METHOD: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

WORDS BY Rachel Fagiano

Meet Tatyana, the artist defending women’s right to not smile.

 

Photograph by Brian Felix.

 

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is reclaiming public space with defiant portraits plastered on buildings across the U.S. Part of an ongoing series, “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” these portraits are derived from interviews Fazlalizadah has conducted with women from all over the nation on their personal experiences with gender-based street harassment.  Powerful statements accompany each drawing, culled from the stories that the interviewees have shared with Fazlalizadah—some read, “my name is not baby, shorty, sexy, sweetie, honey, pretty, boo sweetheart, ma,” “women are not seeking your validation,” “critiques on my body are not welcome” and “my masculinity is not a threat to yours.”  “Stop Telling Women to Smile” has elicited a strong national response—spurring conversations on gender, race, autonomy and misogyny—since its 2012 inception in Brooklyn. Fazlalizadeh traffics in the dialectics of power with her work, highlighting that catcalling is not about pleasure but, rather, control. We recently sat down with the now very-much-in-demand artist (her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, the Huffington Post and Beautiful Decay Magazine as well as on CNN and The Melissa Harris-Perry Show) to talk with her about her daily routine:

 

Fameless Quarterly: How do you begin your day? Do you have any morning rituals that are particularly important for preparing you to engage with the sometimes-difficult subject material you work with day-in and day-out? Tatyana Fazlalizadeh: I’m working on making a better morning routine. I’ve never been a morning person but I think I’d be more productive and have more successful days if I had a better and earlier morning routine. I usually wake up, drink some water, open my laptop, and start tackling emails. Some days I wake up early and go to the gym, come home and begin painting.

FQ:  Walk me through the rest of your day. Your project has received a good deal of media attention and you are expanding “Stop Telling Women to Smile” to be more participatory–spread over various locations in the U.S. You must be busy! TF: The rest of my day sort of depends. If I’m working from home for the day I’ll possibly be doing one of a few things: working on back-end, administrative stuff, or painting. I prefer to paint during the morning and day, so sometimes I’ll wait to handle work that’s done on my computer until the evening. Some days I have phone or in-person meetings, some days I work in a local coffee shop, some days I’m out on my bike running errands. Being a freelance artist gives me the freedom to have days that widely differ from each other.

FQ: So much of your work deals with the basic ability of women to have autonomy of movement, free from harassment. Prior to this project in what ways did street harassment affect how you proceeded with your daily routine? Has that changed since you began “Stop Telling Women to Smile”? TF: The thought of street harassment doesn’t really affect my daily routine. While some days I do take a moment before leaving the house because I know my outfit might elicit some unwanted attention, I still leave my house and go about my day. The act of street harassment is what affects me once it happens. It can affect my mood but it still doesn’t interfere with my routine. Since STWTS, I’ve become more assertive in responding back to men who harass me. Responding gives me a feeling of empowerment.

 

FQ: On average how much time do you spend interviewing, photographing, and drawing your subjects before replicating and wheat-pasting their images? Do you dedicate specific days just to interviewing and photographing and days to wheat-pasting or do you only work with one subject at a time? TF: Right now, I’m doing more pasting than interviewing. This year I’ve spent a lot of time in other cities meeting many women, interviewing and photographing them. I still have a lot of potential portrait subjects from all of these cities that I’m working through. I’ve accumulated a lot of content, and now the more important part is getting that work out to the public. I don’t dedicate certain days to pasting, as long as I’m going out and doing it consistently.

FQ: Your preferred medium, and what you have always worked in prior to this project, is oil painting. Do you still have time during your day to work on painting or has your focus completely shifted to the “Stop Telling Women to Smile” project? TF: I’m a freelance illustrator so I’m always painting. STWTS requires a lot of administrative work that takes up some of my day, but I’m still very much painting.

FQ: You have made a conscious effort to include representations of women of color in your images. You have stated in the past that this is a result of your experiences as well as a way to include women of color in a feminist conversation–especially since, historically, they have been left out of these discourses. As you have continued to work on this project and have conversations with women about street harassment what more have you learned about the intersection of race and street harassment as well as race and feminism? Has this changed the way you approach your project? TF: I’ve learned that not everyone is harassed in the same way and that there isn’t a standard definition of what harassment is. What a young black woman who lives in a black neighborhood experiences will be different from what a white woman who moves into that neighborhood experiences—or, the experiences may be similar but the perspective on harassment is very different. That’s why when it comes to race and feminism, it’s important for all voices to be heard and listened to. It’s the reason why I’m now trying to curate the subjects in the project even more. Street harassment may happen to everyone but the way that is occurs will differ if you’re a 16 year-old Latina from Brooklyn, versus a 23 year-old queer Santa Monica student, versus a 50 year-old black woman from South LA.

FQ: During your day do you often encounter men who are interacting with your art? If you do, what are their reactions to the project like? TF: No. I never see men interacting with the art. I spread these pieces out so I’m not often walking past them unless I’ve put them in my neighborhood. These, I don’t see people interacting with them—but I do see how they evolve over time. Sometimes pieces of the work get ripped away; people write on them; street artists add slaps to them, etc. But I don’t usually see anyone stopping, looking, and reacting—though I know that does happen.

FQ: Some of the pieces you have pasted around the city have been defaced. Do you replace those pieces with new work or do you leave the defaced pieces so that people can see the misogynist statements written on them? TF: I don’t replace them. I let them live there as long as they can. I might revisit the same spot months later after the first piece has gone but, I don’t replace them simply because they’ve been defaced. They are consistently defaced and that’s not something I can really prevent from happening. I do think it’s important for people to see the defacement because it usually highlights the point of the work—that women’s bodies are abused in public spaces.

FQ: Speaking of place and autonomy of movement–do you have any favorite spaces in the city? TF: I’m kind of an outdoors girl, even though most of my time is spent indoors. I like being in the park or at the beach—I love Prospect Park and visiting different beaches. I work in coffee shops often and have a few favorites that I go to. I also love riding my bike around Brooklyn and discovering different neighborhoods.

We Might Call It Reality

Almost all of us, at some point in our lives, are filled with a longing desire to discover, learn, and live in the moment. This wild and innate urge is often referred to as wanderlust, our best attempt as humans at trying to encapsulate this force that pulls at us. However appreciated, this cannot sum up or explain the call. In her photography, Sydney Krantz attempts to further capture and explain this phenomenon, in hopes of providing us with a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to find your gratifying place in the universe, even if only for a moment. While many suppress and try to distract themselves from the call until the lust has quieted, Sydney boldly answers, and rather than silence her desire to explore life, she faces it head on, and shares some of her experiences with us here.

Fameless Quarterly : When did you first realize that photography was something you were passionate about?
SK: It wasn’t until Junior year of high school. It was more of a hobby for my dad and his brother, so it was always around, but I never really became interested in it until I got a camera for Hanukkah or some holiday and started messing around with it. I ended up taking some photo classes in high school and learned about the history, the process, the dark room… it really just took off from there.

So it’s safe to say that while photography seems to run in your family, you took it a step further in making it something more than just a hobby?
I definitely took it a step further. They kept it as an interest, but I was the first person in my family that wanted to go to school for and pursue that as a career. To be honest, they weren’t very supportive in the beginning; a lot of “What kind of job can you get with photography?” and all that, but I think now they’re just a little jealous that I’m still doing it [and loving every minute].

You’re showin’ ‘em how it’s done! It’s not uncommon for loved ones to be apprehensive about pursuing the life of a creative. Of course it’s always in our best interest, wanting something that’s more secure and structured. Fortunately, we live in a time where more than ever, artists have the opportunity to not only make a name for themselves, but do so quite comfortably. You seem to be doing very well, all in all. Way to break the mold!
Thanks!

What is the intended message that you hope to convey in your work, and do you feel you’re able to do that successfully?
If I get any type of reaction, whether it’s positive or not, it’s a good thing. I don’t have any preconceived intentions for how I want others to feel about it; I just have an idea of how I want a photo to look, and work hard at making sure the shot comes out how I imagine it. Of course sometimes it can be a surprise too, because it’s all on film and I can never be certain about the outcome. I mean, the whole idea is to have that moment mean something important to each person, whether they question reality or feel a certain type of way. In the end, the goal is just to have the viewer tap into their imaginations and look at things from alternative perspectives. I try to focus on things that are constants in everyday life. Color is a big part of that in my work; it allows me to take that constant and make it into something more surreal.

Your work can definitely be described as dreamlike. It seems to play on that border between what is real and what is just beyond. Your play on the colors, exposures, lighting, and your use of multiple exposures certainly adds to that effect. What is pleasure to you? Do you feel your work represents that theme? 
Pleasure is broad; it can mean being at home for a few days or eating a good meal, but at the same time, it goes much deeper. Pleasure isn’t always so easily connected under the surface as it is above it .With my work now especially, I try to replicate moments that I find to be blissful. It’s about the little unexpected moments; anything that would be ignored and giving it a second look. Looking from a different set of eyes can change everything.

What advice would you give to other aspiring photographers?
Read a lot, especially photo books; do a lot of research online and get familiar with the work of other artists. Talking about my work is one of my most difficult and daunting tasks, so it helps to keep up with interviews and hearing how other artists talk about their work. Also, listen to your instincts. If you see something you want to take a photograph of, do it. Regardless of what teachers or friends or fellow artists might say, listen to your gut, and don’t lose sight of why you started.

Would you be able to recommend a book or some photography books?
Robert Adams – Why People Photograph

Stephen Shore – The Nature of Photographs 

Is there anyone you’ve met or worked with that has influenced you or that you hold especially significant in your journey as photographer thus far?
David Hilliard, one of my professors in college. My style was very unconventional compared to my peers, and he was very supportive of my work and my vision throughout my last semester. I certainly could not have come as far as I have if it were not for his encouragement. Also the work of Brian Graf and James Welling was definitely a game changer for me, and it wasn’t until I saw their work that I challenged my then, very traditional and uncertain style.

What kind of film do you shoot, and why have you chosen that format?
I loved film from the very beginning and then I received my first DSLR. I certainly used both, but shooting with film simply satisfied me more. It took a lot more thought and concentration and it seemed more of an art form/craft than my digital camera. In my first photography class in college, we learned how to shoot with large format (4×5) cameras and how to develop our own film (b&w). It was extremely challenging, but as soon as I got the hang of it, I was hooked. Bought my own camera and everything. I moved onto color 4×5 which is unfortunate because I love it so much, but it’s getting more and more expensive to buy and develop it. I then decided to buy a Mamiya 67 (medium format) because I enjoyed being able to work a little bit faster (medium format has 10 shots as opposed to shooting one at a time with the 4×5). It was also a better option for my wallet because it allowed me to experiment without worrying so much about ruining shots. Film will always be my first love, but as an artist, I have to adapt to the current technologies which led me to investing in the Sony A7r, (a mirror-less digital camera) Such an impressive little camera, I never thought I’d be this excited about digital!

In your experience, what has been your favorite camera to shoot with?
Definitely my 4×5. I’m using it less and less these days, but each time I whip it out, it’s as magical and fulfilling as the next.

Sydney Krantz is based in the NJ/NY area


Objects About Something

At times, it can be hard to say that a photographer is trying something new. Don’t get me wrong, unique and new can, and in this case are, two separate things. With Philipp Bolthausen’s work, I dare say that mixing typography with double exposures and black and white photography is something new. Bolthausen’s work is dreamlike; in his series, “Monsters of the Mechanical 20th Century World,” he double exposes typography with railroads to create an amazing array of lines, featuring railyards and reflections of electrical lines and rail cars. The high contrast images are sometimes hard to read, producing rather coherent images of shapes and lines, displaying the confusion of these 20th century beasts and their homes. Bolthausen’s work hovers between abstraction and representation, forcing the viewer to confront their desire for visual coherence, while offering an alternative structure for the photos of today. We had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his passion and get to know him better through his work.

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Fameless Quarterly: How does one become a Photographer?
Philipp Bolthausen: I do not consider myself a photographer in the ‘artist’ sense. It is not about becoming a photographer, but more so a melding of the medium to your person. Everyone needs a mode of expression, some people paint and others write; my choice has been to pick up the camera; and this does not automatically define me as a photographer. I guess though, in answer to your question, that to become a photographer (for lack of a better word) one has to be able to experiment and find comfort in taking pictures, it is about enjoying the process that one creates for himself while pushing the balance between technique and creativity to the breaking point.

FQ: What Inspires you?
PB: In overlapping images a distortion of reality is created, the image no longer is a direct representation of what the naked eye can see but transforms into a portrait of the subconscious. The multitude of images become representative of the intrinsic layering of human emotion where there are no clear-cut lines but a fusion of phantasmagorias. It is finding the sequentiality within the structure that creates the image. It is not a depressed feeling but a repressed state that drives my inspiration – the notion of chaos emerges and I give in to it. I find inspiration everywhere; from the papers and books I read, to the people I have met for a brief second. My encounters and experiences has been my influence and will continue to be so until the moment I become immune to my surroundings.

FQ: What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
PB:
The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ergo there is no way to define a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ picture. The subjectiveness of an image lies not only in the viewer, as each person will have his own interpretation of the photograph, but in the person behind the camera too. From my viewpoint a ‘good’ photograph is when it leaves you wanting more; the image has to be able to tell a story pushing the viewer to explore it. 

FQ: What does photography mean to you?
PB:
In four words: ‘Become who you are’ (Nietzsche). Photography is my tool of getting the lines and patterns out of my head; the most primal mode of dealing with ‘the day’ is to find a way for the mind to escape it – photography is my creative poison of choice ut aiunt.

FQ: One of today’s main discussion points amongst photographers is about the use of digital photography; do you use digital cameras? What is the influence of digital technology on your photography?
PB:
The use of photography has an extremely vast reach, for each purpose a different hold on the medium must be had. Digital cameras and their complementary post processing software has undoubtedly aided in the business development and changed the way the world views/uses/plays with it. It has been a cognizant choice to work in the large part with analog instead of digital cameras, notwithstanding my deep admiration for the digital realm. The choice between the two is one for the individual to make in basis of their specific needs. It is impossible to state whether one is better than another as it a subjective preference which will push one person to use analog and another to use digital. The single effects of modern post-processing are not important in my work, I will not go beyond the traditional workflow of the darkroom as my goal is to achieve more than a photographic representation from film; it is to tell a story through the rewriting and reinterpreting of shape and life by opposing contemporary limitation of all representation and letting the image form itself solely through light and shadow. 

FQ: Color vs. Black and White. Why one over the other, and is the photographic process different?
PB:
Again, the choice of black and white over color is a personal one. Using the 20th century medium of black and white film allows me to see and therefore place the present into perspective, challenging the viewer with the unfamiliar and disremembered feel of grain. Lines are very important in my work; the harshness of the shadows in black and white allows me to experiment with multiple exposures to create a new image, a technique that, for me, does not need color. 

FQ: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
PB:
I don’t. Weather is an irrelevant factor as I am not attempting to achieve a technically perfect photograph, my images aren’t pictures of something but objects about something. When photographing I am much more concerned with what I am seeing through the lens, and how it will work with the photograph I have previously taken rather than with the meteorological conditions which are and will always be out of my control.    


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Issue 8: DEDICATION

Dedication is an enormous part of our lives as artists. This issue we’ve inaugurated a new column titled METHOD with Laura Sly, a NJ based illustrator; In it we’ll talk about day-to-day lives as artists. Within DEDICATION we have editorials like ‘Incomparable Commitment’ where we talk about Max Fischer’s dedication and ‘Making it’ where we talk about where pursuing a label doesn’t necessarily mean success for a musician. We also feature work from Jae Kim, Shannon Stoia, Philip Bolthausen, Megan Duenas, Katie Sadis and a plethora of others.

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Constantly on a Journey

WRITING BY EMANUELE CALIANNO

Aways Away is a four-piece alternative rock outfit hailing from Bergen County, New Jersey. The sound they’re hoping to make impact with is as unique as it is obvious. With a musical upbringing in the shadows of New York’s club scene, the band mixes the most conventional foundations of rock ‘n’ roll with the tone of alternative acts such as The Pixies, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Public Image Ltd, The Strokes, Television, and the like. Sitting down with frontman/guitarist and main songwriter Evan DeAgustinis, we look at the experiences and aspirations of a band striving to make it among a million challenges.

Fameless Quarterly: What’s the hardest part of being an aspiring artist? 
Evan DeAgustinis: Right now, it’s all about getting our music past that white noise factor. The hardest part is being able to fit everyone’s life in such an uncertain project. It’s all a sacrifice at first, there’s no salary or benefits to keep you going; and you really have to figure it all out for yourself, there’s no guide or college major for aspiring rockstars. Everyone has to be on the same page if you want to make it as a group, and it can get frustrating. Also, I sometimes struggle between playing what I want and what the kids want. Do I keep on doing what I love, or give in to what has appeal? I don’t even know what people want to hear these days, but I feel if I did give in to mainstream demand, the crowd will be wanting something else by that time. 

And yet your music has solid foundations in rock ‘n’ roll. Why stick with it then?
There’s something about blasting rock ’n’ roll that gives you feelings no other kind of music can get. Good rock’n’roll has soul to it, no matter how edgy or refined you play it. 

What’s most  discouraging about being an underground act?
Sometimes you see musical guests on late night shows or with a lot of backing and they’re not even good. It makes you think “what am I doing wrong?”. The local scene is also really not an accommodating place for artists to perform. Booking agents today will charge ten bucks to have a band play at a crappy venue with a terrible sound system, and then when they’re done their fans disappear. In the old days, people would go out to CBGB’s or Max’s Kansas City just to hang out and listen to bands, nowadays people go out to watch their friends’ band and then leave, and it’s discouraging as a musician.

What can the industry do to accommodate young artists? 
There’s nothing in the industry really promoting alternative music. Most people don’t even know what college radio is when I ask them. And modern music sharing makes it all more difficult, I always say being on Spotify or iTunes is like being on a cable TV show and trying to stand out. 

What is your ideal gig?
We’ve been playing support slots for some famous local bands like Wyldlife and Sponge, or this band Big Red from Australia, and we really like it. It gives us the opportunity to play to someone other than  friends and family. There’s usually more people at those shows too, so it’s always more fun. It gives you a chance to prove yourself. 

If the band doesn’t become successful in a few years, when do you think you’d start drawing the line? 
I don’t know if I have an answer for that yet, but if ten years have gone by and I still haven’t made it, I’m going to have to ask myself “how long can I wait to become famous while I live in a crappy apartment and work two part-time jobs?”

What is it like to share in this dream with a group of friends and bandmates?
Well, I’d like to say that everyone has the same amount of commitment, but you just don’t always know. We’re all just getting out of college and trying to figure out our lives, and we can’t always meet regularly. Sometimes we won’t play a show for a while, and then when we get back to practice you feel like strangers at first. 

What’s the best thing about aspiring for success? 
You’re constantly on a journey. I’ve heard many bands that have made it big, and they’d like to go back to the old days, they feel they’ve got nothing left to accomplish. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. I hate the struggles right now because I’m stuck with them, but if I did get famous I’d probably miss all of it. 

Aways Away full-length debut Some Things We’ll Never Know is out online, with two EP’s scheduled for release later this year. 

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Available in print with
FQ’s DEDICATION Issue


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METHOD: Laura Sly

WRITING BY BRANDON REIS

Illustration by Laura Sly.

Illustration by Laura Sly.

Nestled comfortably in her one-bedroom apartment off of Walnut Street in Montclair, with an icy Amstel Light in one hand and her trusty canine sidekick Pixel in the other, is Laura Sly: founder and Creative Director of Double Stop Designs.

When she’s not creating posters for musicians like Portugal. The Man or designing the label for Coldcock Whiskey, she’s fervently developing her skills and abilities, both inside and outside of her comfort zone. A graphic designer by trade, Laura has adapted to the ever-evolving environment that is digital media to not only hone the skills that she was trained for, but to go above and beyond by learning web design and coding, and taking on her most recent endeavor – motion graphics. 

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Laura, who also happens to be an old friend. Along with catching up, we had the opportunity to talk a bit about who she is, what makes up her personal and artistic style, and her overall daily journey through life.

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Fameless Quarterly: What’s a typical day in your life like? What are your rituals?

Laura Sly: The absolute first thing I do in the morning is make a cup of coffee – San Francisco Fog Chaser K-Cups. Then, I walk Pixel and get ready for work. I also like to start the day by going on Vimeo and watching anything that I find interesting. In fact, I spend any free moment I get watching tutorials or training videos on Youtube or Vimeo, which is actually how I learned about motion design. The rest of my morning is pretty basic: after getting ready, I’m off to my job where I work as lead designer for a local IT company; I work pretty regular hours, 9am-5pm. I come home, walk Pixel, and get right back to work freelancing for Double-Stop! How pathetic is that?!

Not at all! This issue is all about dedication, so spending your day hard at work in order to achieve your goals resonates with a lot of people. Artists of all shapes and sizes find themselves having to adhere to some sort of structured lifestyle in order to support their true creative intentions. Bottom line: you’re preaching to the choir!

Haha, ok good.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I really enjoy working with vectors and colors. I like curvy lines and abstract shapes, and tend to do that a lot with the posters I create. On the other hand, I think a lot of my other work incorporates geometric shapes, which was sort of drilled into my brain with my web design work. I tend to use similar color schemes for everything, like all cool colors or all warm colors; I’m trying to get out of that but it’s so automatic. Typography is also key! Balancing all of these elements to achieve an interesting composition is what I love to do. People often say that I have a specific style, like if they see something I made they’ll say, “Oh yeah, that’s totally your work.” I can’t see it, which is kind of weird.

I think I know what they mean though; it’s hard to put your finger on something like that because its so tailored to someone – there is no word for it. You mentioned curvy lines and abstract shapes – that’s that Portugal. The Man poster for sure! That was something that you had complete creative control over, and I’d say that represents your style the best, at least to me.

That’s exactly what I mean. I don’t even try to do that; it just happens.

And that’s why its your style! Does that coincide with your personality, or do you feel that you adhere to a different style than the work you produce?

I think its totally different altogether. With my work, I tend to make things really colorful and bold, and I’m quite the opposite of that. I’m very timid, so my style represents that. If I’m around the right people then I’m ok, but meeting random strangers and interacting with people I don’t know makes me nervous.

So you’re an introvert.

Exactly, but I guess not so much when it comes to my work. Hm, I guess I never thought about that.

That’s why these interviews are so important, you know. It’s an interview, but its also a therapy session.

I’m going to be bawling by the end of this, aren’t I?

Yep, prepare to discover some repressed memories! Do you have any restaurants or bars that you frequent?

Enzo Pizzeria right here in Montclair, totally. That’s the answer right there. I also like Spice II, which is a local Thai restaurant; I always get the Massaman Curry. As for bars, I like going with friends occasionally, but I’m not one to go out all the time. I actually love being home.

So if it were your choice of bar, where would you go?

On Monday nights, I’m at the Great Notch Inn in Little Falls for their open mic night; it’s always a great time. Aside from that, I would say either Egan & Sons or Tierney’s Tavern  in Montclair since they’re local. 

Are you doing what you love?

Yeah, I think now I am finally. For a while, I was doing what I was good at and not what I love, and now I finally found what I want to do – motion design – and it feels really good. Of course, I love art, and I went into design because it came sort of natural to me. The first job I got turned out to be a great experience, but it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in, though that’s the way it went for a few years. Now I’m learning to say no to things that I don’t want to do and I think that’s really valuable. It’s to the point now where I’m turning down work so that I can pursue what I love. Especially when my time is so limited, I don’t want to be tied down to projects I’m going to work on for three months and get nothing out of.

What piece of advice can you offer to others based on your own life experiences?

I would say just that it’s ok to say no. If you’re good at something, or if you do it in general, people are going to want to take advantage of you. I went through that a lot – people trying to basically get shit for free or people who don’t think you’re worth it and chop down your asking price. Basically, you don’t have to accept every single project that comes your way. In the beginning, sure – everyone does that. You kind of have to go through the bullshit; I’ve gone through it so much. In the end though, your work has value that only you can assign, and if you have the experience, know your worth. If people are going to laugh at your price, just say no.
 
For more on Laura Sly and her work, visit http://dblstp.com/

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Available in print with
FQ’s DEDICATION Issue

Angles of Humanity

WRITING BY JOSEPH CIRILO

Deep in the heart of Kearny, NJ lies a young artist looking to pursue her dreams purely for the love of it. Too few characters in the world today are on the pursuit of true happiness, and extinguish who they are for the limelight and dollar bills. Even fewer have the guts to chase something not economically stable upfront, and suffer the rain in favor of a happy existence.

17-year old Shannon Stoia is an artist of that caliber. With her amazing photography, she’s pushing the boundaries of what young people are capable of, despite common misjudgments about the underdogs of the artistic world. At the start of her career and passion, she shot multiple eye popping modeling sets, parties, and landscapes; with an eye for detail that she exhibits, the creation at the mercy of her lens has made for an immaculate portrayal of both who she is and what makes up her world.

Perhaps her most defining feature though, is her perseverance. Despite the decline of financial gain for freelance and independent photographers, she’s stayed the course, never faltering from her path. We sat down to talk about who she is, what she thinks of photography as a medium, and to get a feel of the young woman behind the shutter.

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At what point did you become really interested in photography?

SS: When I was in 8th grade, my art teacher encouraged me to take abstract photos around the school as a project grade. I did that and I was fascinated by it.

So after that, I used to take walks around town and practice shooting and I got really into it.

 

Is there anything in particular that you like taking pictures of above everything else you do?

I love taking photos of people, models. I love working with them and composing the photograph, it makes the experience very enjoyable.

And you model a bit as well, right?

I do! And as a photographer, I enjoy that as well because it inspires me and gives me ideas for when I shoot my own photos.

Is there any angle you’re going for when you go to shoot, or do you just sort of go with the natural flow of things?

I definitely go with the natural flow of things. I like to experiment with different lighting and angles.

 

If you have one, what has been your favorite shoot so far?

Oh man, I don’t know if I can answer that. I have plenty of shoots that I loved doing, it would be so tough for me to choose one.

In that case, to who or what would you say if you have one, is your greatest inspiration for your work?

I adore the work of Tyler Shields and Annie Leibovitz. They inspire me to cross boundaries and continue working hard as a photographer so that I can reach my goals and become as great as them one day.

How do you feel about “art” these days?

It’s fantastic. Artists have more freedom than ever in this age; and they’re taking complete advantage of it, which I admire.

So you wouldn’t agree with the idea that art that isn’t being challenged by social suppression is dull in comparison to a time period when those ideas were being challenged and somewhat taboo almost? Do you think that because we have more freedoms and social acceptance that art has sort of suffered?

Definitely not. I feel that the way that artists chose to use that freedom is what makes them who they are and it makes them stand out. I feel that disregarding social acceptance can be important when it comes to art because that is what gives the artist ultimate freedom. Artists have to do their own thing and not worry about being judged by society because that’s simply what makes us artists.

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