Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Conversation with Alana Celii

Motel, from Odd Sympathy, 2007, © Alana Celii

Alana Celii is the co-founder and editor of Fjord Photo and also has had many curating experiences under her belt. She is incredibly talented and her photography is diverse and thoughtful. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, and she only just graduated with a BFA from Parsons.

Gina in her Roller Skates, from Odd Sympathy, 2008, © Alana Celii

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself?

Alana Celii: I was born outside of Chicago, but spent my childhood moving around a lot. My parents were both born and raised in the same town outside of Philadelphia, and my Dad had the desire to see the world, or at least the country. By the time I was 12, we had moved five times and my parents settled in Dallas, Texas where I spent the majority of my adolescence. When my family moved from Pennsylvania to Tennessee when I was 10, I became extremely interested in the Internet. We lived in the middle of nowhere and I had difficulty making friends, and so I became interested in web and graphic design. I built my first web page, and hung out in seedy chat rooms. When I was uprooted half way through six grade, the Internet as a form of escapism was only intensified. I became very interested in the teen domain scene, zines, blogging, graphic design, and photography rather than getting my nails done and going to dances. I was really awkward in middle school.

Sunlight from Family Archive, 2009, © Alana Celii

NP: How did you discover photography?

AC: Like many photographers, my parents gave me my first camera when I was very small. It was a blue 110 camera with a Care Bears sticker, and I would carry it with me on my explorations of our neighborhood. We lived in a new development, and behind our house was a huge field that would grow to be jungle-like during the summers. I have always been very curious, and my desire to explore started at a young age. As a child I was also surrounded by art. While my mother would spend the afternoons doing arts and crafts with my brother and me, my father double majored in art and education in college. Although he no longer practiced, his works were hidden in the basement and back rooms of our house. It was definitely an influence. When I entered high school I adopted his old Minolta SLR, and created a darkroom in our garage. My parents really supported my decision to do art in college. In particular my Dad, because his job has changed so drastically from what he was once interested in.

Images from Family Archive, 2009, © Alana Celii

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

AC: I love photography, but try to look at other sources for inspiration. I just started working for an online art auction company that specializes in Asian arts. I am definitely not well versed in it at all, but I love a lot of the artifacts and the history behind them. There is a huge reference library behind my desk that I try to look through on my lunch breaks.

Pale, 2009, © Alana Celii

I also watch a lot of films. A few favorites are 3 Women, The Night of the Hunter, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Daisies, Alphaville, Brand Upon the Brain, David and Lisa, Polyester, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, All that Heaven Allows, and Badlands.

I also am a huge advocate of tumblr, and I am kind of obsessed with it because it's a really easy way for me to bookmark images and their sources. There are also some really great tumblrs that I gain inspiration from such as:

Morning / Kitten,, 2009, © Alana Celii

I really like searching through online images collections like RMC Photograph and Visual Materials, Kodak Eastman Studios Collection, Calisphere, and the Life Archive on Google.

I love Google Image Ripper. Whenever I go on a trip, especially if it's a road trip, I will Google the name of every town we think we may go through.

Bedroom, from Odd Sympathy, 2008, © Alana Celii

NP: How do your projects come about?

AC: A lot of my ideas come about through happenstance. I typically shoot first without thinking too much about my ideas, and edit later. Editing is a large part of my process. I saw Jason Fulford speak a long time ago, and he said that he cut up his contact sheets into mini trading cards. I think that was the most important piece of information I learned throughout college.
I feel that within all my works the themes that tie them together are archiving, memory, beauty, and Americana. To a degree, all of my projects have been a variation on a theme. My thesis focused on a nonlinear narrative that explored my own personal experience with adolescent discovery, truth and memory within photography, and also family myth. I am attracted to kitsch, and finding what is ignored, and making it beautiful. The last project I put on my website, called Family Archive, are images from my 110 camera and other point-and-shoots that I recently unearthed and organized. I have this constant desire to reveal what is secret or personal, and share it.

Tree, from Odd Sympathy, 2008, © Alana Celii

NP: You've held a curatorial position in a few recent projects, along with Fjord Photo; how has curating helped your photography?

AC: Editing is like putting together a puzzle. I like creating visual narratives, and I believe that is why I'm most drawn to curating. Like I mentioned previously, editing is a large part of my own work practice, and I think it was just a natural progression for me to start using other people's work. I find it relaxing and enjoyable, and in turn I think I've learned a great deal about editing my own work.
Centerfold, from Odd Sympathy, 2009, © Alana Celii

Berries, from Odd Sympathy, 2009, © Alana Celii

NP: What’s next?

AC: This summer I feel like I've been working constantly, but nothing is really concrete yet. One of the things I've wanted to start working on is my mother recently received a diary that was written by her great-great grandmother during her voyage to Europe in 1874. In the spirit of Genny Spencer, I'd like to put it online as some sort of feed or blog for my family.

Hawks, from Odd Sympathy, 2008, © Alana Celii

To see more of Alana Celii's work, please go to

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