For Women's History Month we want to have a closer look at the work of aspiring female photographers. With projects like Curated By Girls or Girlgaze Project more and more platforms are being created to feature the female view upon the world. But how exactly does that look like and in what way does gender influence art? How do they themselves experience working in the male dominated business of photography?
20 year old photographyer Marissa Alper, like so many other women and female artists, was taught to take up as little space as possible, had photographers mansplain shutter speed to her and was pushed past her comfort zone too many times. With her art, she is now working on reclaiming the space that she deserves. And would do us all the favor of photographing Trump away, if she could.
Hi Marissa, welcome to the Lomography magazine. Can you please introduce you to our Community?
Hey everyone! Thanks for taking the time to interview me :-)
My name is Marissa Alper and I am a fine art photographer and student. I’m a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia where I study photography and painting. I am interested in the strength of the female bond, the dynamic of familial relationships, and the aging process. I explore my experience bridging the gap between adolescence and adulthood through (mostly) photography, but also painting, and a variety of other mediums. While attempting to understand this transition, I touch on different aspects of my personal life and my relationships with those around me.
When and how did you discover photography to be your passion?
I had always been creative but was never told that being an artist was an option for my future. I grew up in an environment where the arts weren't deemed as successful as academic subjects. When I reached High School, my art classes were the only classes I could stand. I had some of the most amazing art teachers (shout out to Jacob Cecil, Caro Appel, and Jennifer Smith) who made me realize that there was a way to pursue photography. Art became something that I relied on to the point where I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
What would you define as the purpose of your photography work, if there is any at all?
There are mixed purposes for my work. It began as a way to convey things I was thinking about that I had trouble articulating. It still does that but now I’m in the process of figuring out how my work impacts others as well as helps myself. I hope to make my work relatable in a way that other females and people going through similar life events feel less alone.
On your website, it says that your work explores your experience bridging the gap between adolescence and adulthood. Do you use photography as a kind of diary for yourself?
Yeah I definitely use my camera as a form of diary. Instead of keeping a written diary, I photograph as an excuse to delve into my personal life and as a way to keep track of people and events. I compulsively document everything around me because life is moving too fast and my memory can’t keep up. Looking through my hundreds of negatives and taking the time to develop my own photographs bring me back to the moment I took the photo. It allows me to reflect on that time with a fresh perspective.
What do you want people to think or feel when looking at your work?
I know this word gets cliche but I’m trying to evoke a sense of nostalgia so that viewers can understand my perspective of the human condition. I will leave this question open ended, though, because I don’t have a direct answer. I would like for viewers to feel an affinity to my work because of their different personal associations with it.
The world of photography is just another mostly male dominated world. You are one of the younger ones, part of the new generation. How do you see and experience this business as a young woman? Does gender behind the camera play a role?
I spent last summer in NYC and every time I walked into a photography related party or exhibit,it was dominated by men. I was aware of this dynamic but hadn’t experienced it first hand (except for the occasional male photographer that assumed I knew nothing about photography and would start explaining shutter speed to me). I think about this relation a lot, especially because art school (at least my school) seems to have a larger ratio of female identifying people than male identifying people. I always wonder where all the female artists go.
As a woman, I have been pushed past my comfort zone one too many times. Because of this, I feel a great sensitivity towards my subjects and try my best to keep open communication with the people I'm photographing. I periodically check in to make sure my camera is not pressuring people into performance.
If there was one thing you would like to change about this world in photography, what would that be?
If I could photograph away Donald Trump, I would.
Would you say that your gender influences your work in any way? If yes, in what way?
I would definitively say that my gender influences my work. I began photographing because I was looking for a way to deal with two of my female role models being absent for a portion of my life. I feel a strong connection to other women (and non-binary people, minorities, etc) because it feels like we’ve experienced similar disservice’s throughout our lives.
I am constantly working to push past this complex and feel confident enough to make myself, my work, and my experience known.
Do you have any advice for young female photographers, you want to share with them?
Find your voice and convince yourself that your opinion matters. Keep pushing and learning and support your fellow artists because you all are having similar experiences in a white male dominated industry. Anyone is welcome to message me if they ever need specific advice or have any questions and I’ll try to help to the best of my ability!