1. Any person whom one does not know
2. A stranger in town; a newcomer from another region or locality
Sydney born photographer Alicia Rose sits down with Billabout to talk about Blow-In, a group exhibition currently on show at the “Museum & Crane gallery” in Los Angeles. Inspired by life on American soil, she and fellow Antipodean artists William-Guillaume Saussay, Johnny Romeo and Lara Meyerratken reveal their vibrant and nuanced works that reflect a uniquely Aussie experience of creativity.
Why did you call it Blow-In?
It’s a great example of Australian slang to describe a person from out of town, while at the same time it’s quite poetic. Travelers do kind of drift along with the breeze and all the artists involved with blow-In are Antipodean and found ourselves here in Los Angeles somehow.
How did you and your fellow exhibitors meet?
William is a friend and we went to art school together; his use of colour is breathtaking. I have been to a few of Johnny’s exhibitions in Sydney — I love his paintings, and so it is exciting to have my images alongside his work. Lara was such an exciting addition because I had listened to her music and felt like I knew her already, even though we had never met before. Her work is so detailed and almost ethereal, and it really ties in with the theme of Blow-In.
When did you start taking pictures?
Three years ago I went on a trip to Croatia, and something just clicked (what a terrible pun!) I came home, studied art, and showed my photos to some people. I had so much encouragement and I felt that there would be no love lost if I just did it out of pure enjoyment, to see what would happen. I bought an old Canon rangefinder from Vinnie’s and taught myself…so it snowballed from there about two years ago.
What compelled you to leave Australia?
I first left Australia when I was 19 with a one way ticket to London and $350 in my pocket after reading On The Road. I was broke in three days! Growing up in a small beachside town in Sydney (Avalon), life seemed insular, as if there was a textbook life, which I never related to. I really wanted to better myself and challenge who I was, and I think I’m still constantly trying to do this.
Do you ever leave the house without your camera?
Yes; sometimes I have to force myself to not take it because I’ll be so busy trying to get a shot, that I will miss out on the whole experience. There are many birthdays and concerts that I don’t remember attending because I was so focused on capturing it.
What is it about Los Angeles that inspires you?
The people and the positivity– it’s very nurturing here for creative types, and there’s a real camaraderie across many different fields of work. I love the way that people have a dream, and also moonlight in other fields of work to support their dream. A typical outsider’s perspective of LA is that it seems superficial, however there is such heart in this city that proves that this opinion could not be further from the truth.
Why do you have a preoccupation with subways?
I’m absorbed with the fact that people coincide so well within such a small personal space. Everyone seems to recluse into their own little world even though that they are touching shoulders with three other people, and I really like observing and capturing that.
Have you perfected the art of going up to strangers and asking to take their picture?
Not even close to it! I’m quite shy and I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. When I snap a picture, many people smile or hide their face…but really what I saw them doing in the moment was extremely beautiful, be it biting into a sandwich or tying up their hair. If someone looks curious about me taking photos, I tend to kind of hold up my camera and say, ‘Is it OK?’ I don’t want to bother anyone. I never keep taking photos if they are unhappy about it.
How do you decide when to shoot in black and white versus color?
I don’t prefer to shoot in one or the other, I like both aspects for what they bring to an image and its feeling. The lighting or the mood helps dictate a choice. In the U.S. I normally photograph in colour because there is a vibrancy here, while in Australia I mostly photograph in Black and White because there is such a feeling of the elements and a rugged vastness.
Do you use much digital manipulation?
It is a challenge to ‘get it right’ when I take the photo, but I grow as a photographer by not relying on digital editing. I’ll crop an image if I didn’t have the right lens with me, or I’ll play with the exposure if the lighting is tricky; I used to spend ages trying to make an image ‘better’ only to realise that it was perfect just as it was.
Three things any art lover must do when visiting the USA as a tourist:
1. Visit as many galleries as you can. There is such an abundance of amazing art from all eras that we severely lack in Australia.
2. Speak to the locals for advice on interesting exhibitions to see.
3. Bring your sketch-pad and pencils or camera everywhere. There’s inspiration all around!
Why did you leave out a picture of Ground Zero in the exhibition?
Blow-In opened on the eve of the 10th anniversary of September 11, and I was worried that it might seem macabre or like I was trying to capitalize on such a devastating event. This was a tough choice because I really like that image.
On Sunday October 2nd at 7pm, Lara Meyerratken, also known as El May, will perform a live set at Museum & Crane. See “Museum & Crane gallery” for details.
Interview by Angela Ledgerwood.