Gradwatch 2021: Carina Kehlet Schou, Central Saint Martins

Considering she’s only recently graduated, Danish-Mexican photographer Carina Kehlet Schou’s portfolio feels impressively polished. The Central Saint Martins graduate has already interned for photographers such as Jamie Hawkesworth and Hanna Moon, and had her work featured in publications including Polyester, Notion and i-D.

Schou credits her early success with the broad introduction to the creative industries provided by the fashion communication and promotion course at CSM, which places an emphasis on fashion photography and moving image but also allows room for people who are more inclined towards fashion marketing, branding and production.

Schou’s final project, My Stringbean, My Woman

“I came to London very fresh-faced and innocent to fashion, so beginning at Saint Martins was a complete culture shock for me,” she tells CR. “During the course, I fluctuated between love and despair pretty frequently. The pace was relentless, particularly the first two years. You’re thrown into each project at the deep end and with very little time. That kind of pressure can be exhausting and after a while it almost becomes muscle memory. Whether that’s good or bad, I’m still undecided.”

While the course allowed Schou to develop a deeper understanding of the industry she is graduating into, it also gave her the opportunity to develop her own style of photography, one which sees her deftly tread the line between fashion and fine art.

Top and above: Milkmaids

“Over lockdown I became interested in more rudimentary (although in practice far from it) photographic processes such as cyanotypes, pinhole photography and darkroom solarisation. I would love to experiment more with large format photography. I like being rooted in a sort-of realism with a shimmer of fantasy,” she says.

While having limited access to resources during the pandemic initially made creating work in her final year feel claustrophobic and not at all organic, by the time the third lockdown rolled around Schou had become quite creative with the resources available to her. She even set up a darkroom in her mum’s bathroom and made pinhole cameras out of coffee cans, among other things.

More from My Stringbean, My Woman

“I was forced to work around the restrictions of lockdown, and that proved formative. I was also back in my childhood bedroom, among my old teddies and memorabilia, which conjured up lots of different ideas for my final major project, My Stringbean, My Woman,” says Schou.

“I’d originally planned to travel to Mexico to photograph my mum’s family but couldn’t in the end due to travel restrictions. My final year panned out so differently to what I had envisaged, but I am grateful for the time I was able to spend experimenting with my practice.”

Lava La Rue for Notion

While the photographer’s personal projects such as My Stringbean, My Woman are often catalysed by encounters in her own life reimagined into a fictional storyline, she has also shown off her talents in a series of real-world briefs, including a striking editorial shoot with Lava La Rue for Notion.

As for Schou’s plans for the future? “To make a living out of what I love feels like the most pressing thing, being so fresh out of university,” she says. “The biggest challenge will be trying to establish a niche for myself in such an oversaturated industry. But largely, my biggest ambition is just to keep making work that I find joy in and hopefully that other people will find joy in too.”

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