Location: Los Angeles, CA
Alix Smith graduated from The School of Visual Arts with a Masters in Photography and Related Media in 2005. Smith is best known for her ability to create iconic images that defy cliche. Her images have a theatrical and painter-like quality reminiscent of great masters such as Vermeer, Manet and Sargent. Smith has had solo exhibitions in the United States and Europe, most recently at the Morgan Lehman Gallery in New York. She has been reviewed in numerous publications, some of which include The New York Times, Art Review, Artnet, and TimeOut New York and The Advocate.
I received my Masters of Fine Art from the School of Visual Arts in 2005.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned either from a teacher or mentor?
First, I learned to think critically about the concept behind the work, to not just evaluate the beauty of the image itself. Second, I discovered that a successful photograph succinctly conveys the artist’s idea to the viewer.
What was your first photography job?
Working for a local newspaper for $5 per roll of film.
What advice would you give to a photographer who is still in school?
This is the only time that you have the luxury of consistent and continuous critics, mentors and peers off of whom you can bounce ideas—take advantage of it!
What inspires you about photography?
It serves as an exploration, as well as a reflection of society and thus can highlight both the assets and the deficits of a culture; in short, it can be the catalyst for social change. I’m endlessly fascinated by the ability of a single photograph to illustrate someone else’s reality. You and I could shoot the same scene, but how we shoot it would be a direct reflection on how each of us sees the world and what we hold significant.
What makes you go out and shoot?
I shoot conceptual portraits. I research a thought or an idea I have about the world, about a society or culture, in particular. Once I have a solid concept that feels grounded in theory and experience, I seek out subjects that fit the concept. Fundamentally, the idea is the spark that makes me go out and shoot.
What do you like best about the whole process?
I love all of it. I get a natural high when I’m photographing. I don’t like to stop, and often my assistant has to remind me that my subject doesn’t have all day. Working on the photographs in Photoshop is also thrilling because I can layer even more into the shot.
What kind of camera equipment do you use?
A Mamiya 645, a Leaf Aptus 22 back and Profoto compact lights with softboxes.
What do you think it takes to be successful in today’s challenging and competitive marketplace?
Drive and hard work, both in copious amounts.
To see more of Alix Smith’s conceptual portraits, go to www.alixsmith.com.