‘Keeping memories alive’

‘Keeping memories alive’

Interview by Tom Livingstone
Artist: Sam Gilchrist
Series Title: ‘Follow the River’
Photography Courses completed: 12-Month Mentorship Program

For self-taught photographer Sam Gilchrist, the project she completed while participating in Contact Sheet’s 12-Month Mentorship Program - Follow the River - stemmed from an activity most people do every day but is rarely ever acknowledged or appreciated. Going for a walk.

Sam has long had a fascination for the finer, overlooked details many take for granted in the world around us and her work often explores what it means to connect with the natural environment. 

My original motivation was quite simple - I just wanted to keep a record of the experience,” Sam says.

“I think that is the main motivation for all my photography – to keep the memories alive.”


When she set off on a 56-kilometre hike along the Hollyford Track on New Zealand’s South Island, Sam never anticipated the snaps she collected with her iPhone 8 would have such a significant impact on her artistry.  

While she says a “fear of forgetting or being forgotten” is something that motivates her when she does pull out her camera to take a photo, more importantly – the images Sam captures are about sharing a part of that story or experience with another person. 

“I hope each image draws in the viewer and encourages them to engage with it,” she says of Follow the River.

Sam applied for Contact Sheet’s 12-Month Mentorship Program because she had lost motivation to pick up her camera and wanted to find a new direction for her art.

“(With Contact Sheet) I found a supportive environment that expanded my understanding of artistic practice,” she says.

“I enjoyed the experimentation phase of the creative process. Trying out ideas, learning new skills.

“The program helped me gain confidence in my work – with the support of Paul, guest lecturers and the group over the past year, I feel more empowered to experiment with multiple artforms alongside photography.

“It helped me to think about my process and question more deeply the reasons behind my creative decisions.”

Follow the River uses a beautiful black-and-white layout with simple line drawings to tell Sam’s story and she says never underestimate the power of a smartphone camera as a tool for capturing decent photos. 

 “Using a phone to capture images on the hike provided huge benefits that outweighed any potential creative difficulties,” she says. 

“The lighter you can go (packing), the more enjoyable the experience. I learned that lesson the hard way.”

Sam’s project was also inspired by the work of environmentalist Ansel Adams and Rebecca Solnit's book 'Wanderlust: A history of walking'.

“(They) expanded my understanding of walking in ways that I had never thought to consider before,” she says.

“I felt inspired to go back to my own experiences of walking in nature and applying this new knowledge.”

While Follow the River can’t tell the full story of the difficult terrain, adverse weather or physical challenges Sam faced during the six-day hike, she hopes the selected images encourage the audience to engage, ask questions and even be inspired to embark on their own adventure and create new memories.

To read Sam’s full interview, click here

Enrolments are now open for all 2021 Mentorship Programs and Photography Courses at Contact Sheet, including the comprehensive Walking and Photography course

If you would like further information, contact one of our team at contact@contactsheet.com.au or call 0410 315 865