A Girl's Gotta Eat
Tell me about yourself. You're from LA?
Yeah, I moved here five years ago for school. My ex-boyfriend woke up one morning saying he wanted to move to New York and I agreed to go with him. So I applied to Parsons, got in and studied photography. I loved it. There was one teacher there, Kimberly Hoeckele, that changed my life and how I took photos. We spent a lot of time in the darkroom and the other half of the time, doing critiques. That was one of the best things that I learned from that school and her: how to take critique. She made us grill each other. In the real world, with work, there’s so much critique. You need to know how to constructively take it and move forward. After her class, that’s when things started going for me in my head. We still keep in touch.
How are you liking New York?
Moving here was the best thing I ever did. Hands down. I’m in love with the city. It changed my life and made my dreams come true. The people and the energy. Everyone is focused on their work. LA is great, but I’m from there so I’m biased. And people in LA can beat around the bush a bit with how they feel and jobs, etc., whereas people in New York are straight up. And when I moved to the East Village from the west side, I started really meeting these really cool, hardworking people and artists. I don’t think I’ll be moving away from here for quite a while.
Where do you create your work?
I do everything in my apartment. I keep my prints in my freezer, in my oven, under my couch. My freezer is full of condoms, my prints and Ben & Jerry’s. I’m moving soon though. I made the best out of my space and I love it, but working from home and living there means I need a bit of a bigger space. And as long as the new space is below 14 Street, I’m a happy camper.
Tell me about your personal work.
The Jack Nicholson self portraits were the first things that I did for myself and it really took off. I really love Cindy Sherman and I love dressing up as different characters. So I thought I might as well try it. I dressed up as Jack Nicholson in a couple of different movies using black and white film. And I was happy with it. Whereas I’m almost never really satisfied with my work. I don’t think artists are ever really content with what they do.
Yeah I agree. It’s like an anomaly when it happens!
Exactly and with the Jack series, that was the first time that I really loved what I did. And as I started shooting more commercial campaigns and it became my job, I realized that it was important for me to continue to make art for myself. I mean, it’s a blessing and I’m so lucky to be able to work in the field that is also my passion, but it’s also important to remember why you do it.
Totally, and you just had your first exhibition. How did it go?
It was amazing. But it is so hard to look at your work and decipher what’s better, and what people are going to like versus what I really appreciate.
Where did the balance land?
I think three quarters of the show is what I love and the remainder is for others.
What's the show comprised of?
It's mostly self portraits, because that’s what I like to do; I have a lot of different characters that I like to develop. Each one is an exaggeration of part of my personality. And so Jack Nicholson is one of my personalities because I love him. I’d still fuck him, even though he’s 74. I’m still into it. Every single character that he plays, he still has a little bit of Jack in there. I love that. Another one of my characters is Nina, who’s a poor whore from the ’50s, which is sort of an exaggeration of me when I moved to New York and could only afford to eat tomato soup. I work with makeup artist Erin Parsons a lot. We’ll hang around and bounce ideas off of each other and see what happens. We’ll create characters. And they start from a moment or a feeling in my life — an experience with my friends or with work. Then I hone in on that and exaggerate it. They’re real feelings that I keep to myself, but in their exaggerated form I can show them to the world.
It is! It’s also just really fun. I love to dress up. Even in my day-to-day, I love to dress up in different eras. Today it’s the ’80s; maybe tomorrow it’ll be a Hypebeast look. Getting out of your own skin is important and entertaining.
And you work in video as well as still photography?
When I started school, I actually went to community college first for film and media studies. So I’ve made a lot of my own shorts. But only recently did I begin to do video for work as well. I have ideas for my personal work; it’s a matter of having a moment to play it out in the way that I want it to be done. At my show, I had this Trump video — which you can see on my website — there was also one I did with Bella for Dior, Gigi for Maybelline and two other mixed-media videos.
Why did you choose to put your commercial work into the show?
Some of my advertising work, I really like.
Would you separate fine art from fashion photography?
My whole dilemma has been that I need to merge the two. And I heard from so many people in the industry that it’s impossible. So it’s been my mission to try and integrate the two of them.
For the commercial stuff, do you work with a big team?
It’s always just me and my camera unless if it’s a big commercial job.
Like Harri Peccinotti back in the day, with his one assistant.
Yeah I never understood why there had to be so many people on set.
- Photos courtesy of Alana O'Herlihy