“Eternally curious” and “constantly trying to reinvent myself”, is how LA-based photographer Alex Stoddard describes himself. Born and raised in rural South Georgia, his creative journey began taking self-portraits in the woods behind his family home. He was sixteen and hasn’t stopped since, developing a unique style while exploring the concepts of fantasy and surrealism. You have probably seen his work somewhere on your Instagram feed, while scrolling through Pinterest, or even Tumblr., you just didn’t know who was behind the camera – and in front of it.
A dark surrealist aesthetic mixed with ideas taken from art history, the human form, or nature, is Stoddard's signature. With these simple compositions that frame meaningful themes, the artist manages to use self-portraiture as a means to escape, drawing the viewer in with him to a dream-state: “My photography is meant to transport, in the same way that a movie or song invites the audience into a different little pocket of reality.”

He shared with us some of his thoughts on classical painting, its connection with his photography and the key ingredient to his work: experimentation.
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I understand that at the age of 16 you were shooting your firsts compositions, with an emphasis on self-portraits. What was the most important thing for you along the process of becoming the artist you are today? Was there anyone who inspired you?
The ability to follow my instincts has and always will be my most important tool when creating. I have no formal training and never really had a guiding hand when I was first starting out, so it was up to my own eye and gut to direct my compositions and concepts. It is also important to be open to responding to one’s environment whilst shooting. Planning and preproduction are essential to creating my work, but equally so is a willingness to adapt to different situations or circumstances that may arise when creating. There’s a magical balance between preparedness and spontaneity that must be struck.
As a fully self-taught photographer, what role do experimentation and your own experiences play in your photography? What has photography taught you?
Experimentation is key to my photography, so much so that sometimes I worry that my portfolio is too broad and might lose its signature style. I think it’s a direct result of my personality - I am eternally curious, always yearning to explore. Once I’ve shot something one way, there’s no real interest to me in doing it again and again. I want to see what else is out there. This is generally when I make my best images when diving headfirst into the unknown. However, it can also make doing commercial work a little difficult when the client wants to create that same kind of magic, but we’re working within such rigid guidelines without any wiggle room for play and experimentation - the key ingredients for that magic.
Most of your self-portraits convey your own emotions and also allow you to portray yourself in so many different ways or situations. If you could choose one project or an image that describes you the most, which one would it be?
There’s an image I created at the start of 2020 called Point Blank. It is a self-portrait, where one version of me is ‘shooting’ a second version, and I think it’s a really good representation of the way that I am constantly trying to reinvent myself - both in my personal life and creative work. Visually, the photograph is a bit grim and startling, but it has more of a hopeful tone for me - I am trying to kill off the parts of myself that I don’t like, the pieces that are weighing me down and keeping me stagnant - so that I can move on and grow into the best version of myself.
How can photography, or any other medium used by artists, work as a means of escape? What are you escaping from through your photography?
Art has always been, first and foremost, a means of escape for me and those who view my work. It is a distraction from reality, a literal building of a new world to live in, even if just for a moment as someone scrolls by the picture on their social media feed. The real world is grim, lacking in magic. My photography is meant to transport, in the same way that a movie or song invites the audience into a different little pocket of reality.
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I am aware that your work is strongly inspired by art history in the digital age. Could you tell us a bit more about this? What would you say is the connection between art and technology?
My work references many elements from classical paintings - whether it be lighting, posing or subject matter. There is something so visually arresting and universal about this art that has allowed it to transcend time altogether and be eternally referenced even today. In this digital age, all of the world’s art is right at our fingertips to research and borrow from, and we also have the tools to create in moments what would have taken those artists months or even years. I am interested in taking those timeless artistic elements and exploring them through the technology available today. I want to know if it’s possible to strike the same kind of feeling and magic or perhaps invent a new artistic language entirely by blending the old and the new.
You’ve been photographing and developing your own style and technique for years now. Tell us about the process during your shoots, do you normally take the pictures by yourself, with a timer or remote controller, or do you get any help? Do you have any advice for photographers trying to follow your steps?
Funnily enough, my process remains nearly identical today as it was when I started over a decade ago. It’s usually a very solitary process - shooting completely alone, with a wireless remote and my camera on a tripod. I do the makeup, styling, set design, scouting, post-production all by myself. Working in this way, I’m free from all distraction and expectation, and the results are as true to my own original vision as they could possibly be. My greatest advice to new artists is to experiment as much as possible and try without the fear of failing. Working alone, if you fail, the delete button is right there at your fingers, and you can try again without anyone ever being the wiser. You’ll have 99 terrible shots, and it only takes one golden one to make the shoot worthwhile.
Let’s talk about the stories behind your photographs. Some of your pictures include concepts of fantasy or dark surrealism. The lighting, the colors, and the composition transmit a unique atmosphere, drama, and intense feelings. What inspires you to portray these stories? Do you normally sketch and plan your shots, or are they the result of spontaneity?
My self-portraiture is often the place where I can be expressive and tap into the parts of myself that don’t really come up in my daily life. They are almost a cathartic performance of dramatized emotions I might experience but not necessarily have an outlet for. I often feel as creatively fulfilled by stepping into the role of the subject and physically posing in the scene as I am by conceptualizing and operating from behind the camera. It’s almost like putting on an entire production as both director and actor (and, well, set designer, styling team, editor, gaffer, and caterer too). I normally plan out my shoots pretty heavily, but I’m always conscious of leaving room for spontaneity and a change of plans, as it’s almost inevitable on a shoot. It’s usually those moments of improvisation where the magic happens anyway.
Now that we are talking about it, one of your latest works intends to portray “mythological or folkloric characters through self-portraiture”. As you shared it on your Instagram account, we can see you painted as a devil and bending on a rock. Do you normally style and create your own garments for your costumes? What are some of the skills you had to develop to make your shots more and more realistic?
Yes! I’m starting a new project where I step into the role of well-known mythological figures and explore their stories through self-portraiture. It ties back into creating with the same elements that made classical art so timeless and transcendent of time. There’s a reason some characters and stories have stuck around for hundreds or thousands of years - they tap into a certain universality that I find intriguing. I style and create everything that goes into my images, so I’ve had to teach myself to do makeup, sew, use power tools. It’s half the fun.
Looking into the future, what are some of your plans or projects for this year?
I’ll be releasing my first book later this year, titled INSEX, in which I explore the visual connection between metamorphosis in the natural world and human coming-of-age. Picture a lot of bugs and naked bodies… It’s some of my best work ever.
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