TribeLA Magazine Acrostic Interview with fine art photographer Aline Smithson
Tagline: Give yourself and your work a tagline.
My glass is totally full, but I won’t say with what.
Rest: How do you spend your time off?
In my ideal scenario, I would be relaxing in a villa near a coast in Italy. I would have a chef to make amazing pasta and I would nap and read and swim and photograph. In reality, when I’m tired, I lie on the couch, catch up on a myriad of shows, many admittedly on Bravo, while surfing Ebay for some treasure. Oddly, surfing Ebay makes me relax. A vodka tonic is close at hand, and the ubiquitous guacamole.
Influence: What effect do you hope to have on us?
I am all about building community and supporting each other. The life of an artist is not a race—some of your peers will have more success, some less, but that coming together with a common interest makes everything richer. If I can pass on the spirit sharing information, sharing support, and showing up for each other, then I’m happy.
Back: If you could choose a past literary/art/music movement to be a part of, which would you choose?
I have always been drawn to the Dadaist movement and the rejection of normalcy. I definitely have a rebellious spirit of pushing back on traditional paths. Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray’s influence runs deep.
Energy: What fires you up?
I love to dance. I take hip-hop and Zumba classes as many days of the week that I can fit in. I prefer the music of hip-hop and any Michael Jackson song makes me into an immediate Soul Train dancer. I also love listening to the music of my son, RL Grime.
Los Angeles: Where is your favorite place in Los Angeles? Where would you take visitors? If you could defend the city in one sentence to someone who doubts it, what would you say?
I grew up in Silverlake (in my day, it was all one word), so my go-to place is the Planetarium. We used to drive up to the observatory in high school, bring some cheap wine and lay on the grass under the stars imagining our futures. I always tell people that Los Angeles is the most beautiful city once the sun goes down. There is something magical about driving from downtown to the beach with the cool night air offering up possibilities. If I had to sum up Los Angeles in one sentence: It’s where Korean BBQ meets a shredded beef taco, meeting Persian rice, and a Chinese dumpling that sits atop a crispy samosa dipped in all the incredible flavors of the globe.
Advice: What is the best advice you’ve received? What is the best advice you can give?
Take chances. Embrace fear as a friend and learn to live with it. It’s what propels you forward. Be kind. The world gets richer when you open your heart. Be grateful. Acknowledge who helps you along your journey. Give Back. Reach out and pull the person behind you into the spotlight.
Aura: How would you describe your energy, style, etc.?
I have a lot of energy. My husband would state that I’m a tireless worker and I have to admit, it’s true. I am always multi-tasking. I am a very open person and have a curiosity about everyone and everything around me. I think that everyone has a story and everyone has value. One of my greatest joys as a mother and educator is to have those around me rise up and feel whole.
My personal and home aesthetic is more Zen—I’m drawn to clean surfaces, mid century architecture and furniture, and I always wear black. I do, however, find myself drawn to the odd and quirky, so you can find taxidermy, mannequin parts, and things that are off kilter all through my house—elegant taxidermy, mind you, not in a hoarder-cat lady way. I do have a great sense of humor.
Room: Where in your home do you work? If not in your home, where do you feel most compelled to create?
I make almost all of my photographs close to home, with the exception of a few series. I shoot against my garage and throughout my house. I have a pink office where I surround myself with inspiration. But most of my creativity comes from inside my head, not in a room, pulled from a deep well of influences.
TTools: What do you prefer to work with, physically and otherwise?
80% of all my photographs are made with a 1960 twin lens Rolleiflex. For a few series, I use a Hasselblad or a toy camera. I find that my Rolleiflex has a soul and also harbors magic. I still only shoot with film.
Indulgence: What is your favorite indulgence? Do you cook? What is your specialty meal? What is your favorite restaurant in LA where you indulge yourself?
If I could eat guacamole three times a day, I would. I make excellent guac and I’m best known for my salads. My favorite restaurant is Gjelina, in Venice. I always look forward to an incredible meal there.
Special: Who or what holds a special place in your heart? How does this factor into your creative process?
My children hold the most special place (as does my husband) in my heart. In terms of photography, my daughter has been a profound partner in my journey, allowing me to photograph her over the years and knowing instinctively what I want for the photograph. We used to have the best dog in the world—even my friends and neighbors have confirmed this—a beautiful yellow lab named Riley. When I would hang a backdrop, she would promptly go sit in the middle of it, ready to work. She passed away a couple of years ago and I still miss her every day.
TTime: What is your all-time favorite piece of writing/art/music you’ve created?
The series with my mother, Arrangement in Green and Black, has been my favorite work as a photographer. It launched my career and continues to be exhibited and published around the world for well over a decade. She would be amazed where her photographs have been featured: Russia, China, Korea, France, Spain, Poland, Germany and all over the US. As for writing, I’m most proud of the daily journal on photography, LENSCRATCH, that I founded and for the last ten years, have written about a different photographer every day.
This post originally published 10.17.17 and has recently been updated with new photo and links for Women’s History Month.
Aline Smithson is a Los Angeles based artist best known for her conceptual portraiture and a practice that uses humor and pathos to explore ideas of childhood, aging, and the humanity that connects us. She received a BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara and was accepted into the College of Creative Studies, studying under artists such as William Wegman, Alan Ruppersburg, and Charles Garabian. After a career as a New York Fashion Editor, Aline returned to Los Angeles and to her own artistic practice.
She has exhibited widely including over 40 solo shows at institutions such as the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, the Shanghai, Lishui, and Pingyqo Festivals in China, The Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, the Center of Fine Art Photography in Colorado, the Tagomago Gallery in Barcelona and Paris, and the Verve Gallery in Santa Fe. In addition, her work is held in a number of public collections and her photographs have been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, PDN, Communication Arts, Eyemazing, Real Simple, Soura, Visura, Shots, Pozytyw, and Silvershotz magazines.