Alexandra Sophie is a young self-taught fashion and illustration photographer who has already amassed a huge online following. She agreed to test the Petzval artistic lens and used it to create delicate and beautiful nature-themed images. See her work and learn about her photography philosophy after the jump.
Name: Alexandra Sophie
Location: At the moment, somewhere in the French countryside.
Camera: Canon 5D mark II
Please introduce yourself in a few words.
My name is Alexandra Sophie, I come from France but I live everywhere, and maybe nowhere at the same time. I’m a fashion and illustration self-taught photographer, and I’m also a mum.
How would you describe your photographic inclinations and aesthetics?
Until recently, my photographic style was very light and natural, full of youth and freedom. I really enjoyed portraying everything that was naive or innocent through my lens. I used to tell myself that I loved creating magic with my camera; capture love, dreams, fragility … I was inspired by life in general, and by this strange sensation of looking at the world from a distance, keeping quiet, and waiting for my turn to come, using my eyes way more than my voice.
Alone, with a camera for only friend, I gave myself the mission to prove to myself and others that love, innocence, kindness and dreams were still very much present. A harmonious world between nature and us, where people take care of each other and feel free to love. And then, I grew up. I still like these photos, they are a part of me. I think most people still identify my work with these pictures, and it’s not a problem. However, I am now more inspired to create stronger images, with deeper significations, mostly in relation with identity: relations between Man and Nature, limits of normality, sexuality, age, feminism…
I’m still driven by similar values and attracted to similar aesthetics. The difference is that instead of just capturing existing love and tender moments, I really thrive to express myself in more personal projects. I hope that I can show my vision of the world through my images, and maybe contribute to make it better, would it be only by bringing a tiny reflection.
How did you become a professional photographer? How did it change in your relationship with photography?
Serious things, and by that I mean going from amateur to professional, came really naturally and gradually, like I followed a path that has already been traced. I started by taking pictures of young girls in my village and posting it on art platforms such as deviantArt or later on Facebook. People started getting interested in my work, and that community grew along with my pictures. Among them were people starting to ask me to take pictures of them, who wanted to acquire image rights for book covers or publish my work in magazines.
You are 21 and already have a big community of people following you. How do you explain that?
It is so unreal to imagine that every person who comments or shares one of my pictures … is a real human being behind his computer! I think that I would faint if I had to meet only 0.5% of persons who liked my Facebook page.
One thing for sure is that I didn’t do anything in particular for that to happen. Although photography is my job, I take pictures in the first place because I enjoy it, and I don’t think I ever wanted or hoped to have such a big community. It’s not like there has been a magic photo or a key moment where everything took off. On the contrary, it came really gradually. I’ve been photographing for a long time and I’ve been present on Internet since the beginning.
You seem to have plenty of imagination for your shoots. Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration comes from the messages I want to get out there, from what I want to tell – or not. There are ideas, things I want to express, and imagine using photography as a sculptor uses glaze or marble. In general, I’m really not overthinking during my photo shoots, everything is more or less direct and instinctive.
If you could do of a crazy photo shoot anywhere, how would it go?
I don’t know where, and I don’t know with whom, but I know there will be a flying saucer. Against the light. With flowers.
There’s a feeling of fantasy in your work, if you could have a superhero power, what would it be?
Off the top of my head, I would say teleportation. But wouldn’t it be too simple, if you didn’t have any geographical barriers? So maybe invisibility. That way I could wander in the streets wearing what I want, without any fear of someone making fun of me … and I could always jump discretely into a plane, so it’s a good compromise.
What’s the last dream you can remember?
It’s a bit sad, but I don’t think I can remember even one dream! But luckily for me, I constantly dream while awake.
You agreed to test the Petzval lens for us. What was your reaction when you first saw it?
It’s very superficial, but my first impression when I opened the package was: wahou, stars in my eyes ! It’s a really beautiful object, heavy, solid, which seems to come directly from the 19th century. The lens, along with all the accessories, packaging included, are done with great fineness – I really like the bag, and the different artistic aperture plates, like the ones shaped as stars or drops.
What do you like most about the Petzval?
Its great quality; both in the object and in the incomparable effect it has on pictures, and that without compromising the image quality, far from that actually! I admit that at first I was imagining a fun effect comparable to the toy cameras like the Diana (which I love as well), but it was a completely different experience.
Tell us a bit about the series you made with it.
I had the pleasure to take it with me on several photo shoots, including one where I was creating visuals for one of the main operas in South of France. The pictures will appear on big billboards in the streets, to be continued!
I also directed a video, which I’m working on right now, did a test for a male model for an agency, and a more personal and artistic series which I show you here among the pictures of the opera. It’s with Luna, a young Chinese girl who lives in Germany and came to Paris for a few photo shoots. I wanted to do a series about a natural girl for a long time, and I think the Petzval was perfect for it.
Would you have advice for people who will be using the Petzval lens for the first time?
It’s an advice I would give to all photographers, regardless of the lens they use, which is to just have fun! Don’t bother about the rules, unless it’s to transgress them, and follow your instinct.
I imagine the Petzval, far from what we’re used to know, ideal to just let go. I only used the two largest apertures, and I think it’s best not to use the others if you don’t want to reduce the wonderful bokeh effect!
What’s your favourite picture and why?
The one with the flower on her breasts. I think it’s one of my favourite pictures ever taken. I find it simple, delicate, I like the connection caused by the Petzval, the soft focus, the fact that her face is turned and the hollow of her neck.
What are your future projects?
I’m constantly working on many different projects. Right now, I am doing a weekly artistic collaboration with a national newspaper where we share thoughts on ‘What is the frontier between something considered normal or not’ for instance, and I’m also working on a project/therapy which takes place at the hospital with patients with severe cases.
Nevertheless, at the moment I’m mostly focusing on the fashion aspect of my pictures, on editorials and ad campaigns to come. Everyday I receive a lot of emails, proposing me to do this or that, sometimes with barely any connection to photography. I am quite superstitious, but I feel that if I refuse a job, then it would be like giving a sign to the universe that I don’t want to work. I like challenges and going out of my comfort zone! So I always say yes.
I don’t say yes to all the photo ideas that people suggest, or to things that are way under budget, but I say yes to all projects. This way, I ended up traveling to Mexico, giving conferences in a university (which is amusing since I am a terribly shy person who stopped school before the legal age), translating magazines, or recording videos for photo websites.
Once I’ll be done focusing on the fashion aspect of my photography, I hope I can create more artistic projects, in photography or not, do some exhibitions, and travel, travel again and again…
Thanks, Alexandra for your sincere answers and your beautiful photos!
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