Bella At The Cross
Their newest series, featuring Bella completely naked at the Cahuenga Cross in Los Angeles, sees the duo delving deeper into the often confusing world of being femme, illustrasting the process of undoing preconceived ideas about vulnerability and the female form. Naked, wet and in a highly public area, Bella is, physically, at her most vulnerable—but all we see in Merten's photos is strength.
Read our interview with the duo, below.
How did this project come about?
Amanda Merten: Ever since I met Bella a few years ago, she has inspired me. I’ve had a running list of shoot ideas for her and figured, 'Why not make a bigger project out of it?' I love that her roots are in Los Angeles and how that makes her the person she is. Also, I’m originally from Las Vegas, where she has family, so we are hoping to stretch this project between the two cities.
How would you describe the relationship you two have built both inside and outside of your art?
Amanda Merten: Strong and trusting—as friends and collaborators. [It's] the real thing, and I’m grateful.
Your work seems to reference female energy, both in your relationship with Bella, and how you often photograph the naked female form. Can you talk a bit about that?
Amanda Merten: Within my work I'm definitely interested in two different sides of women: female but not necessarily feminine. I've always been more interested in women than men as a subject, but stylistically, I'm attracted to the little pieces and elements of both my subjects and culture at large that are female but aren't traditionally feminine,' and to me, are more tough, unconventional and sometimes seen by others as 'weird.' With Bella—and many of my other subjects—there is a natural quality I see that comes from her shape, her mindset, her vulnerability and the personal struggles that are part of everyone's life. I'm interested in tapping into and showcasing all of those elements as a collaborator in a way that also comes from my own experiences, point of view, and style—which for me, as a woman, happens to be undeniably female.
Why has Bella has been such a continuous muse for your work?
Amanda Merten: I love how versatile and fearless Bella is with her own makeup and style, and within our work together, I always find myself wanting to add to that in a way that also reflects me and my interests. I feel as though she is a vessel that can tap into multiple dimensions and I can’t help but love that.
Bella, do you feel like you're just being yourself in these photos or do you take on some kind of role?
Bella Ferrada: I feel like I play both myself and a character. In my head, I kind of played this woman from the '70s who wanted to be in Playboy. However, that is kind of who I already am today. But I always envision some sort of character any time I shoot, it's just with Amanda, I always feel like myself—just an exaggerated or enhanced version.
The Cahuenga Cross is a pretty popular cultural monument—what was the significance of shooting there?
Amanda Merten: I’ve ventured up to the cross multiple times and am obsessed with the warm light it omits. When I’m up on that little mountain I love that the city lights are glaring back at us from all the way around, with a stream of lights from the 101 zooming by below. It feels so vulnerable, yet intimately private.
What's next for you and your collaboration with Bella?
Amanda Merten: Hopefully a show and/or a book. I just want to capture and showcase multiple characters, but all and each are truly a reflection of Bella, or myself, just through her.