I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing my twitter friend and photographer Selene Alexia, who already has her own Flying Fruit Bowl feature which you view here:
1. Tell us a bit about yourself…
I was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus and have two half brothers. I used to be a national level archer, and invested a lot of time training for sports in my teen years dreaming of going to the Olympics. I moved to Boston, in the US, to study a double major in maths and physics when I was 18, which I later turned into an architecture degree because I felt like I wanted something a little more creative.
I kept seeing a lot of beautiful photographs on my google images feed in 2010, and decided to check the prices of DSLRs so I could ask my parents for one for my birthday. To my surprise, they weren’t unaffordable anymore, so I picked up my first Canon, a 500D, and fell in love. I left the US less than a year later and moved to the UK where I’m currently studying photography at the University of the Arts in London. Since then I’ve shot for a number of fashion magazines, and was a photographer at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games (guess that’s one way to fulfill that dream!).
2. Who or what inspires you?
My answer is too simple: life inspires me. The people I meet, and people I come across inspire me; The photos I see, whether they’re book covers I pass randomly on the tube, or images taken by photographers I admire; music, novels and poems, travelling, cooking… but most of all I’m inspired by the little things that happen each day that move you in some way. For example, this morning I heard a song by Alex Band (his cover of Skyfall by Adele) and was hit by a set of images that I’m still trying to resolve how to actually create. I firmly believe inspiration can come from anywhere if you just let it in.
3. If you could photograph anyone, who would it be and why?
W. B. Yeats. You did say anyone – doesn’t have to be living! Because he’s a poet I admire and a persona who holds a lot of mystery for me. In my mind he’s such an unresolved person, so I’d like to photograph him to figure him out.
4. Describe a Dream photo shoot…
Angel falls (Venezuela). Complete creative freedom. Dresses by Valentino specifically designed to match the images in my mind. The rest is a secret! Maybe you’ll see them come to life some day!
5. With the access of digital photography, can anyone who owns a camera, whether on their phone, call themselves a photographer?
Yes and no. Anyone who takes a photo is a photographer. A photographer is by definition a person who has written something with light. But I believe the title of “professional” photographer or any other title you tag on to the word photographer is what you earn with experience.
6. What makes you different from other photographers?
The same things that make us each unique as people. I draw from my own past experiences and my own knowledge bank when creating photographs, which leads to what you see. If you ask 10 people to take a photo of a man dressed in a lion outfit, on stilts on the beach, the photos will still be entirely different from each other.
I use themes of escapism, fairytales and dreams a lot in my photos, so, at least at the present, I feel that those things define me a little bit (though they define thousands of others too).
7. What do you think is the best and worst thing about being a photographer?
The independence is both the best and worst thing. You have complete creative freedom. That’s terrifying. You can do anything. You have to do something though, because if you don’t, what good is having all this freedom?
8. What equipment do you use?
I’m a through and through Canon girl. I use my 5D mark iii, my 24-70mm 2.8L and my 70-200mm 2.8 L II, though I have a 50mm 1.8 that I break out on occasion. I have a Thinktank backpack and bag accessories (which are perfect for a borderline OCD person), and gioto tripods.
9. Do you think that you need to be photogenic to be a self portrait photographer?
I firmly believe you become more photogenic by taking self-portraits. I used to be one of the least photogenic people I know (fact!) but through taking self-portraits, I’ve come to learn how to pose my own body so that I can take photos that are more flattering, thus you gain the appearance of being more photogenic.
10. What is the appeal of photography?
Photography binds both truth and deception in a way that I feel no other artform can. You can never be sure where the lines are. The only other time I feel that way is when I’m reading or writing, but then when you come out of the “book world” you come face to face with reality, whereas with a photo you cant be sure of what you see.
11. What kind of music do you like?
A variety, ranging from girly pop and Disney songs, to classical piano pieces, and heavy metal – no rap or club techno type stuff though! I mostly listen to what I call mellow rock, though so many people will severely disagree with that definition. It includes bands such as Dream Theater and Shinedown, and solo singers like Alex Band.
12. What do you think makes a photograph good?
It tells a story that moves the viewer because it touches something deep inside that person. It speaks about something they can relate to and appeals to their deeper sense of beauty or of value.
13. Any advice you would give to readers?
Don’t be afraid to do something you don’t know how to do. Just try it, and mess up. Then try it again, and again. Eventually you’ll realize you did something even better than you set out to do, and you’ll be truly proud of yourself. Also, keep demanding chances, and making sure you earn them.
14. Do you think that because the Canon 5D range (mark ii-iii) and full frame cameras are a popular choice for professional photographer that it puts pressure on aspiring photographers and students who may not be able to afford such costly equipment?
Yes and no. I don’t believe that any photographer should feel pressured into trying to find a way to buy the best gear – after all its not the gear that makes the photographer. I can understand why people may feel that way, because for example you may look at what sort of gear the photographers you admire are using and feel like you need to at least match that to be able to perform on their level, but that isn’t how it works. I met a number of photographers last year during the Olympics, who had the best gear in the world (literally) yet who’s photos were not that moving or well timed or…(the list goes on). I also met photographers there who were shooting on cameras such as the 7D or the 60D (which gear wise can’t compare to the 1DX) and who showed me photographs that took my breath away. This is just an example, but the same notion applies to all areas of photography. I don’t believe anyone should feel pressure to upgrade their gear until they feel they have hit a limit that’s caused by the gear, for example, that they want to shoot wider than a crop factor framed camera can offer, or that they want to shoot with a wider aperture than their lens is able to offer. Cameras like the 500D are extraordinary pieces of machinery that are capable of so much in the hands of true creators.
I went to a lecture by Aurum Light a few weeks ago, so would very highly recommend him for an interview! He’s a brilliant artist, and a very funny guy. What he says is very creative, and inspiring. You can find his work here at www.aurumlight.com
16. Do you think that an image loses its value once it has been reproduced?
I don’t, simply because the (non-monetary) value of an image lies in effect it has on its audience, which is not something that can be diminished, no matter how many times it has been reprinted!
Yes, but prices depend on the work itself, the number of prints which will be made, if its part of a series or not, if the person who will buy the print simply wants the one image or the series etc.
There are a lot of images posted online that don’t have any lasting value, and are, as you say, substandard, but I don’t feel that this harms photography in general. The photographic practice, in and of itself, has gained its value over time, and is increasingly seen as a part of our daily life. I personally think the masses of images make it easier for a great photograph to actually stand out among the clutter, and have a greater influence on the viewer, since it can make him or her step back and actually pause for a moment.
19. Do you think that there should be more of an emphasis on the business side of photography?
Once you start practically trying to make a living as a photographer, you learn really quickly that the business side of art plays a very large role on bringing bread to the table, so you find ways online, through lectures or workshops or simply through talking to other photographers, to learn things you may be unfamiliar with. People like Alex Beadon (www.alexbeadonphotography.com) are fantastic for sharing their knowledge about the business side of photography.
20. Have you had a gallery show? If so, how did you approach the gallery?
Yes I have, but it was a group show, as part of a summer course I was doing before I enrolled into university, so I’m not the expert when it comes to gallery stuff. Additionally, when I take a photo I usually don’t have a gallery wall in mind as my destination for the image, so it’s not something I pursue.
To see more of Selene Alexia’s work, visit her website http://selenealexia.com/