Artist Interview: Alexandra Miller
Get to Know Artist Alexandra Miller!
Alexandra Miller (@liquidverve) is a Los Angeles based portrait photographer. She creates dreamy and slightly surreal portraits, many with a light fantasy or sci-fi undertone. She recently published a full editing tutorial, which you can find at www.liquidverve.com!
How would you describe your photographic style?
I shoot a couple of classic portraits here and there, but most of my shots are very "dreamy", and fantasy or sci-fi inspired. I have always been fascinated by those two genres, so I try to incorporate them into my photography as much as possible. My Instagram feed is arranged by colors, so I’ve curated my photos to shift color palette every 9 posts. It adds a level of color organization to my work. My preferred color spectrum is using teal as my primary color and adding pink or purple and warm accents.
Are you self-taught or classically trained, or a little bit of both?
I learned many of my "core" skills (i.e. composition, lighting, subject separation) when I studied film. I then transferred those skills over to photography when I started shooting stills around one and a half years ago. As a photographer, I am 99% self-taught in terms of shooting and editing photos - the only thing I've learned from someone else would be skin retouching.
How do you intentionally create photos that stand out from the crowd?
I try to have at least 80% of the shots I create tell a story. It doesn't need to be grand or complex - often it's as simple as placing an interesting character into a recognizable situation. I always try to create empathy and association for the viewer, which can be challenging when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy themes.
What do you like to do when you’re not out shooting or in front of a computer editing?
I love going swimming and diving, so the beach is my favorite place. In general, I love exploring new places and learning new things and having weird philosophical conversations. Up until recently I was also still shooting content for my YouTube channel, and we just wrapped the 4th season of our narrative series.
When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?
I go to every shoot with a plan. I know the location, I've probably done test shots, I have a couple of concepts and maybe even concrete shot ideas in mind or written down. I can get extremely anxious when I pick up my camera and it comes time to shoot, so I like to come prepared with a plan just in case I completely draw a blank. I never want to waste the model's and my own time on a shoot, so it is my goal to never have to say "that shoot was a bust, I didn't get anything at all". Usually when I’m out shooting, I don't need my plan after all and I can just go with the flow. In that case, I just save my plans and concepts for another time!
How important is it for a photographer to “connect” with his subjects to bring out their true self?
I personally believe that the camera will always "see" when a model is uncomfortable. When the model doesn't dig the pose or the vibe, or when the photographer is giving bad direction, etc, that what the camera captures and that’s what we feel as viewers. So it’s a priority to make sure the model is comfortable in the situation and around the photographer, and that the two creatives have barrier-free and honest communication. I always make sure to get to know the model, ask her questions, share a bit about who I am, and show my interest in her personally. The best shots I've seen are made by a strong and honest expression, which you as a photographer cannot achieve without some form of trust from the model.
What kind of tools do you use for post-processing?
I edit in Photoshop and Lightroom, in that order, and my favorite tools are local dodge & burn for skin retouching and selective color for creating a consistent palette.
If you were to give advice to a rising photographer, what would you say? What wouldn’t you say?
I am a firm believer in "gear doesn't matter" so I wouldn't even mention the camera, lenses, etc. at all. In many aspects of life, I feel like learning how to learn something is more effective than just learning something - if that makes sense. I would discuss how everyone has a different style of studying a new craft - some learn audio-visually, with tutorials, some learn by reading blogs or books, some attend classes or workshops, and some (like me) are too stubborn to do any of that and only get information into their heads with trial and error. No matter what the method of study, it is critical to find your preferred method, because learning success is obviously directly correlated to overall motivation and skill application, and thus, the final creative product.
Is there a larger social statement you want to share with your viewers?
I think what I always try to communicate on a subliminal level, is that it's okay to daydream a bit more than we do. These days, as soon as we have a free second, we reach for our iPhones. We barely know what it's like to be alone with our thoughts anymore... I want my photos to be reminiscent of the daydreams we have when we just sit around and let our minds wander.
Aside from photography, are there other artists such as, writers, musicians, architects, or philosophers, that inspire your work?
The two first artists that come to mind are the band MUSE and the digital artist @bluesssatan. MUSE have such an interesting and otherworldly style in their musical compositions, lyrics, and music videos that will always inspire me to think outside the box. Especially their most recent album has inspired several of my sci-fi shoots. @bluesssatan has such distinctive way of portraying people that I absolutely love. I don't want to make models look like anime characters or anything, but I think the way @bluesssatan transforms an image stylistically and still keeps the subject and human form recognizable which always inspires me in terms of how I can change and transform an environment around the model in a portrait.
Do you take photos more for yourself—or for others?
I think I do photography primarily for myself. I always wonder - would I still shoot portraits if Instagram wasn't around and if I never shared my work anywhere else? I think so... because I feel like I have to. I've been doing creative work my entire life... I started playing the violin when I was 3, joined my first orchestra when I was 5, and started writing classical music when I was 6 or 7. I got into shooting narrative film when I was 8 and shot my first two feature-length projects when I was 13 and 16. I also created a YouTube channel when I was 14 which to date has grown to more than 200k subscribers. I also love to do acrylic paintings and pencil sketches, but never sincerely pursued either of those for long. Either way - a professor in college told me that I will never stop creating because I literally can't... that I wouldn't be myself without some sort of creative expression. I think he might be right. My sanity may depend on my ability to create - at least in this stage of my life.
Focal Collective: Artist Interview Series
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