London based photographer Alia Wilhelm is a regular contributor to forward-thinking teen mag Rookie. She took a handful of Lomography films along to a photoshoot and talked to us about the joys of film photography and the trials and tribulations of being a teen.
Tell us about yourself?
I'm a Turkish and German photographer and illustrator based in London. I spent my childhood moving around and have been lucky to live in many different countries, including France, Germany, Senegal, South Africa and the US. I didn't study art at uni, but since I graduated three years ago I've been freelancing in the industry. I started contributing to Rookie Mag a year ago; the first thing of mine they published was a self-deprecating black-and-white comic called Miserable in London, all about the humorous horrors to do with moving here. Since then I've been illustrating, collaging and taking photos for them and other magazines. I love mixed media, so that's something I've been exploring a lot lately - writing on my photos, scanning illustrations onto my videos. I like when two or more mediums intersect.
My work is usually about emotions, which I think really enrich life. I like to analyze what's going on under the surface, using my illustrations and my writing almost as a mirror, so that I can examine my personality and my life more closely. I'm also drawn to photographing young people, specifically teenage girls (I always feel a bit weird saying that!). I think back on my teenage years as this period in my life that was supercharged with emotion, so I think that's why I'm so drawn to other people going through that transformative life stage. So many feelings!
Why do you choose to shoot with film?
I learned to take photos on a film camera, and I've stuck with it since. I have a digital camera and I'm very used to it - I do occasionally use it to take photos and videos - but I'm never as happy with the results as I would be if I shot on film. With film, I really love that you don't know how the photos are going to turn out. I don't like seeing what I have created when I am still in the middle of shooting; it turns the whole process upside down and makes it about looking for flaws rather than letting yourself getting swept up in the process of picture-taking. And for me, it's when I get swept up in the doing of it that I really begin to do good work.
Tell us about these photos?
I used a mix of Lomography film to take these photos - 100 ISO and 400 ISO rolls, as well as some LomoChrome Purple, which was cool to experiment with. My idea was to create an 80s-inspired photo series, heavy on pink and purple, about a girl who goes out with two of her close friends and realizes that she actually prefers her own company to theirs. I had experiences like that on nights out mostly during my high school years, when I'd go out with a group of people and come home relieved to be alone again. I think that's part of why it's so tough to be a teenager - you're trying to figure out who you are, so the people you want to surround yourself with change all the time. I guess all of life is like that in a sense, but for me, it was heightened when I was younger. I wanted to capture that feeling of being alienated by people you thought you were close to, to pay tribute to the realization that there is power and integrity in knowing who it is you don't want to be friends with. I thought a cool way to do that would be to use subtitles so we can empathize with the main character and understand what's going on in her mind. So from there, I decided I'd make it look like screenshots from a film. It was a fun way to think about the project; all the photos had to be landscape and move the story along, as if they were really taken from a movie.
What's coming up in 2017?
Well, I have some illustrations that I'm working on for Rookie (right now, in fact!) as well as a few photoshoots lined up for a couple clothing brands. I'm going to be traveling in Southeast Asia for a couple months, so there will be lots of opportunities to take travel photos there, which I always enjoy doing. (Actually, I just bought 21 rolls of film for my trip!). When I come back from my trip I'm going to continue creating multimedia work and directing photoshoots. I'd also like to start my own zine or magazine. I'm looking forward to it already!
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