ALEX WESTFALL

By SPECIWOMEN Illustration SENDRA UEBELE

"I have an obsession with light. I’m from the Philippines but have lived all over. I’m taking a year off to travel and study art before heading to college this fall."

 ©Sendra Uebele

©Sendra Uebele

What got you into photography?

My dad made feature-length documentaries when I was little, so there was always photo and video equipment lying around in the house. I remember picking up his massive Nikon f3 when I was ten and snapping a photo of my bulldog, Magnum. When I got the photo processed a few days later, I remember feeling bewildered; thinking that the whole process was magic. 

What do you photograph? What are you working on currently?

For the most part, anything very staged does't feel like "me". I look for quiet moments with my friends, light in its most beautiful natural and artificial forms, out-of-place situations, and color relationships I pass every day. 

'Professionally,' I've shot live shows and behind-the-scenes for some music and fashion publications, though I work with subjects more personal to me. That's what I'm continuing to work on -- to document my life and share it with people I know and love.

Looking forward, I have a few self portrait projects planned which I'm really excited about. I also just finished a making little photo book from moments in Iceland called ‘Silver Hour’; I’m hoping to release it to a wider audience sometime soon. If I could spend the rest of my life making photo books, I so would -- I'm obsessed. Film is something I’d love to pursue, too. My friend Emma and I joke about how we’ll direct music videos for Beach House together. Hopefully that’ll come true one day. 

What messages are you hoping to convey through your photography?

That you can find beauty in the most mundane of things... that there is a real need for humans to reconnect with the natural landscape... that the teenage mind is complex and profound... that all lives are fascinating... that all bodies are beautiful. 

What is your set up like? 

I bring my 35mm point-and-shoot with me everywhere. It captures light in such an honest way and is the absolute best to capture the smallest, quietest, most personal moments of my day. For some projects I use a 35mm SLR with a bunch of vintage lenses. I have a digital camera, too, for projects that are constrained in time or require me to instantly know what I'm shooting... I have a Polaroid printer that connects to my phone so I can print images on the go -- I stick these images into a physical journal so I can keep track of what catches my eye on a day-to-day basis. I'd love to shoot more medium and large format, too. 

Where does your art bring you? 

In addition to allowing me to show how I see the world around me, photo has brought me so many experiences that I probably would never have gotten otherwise. It has brought me to the strangest corners of cities, the tops of mountains during terrifying rainstorms, into the cars of complete strangers, the press pit at music festivals, to hippie communes in the middle of the desert.

I've gotten to know some amazing people -- to help Elle Hardwick take dreamy portraits on a glacier, shadow Brandon Stanton for a day, and talk in depth with Hugh Holland about his work. I've met some of my best friends and have had some of my favorite conversations thanks to photo. 

What are your favorite places in your city? In the world?

There’s a little pocket of low-rise buildings right behind where I live in Manila that I love. All day long, older women are out cooking on the street. You can smell all the spices and see the smoke fill the air as the older men sit outside drinking beers, fully engrossed in a chess tournament. At dusk, they turn the street into a full-size basketball court, and the local teens play underneath the stars while the younger kids play hopscotch on the sidelines. I haven't gone out to photograph there yet, but I hope to sometime soon. 

I just came back from living in Iceland, and that felt like a three month-long dream to me. I'm very affected by my environment, and to see the sun rise over waterfalls and the most majestic mountain range each day was incredible. 

For the future, I’d do anything to see the Baoab trees of Madagascar and to return to Japan one day. 

Who inspires you and your photography?

Francesca Woodman, Ryan McGinley, Nan Goldin, Lina Scheynius, Daniel Arnold, Nguan. Joan Didion, Salman Rushdie, Jeffrey Eugenides. Sofia Coppola, Sergei Parajanov, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Lynch. Marina Abramovic, Ragnar Kjartansson, Yayoi Kusama, Sophie Calle. Nicolas Jaar, Daniel Lopatin, Devendra Banhart, Air. My mom, my sisters, my friends. 

How does being a woman shape your life?

It has shaped everything for me. A lot of what I make is about the reclamation of female bodies and deconstructing the male gaze, and I'm so grateful that I get to channel so much of this positive energy into my art.

Being a woman has made me realize that I can do whatever I want. The world needs more female photographers, directors, and artists, and I hope that I can help make that a reality. 

 

Slideshow courtesy of the artist.

@westfallalex