos share anything in common in terms of their style or your approach to shooting?
I've found that since my style ranges from journalism/documentary, fashion, and portraiture — and I am in love with black and white, as well as color — my feed just ends up being a big ole' jumble of my brain. I used to be kind of self-conscious about that — feeling like I don't have a style at all because I like such a wide range of photography genres. Recently I've kind of come out of that funk and I'm just making work that I love, and I think that’s important. You have to be aware of your audience, yes, but in the end if you're not making something you love and care about, what’s the point?
How important is it for a photographer to have a social media presence on a platform like Instagram?
I feel like, being a visual artist, you have to have social media to really get your name out there. Utilizing that is very important. It could make or break you getting a job. I know my dad’s friend — his name is Fritz Hoffman, and he’s a National Geographic photographer. He said the only reason he’s still with Nat Geo is because of his Instagram following.
Through this media, I have found countless artists that I look up to and admire and draw inspiration from that I wouldn't have had access to otherwise.
Is there any advice you give to someone who is trying to set up a really good Instagram?
I would say interaction. Lots of interaction with other people. Get feedback. But also be supportive and reach out to people and ask for collaborations to work with other people. People are so flattered when you ask questions about them. So just messaging other photographers, no matter how slim of a chance you think you have that they will respond. You never know. Especially with social media, it’s so easy.
Have you participated in any Instagram contests or groups?
My best friend, Hana Mendel (Photography, 2018), introduced me to this project called GirlGaze. She introduced me to them and they reposted several of my photos … and it’s just this great support group of women.
Annie Noelker’s Instagram Favorites
I love Steph Wilson’s vision and the way she sees; it’s completely different from how I would photograph the same subject. Her use of color and narrative are incredible and her photographs inquire without words.
Emily Soto is living my idealized life. She lives in NYC with her husband and dog and she's this incredible fashion photographer who utilizes film and analog processes.
Olivia Bee so beautifully captures the feeling of nostalgia. Her photos feel young and effortless and intimate.