Creativity in Conversation: Greta van der Star

Reflections on composition, craft, and the things that move us

Greta van der Star is a photographer based between Auckland and Los Angeles. With a keen sensitivity to light, harmony, and gestures, Greta has captured photographs and moving images for favorites like the JB Blunk Estate, Anaak, Russh Magazine, and Sans Ceuticals, among others. Deeply human and tender, Greta’s imagery manages to preserve the warmth and intimacy of those moments when she turns her lens to her subject. In the first of a new series exploring artistic perspective, we connect with Greta to hear her thoughts on the magnetism of natural materials, taking your time to find what’s right, and what constitutes good design—alongside a series of photos she captured at the Kalon Showroom.


Kalon: Who are you, where do you live, what do you do?

Greta van der Star: Kia ora! I’m Greta, a photographer living between Auckland, Aotearoa, and Los Angeles. 

For my day to day work I photograph artists, makers, creatives, interiors and beautiful fashion collections. 

K: Why have you been drawn to do this work and live in this place?

GS: I got my first camera when I was 16 and from then on I always had a camera and roll of film in hand. I was intoxicated by the magic of the darkroom, having spent many afternoons sitting outside my grandad’s darkroom amidst his begonia flowers in his greenhouse. I remember feeling hot and sticky under the blue-green corrugated plastic roof, waiting for the red light to go on, a signal I could go inside and see what he was developing. There was barely room for two people inside, but it was all he needed. I loved it.

I started taking photos for friends who make clothes, shooting on film and Polaroid and just having fun with the process. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at that moment, but it grew organically from there. I love visiting artists and makers in their home or studio environment, getting a peak into another world.

K: How did you gain your perspective as a photographer and your current style? What was it about friends’ workspaces, studios, and home environments that appealed to you in the beginning?

GS: Sometimes I think it’s like an interior and it builds over time, adding layers. When I got my first camera, I would take objects outside and move them around to see how the light interacted with them. I used only film until around 10 years ago, I was very late to digital format, and I think I’m always trying to get back to the softness and texture you get with film. I love when an image looks a bit like a painting.

K: So much is/can be captured with a photo. But photographers tend to lean into one element over another (zooming in and out, framing a shot, utilizing light in particular ways… Curious what you strove to capture, what resonated with you, what you hoped to communicate? 

GS: I find the process a mixture of play and instinct. Exploring interiors through a lens allows me to work on creating a kind of tension in a space in order to direct your eye through the architecture and the room’s features.  I loved the breathing room in Kalon studio, the high ceilings and visual space give such a sense of calm, and within that there were plenty of smaller details and textures to explore, from the natural jute rug to the dried flowers and stacks of books.

K: What details or elements interested you in the Kalon showroom? 

I’m always drawn to how light plays in a room, sometimes circling back to where I started to capture a shard of light that has moved in. My favourite photos from this shoot were taken after I initially packed my camera away. It was a grey day in LA and the sun appeared for around 5 minutes. Softened through curtains and clouds, it added a richness and warmth to the already beautiful shapes and natural textures in the room. 

K: Are you drawn to natural materials in your own spaces?

GS: I love how natural materials soften over time, a wooden bench top that’s undulated from years of use, or a thread bare cotton tee that you treat like your best silks and can’t bear to throw away as it’s so soft to wear. 

K: What does “good design” mean to you?

GS: I consider functionality, longevity, use of materials, and aesthetic of equal importance when considering design. [At home], we have furniture nearly as old as [the house] and it still feels modern and has heaps of life left in it. I hope my son will enjoy these pieces one day.

K: Who are the artists or photographers that influence your work?

GS: I’ve always loved Juergen Teller and Mark Borthwick, and I looked to Georgia O’Keefe and Cy Twombly when I was studying, I was obsessed with the softness in their work. Sophie Calle, Francesca Woodman, Sheila Metzner.. Too many to name! These days I also love using cinema as a reference. I just saw “Perfect Days” by Wim Wedners and can’t stop thinking about it.

K: How do you find inspiration?

GS: I’m lucky to meet so many artists and creators through my work. Exploring their spaces, sharing cups of tea and seeing how other people live and make is a true highlight. I also love to pick a spot on a map, jump in the car with my family and explore. 

For a deeper look at Greta’s photography, visit her website.