Friday, March 29, 2013

Interview with photographer Ava Alamshah

 About you:

 I was born in Glendale, CA, living in or near Los Angeles all my life (so far).  After high school, I ended up at California Institute of the Arts, where I studied and fell in love with photography.  Fun fact: I was named after Ava Gardner. 

               What is it that attracts you the most of what you have around you?  
 I've always been a highly sensitive and visual person. I'm attracted to many things around me at all times.  Sometimes the simplest things, such as the way the morning light comes through my window, or recently, the bright colors of ranunculus and how they remind me that spring time is here.  I love nature and that golden light before the sun sets.  When that happens, I like to imagine that I live in a Terrence Malick film, or a William Eggleston photograph.  

               Tell us about your experience as  photographer what did it give you? How you learned?   I feel that I'm still learning as a photographer, and I still have a lot to learn.  I'm always trying to improve my skills because I've never been very technical, as far as fancy lighting.  I have an old 6x6 yashica mat, that I bought used for 20 dollars at CalArts.  The built in meter was broken (still is), so I would take that camera with me and wing it.  Later, I would develop the film and sometimes I would luck out, other times, I would have images that were too light/dark, but that was part of the fun.  Trial and error, and tons of what I call "happy accidents".   Photography gives me moments, as cheesy as that sounds, but it is true.  I've been a collector all my life, and a curious observer.  When I'm out in the world, I want to remember my experiences and take them home.  I'm just nostalgic that way.  
                Do you have other job or interest besides photography?
I have a little modest job that helps me get by, but it is not my passion like photography.  Outside of photography, I like to collect records, drink warm tea, people watch, sing the wrong lyrics to songs in my car during traffic, sometimes make zines, sometimes illustrate, sometimes imagine myself practicing bass guitar (eventually forming an imaginary band with hopes that one day it will turn into a real band, with real practice, of course), I occasionally cook a really good meal, and I look forward to visits with my dear friends so we can sit and talk about art/life.

                 Three adjectives to describe yourself.
nostalgic, anxious, inspired

                A film, a book and a song. 
I film that I am obsessed with, and keep going back to is The Red Shoes (1948/absolutely beautiful).  A book that I borrowed from a friend, Please Kill Me: The Oral History of Punk Rock (could not put it down).  Song.....I caught myself humming and singing to Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game the other day.  "We can't return, we can only look behind from where we came..." ahhh, life. 


             What camera do you use? Do you use one lense?
Right now I've been using my Canon Rebel T3i.  It's my first digital slr, so I've been having a lot of fun with that. I only have one lens I'm using and it's an 18-55 mm. Pretty standard.  I have an analogue Canon slr that was given to me by a sweet woman I use to work with.  It came with a very large macro lens that I ended up using once.  It's beautiful, but a bit overwhelming.  I go back to my yashica mat 6x6, which needs some repair now.  I've used that one for almost 10 years and it hasn't failed me yet.  I love medium format, square images for their nostalgic, dreamy quality.  I also have a few polaroid cameras and glad that companies like Impossible Project are still making film, otherwise I would be very lost.  I'm excited about another slr camera, recently gifted to me by some dear friends of mine. This one belonged to my friend's grandfather, and it's called voigtlander. Not sure what year it is from (1970s, maybe), but after some needed cleaning, I can't wait to explore with it.  Sorry, nerd alert!

             Tell about exhibition if you ‘ve had any.  I've shown work in both Los Angeles and San Francisco.  The most recent exhibition was a group show at a little gallery called, Musee 16, in Los Angeles.  

          Do you sell prits? How do you make it and where can someone buy?  
I have sold prints in the past, and eventually I will have a website (like etsy or big cartel) where people can go and purchase my prints.  For now, people can email me directly at if interested.  I have printed as large as 50x50 inch prints before, using a mural enlarger, but these days I would go much smaller (unless people have the space for such a large print). 
          What was your most big success?  A huge success for me has been the recent launch of my website,   I'm so excited to expand the site and eventually add more portraits.  Friendships are constantly evolving/growing.  As long as I have friends, I will have this project, so I hope to be working on it for a very long time. 

           Favourite photographer.  William Eggleston

            Describe some of your projects  With You, Today is the portrait collection I've been working on about friendship.  I'll be collaborating on a mini zine/interview project with my friend, Eva (pronounced like Ava).  Not too long ago, her and I found out that we have the exact same birthday and sort of the same name, so our project is going to focus a bit on that information.  It is always nice to collaborate with other artists, and I hope to do that more often.  Another major project in the works is my main website/online portfolio.  It's going to be a lot of work and I'm anxious to get started. 

            Your main concept.
I don't really have a main concept, but my process is this:  Before I photograph, I usually get an idea in my head from previous explorations without my camera.  I will see a place, or be with a friend, and love the way a building looked, and how that person looked in front of it.  Then I think of how I would like to capture that and make a note of it in my head.  Sometimes I write things down.  I will come back and stage the shot when everything is right.  Lighting, mood..... That is usually how I come up with concepts.  Funny that I think of shots when I'm usually without my camera.  I find myself taking it with me more and more these days, but it always seems to be the case that I capture images in my head first.  I'm always saying, "I need to go back with my camera next time". 

            Your plans.
 Focus on my website (s), make more zines, and practice bass guitar for real this time.  Eventually I would love to publish a coffee table book of my photographs.  That would be a dream come true.

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