With a rich and deep background of artistic references, and being interested in galleries and museums since she was a child, Arielle captures the world in an unconventional way, proving that a drab and gray reality can be turned into a world full of winks to color. Not only the garments and the poses, but also the environment where the shoot takes place, shape all together a playful scene. We talk with her to deepen in what happens when one is so young and talented and has so much in her head to tell.
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As far as we know, your inspiration comes mainly from the painting world, from artists like Basquiat, Keith Haring, Joan Miró or Picasso. In the same way that you look at other areas to feed your work, do you think your artistic vision could be transferred into other fields? Or is it clear that your medium is only photography?
I do think a lot about what my pictures would taste like, sound like, feel like. I do feel that my work can bleed into many different art forms. I’m more so inspired by Benny Andrews, Jacob Lawrence, and William H. Johnson at the moment. So I love to draw out ideas with oil pastels in my sketchbook. I don’t get the same emotion out of painting and drawing as I do out of photography though. That might change one day as my mind grows and sees more. I don’t want to limit myself to just photography but that’s what I’m focusing on right now in my life.
Why do you shoot with film instead of digital? Is there any retouch in your photos?
I remember when I got my first film camera and it completely changed the way I saw photography. My mom got me my first digital camera and my high school teacher got me my first film camera. I’m super lucky to have had both but film just stuck with me. Film manipulates the photo in ways that digital can’t do on its own. I do minor retouching, nothing extreme, like cropping and brightening. I feel that with film my work is softer and the colours mesh just the way I need it to. Also I have a limited amount of shots, which makes me value each frame more than if I were shooting 1200 photos with digital. I’m definitely not a dark room kind of girl but I do love that anxious feeling of not seeing what you’re shooting until you get your film back from the developer.
The poses, colour and shapes of the clothes are key ingredients in your photographs, but also the shooting location and the street objects add value to the composition. Is this the reason why you do not take the pictures on a set, indoors?
Yes, definitely! I have worked in studios before and I think it could work for certain shoots but I love going on location because it makes my photos more real. I was initially inspired by the architecture of New Orleans – the colours and the shapes that you can find within the city was and still is so fun to work with. Besides being inspired by architects like Bjarke Ingels, I’m more so inspired by the small towns like Metairie in New Orleans and some places in Jersey. Going out into the real world and creating these sculptures also allows people to stop, stare, point – it’s all really interactive. I also just really love improvising as the shoot goes on.
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You manage the whole process from the beginning to the end: you draw or write down your ideas, you buy the clothes, you chose the shooting location… So what stage of production do you like the best?
Oh, that’s a tough question! I love every stage of the shoot differently, I think. I usually wonder around a thrift store or 99-cent store before a shoot and the flow of ideas that come to me is really amazing. I become extremely focused and it takes me away from anything else that might be happening in that moment. But I love this part because it’s where my imagination flourishes. But I also love editing! I also love shooting! I can’t choose!
Where do you gather inspiration?
Places that I’ve lived inspire me. I feel like just being in NYC for most of my life has allowed me to see the world in a broader sense. New Orleans allowed me to see the soul and the poetry that goes into art. And my brief experience in South Carolina showed me that photography is what I need. I am inspired by children and just overall kid culture and painters as well. Black people and the beauty and strength that we hold in our color really inspire me. I think when I started actually seeing myself in my art was when the world around me looked very unsaturated. So I created world for myself based off of what I wasn’t seeing around me at the time. I like creating images that you won’t see in the everyday.
Colour block is one of the trends with which designers have come up these last seasons. You also work with monochromatic clothing. You said that you gather the clothes from 99 cent stores and second-hand stores; but do you see yourself shooting fashion editorials some day?
I don’t look to fashion in my personal work for inspiration at all. It’s something that I can see myself doing though. The clothing I choose is mainly for breaking people apart in pieces not to make it look fashionable. People have told me that my work can translate to fashion but I definitely do not see myself as a fashion photographer at the moment. I can see myself doing it in the future because with editorial there’s a lot of room for creativity. I have shot for clothing stores before, events, weddings, portraits, album covers, and other things. I just love the act of shooting so I know that whatever I shoot it’s going to be great.
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As one, nowadays, can find everything online, do you think contemporary photographers actually need live exhibitions now? Can one see your works outside the Internet?
Yes! I think the act of going out and being in the presence of art is still something that I need and I know my friends and contemporary photographers need. Going to galleries and museums has been a big part of my life and is still flourishing in my eyes. I’ve just always loved the way they looked. You feel immersed and it’s a real event. That’s definitely a goal of mine. I want to take my work outside of the Internet world. I have made a zine for 8ball that was at Printed Matter here in NYC. I am also getting prints made to sell online and in New Orleans so people can have physical copies. The goal is definitely a solo show so I’m working towards that now.
As a twenty-something photographer, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing young photographers?
I think nowadays there’s so much work being put out constantly. I think for some young artists it may be easy to get caught in that fog – all of the noise. I also think the financial aspects are difficult. Like having multiple jobs to support your art. It’s hard when you’re young and still trying to figure things out, figure yourself out. It’s hard because your time and freedom are taken away from your work. That’s why artist residencies are really important, where you can be surrounded by people who love, support, and understand you to keep pushing through. I don’t think you need money to create amazing art. I just think it’s so important to use what you have, whatever that may be, to your advantage.
In the end, the work of any artist goes beyond the professional field, since it is a way of seeing the world. What relationship do you have with colour in your private life?
Colour is evocative. It’s actually seeping into my life more and more. I used to be more into black, white, and grey, just with my clothing and in my photos but I’m learning to embrace colour more. I loved seeing how my little brother and sisters would create art. They would never just use black and grey paint; it’s just so fresh and youthful to me. It just makes me feel more energized to use colour because it mimics and enhances who I am as a person.
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