Aline Smithson: Preseving the Touch and Sensation of a Photograph


LA-based photographer and Lenscratch's editor-in-chief Aline Smithson has been shooting in analogue for 20 years and has never wavered ever since. Known for her conceptual portraiture through experimental practices and medium, her stellar body of work is an on-going love letter to the tangibility of photography. Get to know Aline's art and artistry through this feature.

© Aline Smithson, Cory, Melanesia, Monnaned and Munir, from Fugue State

Prior to her analogue commitment, Aline was at first a fashion editor (fashion photography) in New York as a profession. Having already studied under artists such as William Wegman, Allen Ruppersburg and Charles Garabian, Aline eventually returned to Los Angeles to master her own artistry. Her body of work is largely in portraiture, but with twists here and there. Aline gets her eureka! moments from just about everything -- paintings, movies, other artworks, magazines, from real-life sceneries of both grandeur and mundanity, odd juxtapositions, and such. However, mostly she ends up shooting what comes from the stew of her childhood. Thus, Aline often plays and explores themes of childhood, aging, and humanity mostly with medium format cameras such as the Rolleiflex, Hasselblad and various versions of Mamiya.

Her commitment to film stems from the belief that shooting in analogue slows down the process of shooting with intention. Aline loves to make her own aesthetic decisions before clicking the shutter.

"I love the tactile nature of film, unwrapping the roll, putting it in the camera, and feeling it move through the mechanics. When I was regularly printing in the darkroom, it was magic and meditative. I also feel like the color nuances of film are unparalleled."

Her work-style is one that feels based on history, time, and the quiet.

©Aline Smithson, Geisha, Henry, from Fugue State

In this digitally-driven world, it's utterly rare nowadays to have photographs printed. The majority of the younger generation never gets to experience the sensation of touching a physical photograph. The explosive and colorful world of Fugue State is one of Aline's most nuanced series that touches the topic of photographic tangibility. Aline wanted to create a series that "spoke to the intention and purpose of photographs".

"Fugue State is about the potential loss of the tangible photograph in future generations, as no one makes prints or keeps a photo album, relying on their computers or phones to maintain their visual history."

The creation of Fugue State involved actual 'destruction' of her negatives to call attention to this loss -- by using her own, personal photographs, her own memories, legacy, and work. Aline wounded the negatives with chemicals and then rescan the negatives. She leaves them as is, where the potential for both restoration and erasure of memory is present. Having been a collector of vintage photographs for years (especially the type of pictures that can be passed down), Aline hopes that the present and future generations would heed to this call.

"It will be a tremendous loss to the next generations not to have a physical document of someone’s existence. I don’t trust the Cloud or computers to maintain our archives and I can’t imagine sitting with my grandchild showing her images on my phone. There is nothing like pulling out the family photo album and going back into time."
© Aline Smithson, Walker, Lisa, Julia from Fugue State

Aline continues extends the message of her body of work even outside her photography as she teaches at the Los Angeles Center of Photography since 2001 and leads the fine arts photography community by founding the daily journal and platform, Lenscratch. She has achieved several prestigious awards and recognitions for her progressive outlook and work on analogue photography and the physical image -- having been awarded with Excellence in Teaching Award from CENTER, being selected for the Critical Mass Top 50 and being an exhibited finalist in the National Portrait Gallery London's Taylor Wessing Prize in 2018 and 2019. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum also commissioned her for a series of portraits for the upcoming Face of Our Planet exhibition. She was also commissioned by Kris Graves Projects to create LOST; Los Angeles. And yet, even among with these accolades, Aline prefers to live and work in full honesty for her art:

"Stay anonymous for as long as possible. Make lots of mistakes and make work that is authentically yours, about worlds you know. Be professional in all things, while staying humble and open -- make friends with photographers, they are a unique tribe of seers. Build a community that is supportive."

And lastly, Aline advises to always remember these iconic words of Chuck Close to be every artist's guide: “I always say that inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

© Aline Smithson, Fur, from Daughter, hand-painted silver gelatin print; © Aline Smithson, Shaq, from LOST: Los Angeles; ©Aline Smithson, Daisies and Red Nails, from Hollywood at Home; © Aline Smithson, Arrangement in Green and Black,#14 Portrait of the Photographer’s Mother, hand-painted silver gelatin print; © Aline Smithson, Lexie Turned, from Revisiting Beauty

Thanks for sharing us your spectacular fine art photography, Aline! Visit Aline's website for more of her works or make sure to visit Lenscratch for the daily buzz among the fine art photography community.

written by Ciel Hernandez on 2019-11-03 #people #analogue-photography #film-photography #aline-smithson


  1. belokkiri
    belokkiri ·

    I can’t imagine sitting with my grandchild showing her images on my phone. There is nothing like pulling out the family photo album and going back into time."

  2. lomodesbro
    lomodesbro ·

    Family Photo albums are real treasures

  3. soulcraft
    soulcraft ·

    Amazing work and philosophy. Love that last quote, Aline! Not that it wasn’t on my mind but you’ve further inspired me to create a physical expression of my creativity. Something that can be touched and experienced. You’ve reminded me of why I used to paint.

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