Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Conversation with Aline Smithson

Life, from In Case of Rain ©Aline Smithson

Aline Smithson is the author of the well-received photography blog, Lenscratch, as well as an amazing photographer. We're excited to feature her this week.

Arrangement in Green and Black #10, Portrait of the Photographer's Mother ©Aline Smithson

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Aline Smithson: I was born in Silverlake, a great neighborhood in Los Angeles, to a father that had once been a cowboy trick rider and to a mother who was a music teacher. Combined, they were quite a pair—my mother was elegant and educated and my father was fearless and able to do anything. I’d like to hope that I have qualities from both of them. What I know for sure is that I’m a hard worker, love to laugh, and can’t resist good friends and a bowl of tortilla chips (and my husband’s cosmopolitans). And I consider my children my greatest achievement.

A Death, from A Death in the Family ©Aline Smithson

Mother, from Inside/Out ©Aline Smithson

NP: How did you discover photography?

AS: I was always surrounded by photography. My father had a darkroom in the basement and my Uncle was a travel photographer, but I think some early influences came from spending hours looking at album covers. I can’t help but think that’s why I work, for the most part, with the square format. I’m sorry that my children don’t have that same connection with art and music.

I loved fashion photography as a teenager, especially Guy Bourdin, Horst, Penn, and Avedon. In college I had the opportunity to learn from or be exposed to, William Wegman, John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and a number of other conceptual artists living on the west coast. I was inspired by artists that used both the camera and the paintbrush. After college, I moved to New York and became a fashion editor. I worked with some of the best—Testino, Demarchelier, Elgort, Stern, Horst, to name a few—and I learned so much about working as a team, producing a combined vision, spontaneous creativity, and how to stay continually enthusiastic and engaged in the process. I felt it was a plus that I didn’t have a fashion background, as my approach to creating images was more unique.

I came to my own photography after leaving the fashion world. I took a basic photography class in order to learn how to better use my Pentax K1000 and it happened pretty quickly after that. I discovered my Uncle’s Rolleiflex in my parent’s garage, and it didn’t take long to realize that expressing myself through photography was going to be a life long passion. But at the same time, I was limited with 2 children underfoot, and could only find time to make work on vacations and around my house. Ultimately, being limited to my own backyard, forced me to think outside the box.

Shirley, from Hugo ©Aline Smithson

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

AS: My inspiration certainly comes from my background as a painter, but also from a host of life experiences. I keep my eyes and heart open and generally respond to ideas and images that touch me enough to explore them in a visual way. For me, it’s finding simplicity in the complex. It’s telling a story but not giving away the ending. It’s giving something dignity or a second glance. Making the mundane mysterious. It’s celebrating life in a split second.

Not as Interesting, from Shadows and Stains ©Aline Smithson

Father, from Regarding Henry ©Aline Smithson

NP: How do your projects come about?

AS: Anything will spark an idea. I do get a lot of inspiration from paintings, but I also get inspired from the world around me– looking at out the window as I’m driving, walking my dog, going to a flea market–all sorts of things. I think it’s important to have a deep well of ideas and visual references. It’s just as important to take things in than to produce them. I usually have 2 or 3 series going at the same time, which helps keep the creativity flowing and I realize that some series allow me to create, and some allow me to explore a subject. I still use film, and use the darkroom for my black and white images. It’s one of my favorite places to be.

Bates Motel, from Self Portraits ©Aline Smithson

Hollywood, from Unreal/Reality ©Aline Smithson

NP: What’s next?

AS: Lots going on…. I write the blog, Lenscratch, which has opened up the world of contemporary photography to me in ways I never could have imagined. It is a tremendous time commitment, but the rewards out weigh the time it takes—I have learned so much and connected with photographers from around the world. I consider it a privilege to explore and showcase the work of so many wonderful visionaries.

I have a number of solo shows coming up and am hoping to publish two projects, In Case of Rain and Hugo. I am writing for a variety of photography publications (Light Leaks, Diffusion, F Stop Magazine), writing book reviews for photoeye, and am curating for on-line (Fraction, Too Much Chocolate) magazines and for brick and mortar galleries. I’ve been teaching at the Julia Dean Photo Workshops since 2001 and teach a number of classes for emerging photographers. I was recently a juror for Critical Mass and am excited to be a reviewer for Review LA in January.

NP: To see more of Aline Smithson's work, please head to and to read her blog,


D. Saunders said...

I love the "Photographer's Mother" series!

Judy Hoffman said...

Aline is as eloquent on paper as she is in person. Loved this interview!!!

Sheri Lynn Behr said...

Great choice of photos to complement a thoughtful, intriguing interview.

nina corvallo said...

Thank you Ladies--- we always are excited to hear feedback about our content, especially for the interview series. And I think the artists appreciate it too.

Charlotte Steinway said...

wonderful photographer, wonderful mother, I aspire to one day achieve all that she has!

Debi (Brown) Bradway said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
homes for sale costa rica said...

Thank you for your post is really important to me ... it is very good information about "A Conversation with Aline Smithson"...