©Ruby Rose

©Ruby Rose

CASSANDRA BILS

By SPECIWOMEN Photography RUBY ROSE

"Womanhood is one of the most potent lenses I have to look through and I use it to let my viewer share in my experience as much as I can."

What are you doing currently?

I'm walking home in the frigid rain kind of weirdly chuckling to myself as I realize that this interview is fulfilling my childhood dreams. Like once I hiked up this giant mountain in Colorado and to pass the time and the deafening adjustment in altitude I blissfully narrated my own NPR interview. Honest to god. I’m trying to draw answers from my brief entanglement with fictional stardom but all that insight seems to have vanished. In other news I just passed a Yorkie in a yellow rain coat. Life wise -  I'm currently a young idiot in New York just running in this creative relay race with a bunch of fresh faces.  

What got you into photography?

It was actually right around the time I got really active on the internet. I’ve gone through a series of now pleasantly mortifying phases of artistic expression. I was 10 or 11 and really into 18 inch doll restoration. There was this whole web culture that I became immersed in after a few google searches - this flood of photos and youtube videos and creative possibilities. It was a weird creative outlet, one of many I’ve had, but it definitely got me convinced I needed a digital camera. I picked one out in like this flashy mustard yellow and it was my best friend til my freshman year of high school. I went from before and after photos to the typical lot of macro photos of flowers and then to a bunch of terrible mirror selfies.. It was kinda after that that I began really utilizing it as an art form. Recently I began revisiting mirror selfies again, and let me tell you, 10 years later the outcome isn’t so bleak. 

What do you photograph? 

Faces! I love faces. I get this ridiculous spring-fever type feeling when I’ve got a camera and I’m standing in front of someone. It’s when I’m at my most confident and my most energized. 

What messages are you hoping to convey through your photography?

Occasionally I’ll make a piece with really strong intent and I’ll make a bunch of aesthetic choices that support that message, but for the most part the fun for me is sitting back and watching people interpret my work in their own way. I usually listen to everybody’s opinion, pick my favorite and then I jump in like “YEAH, yep you got it.” I refined this technique from years of showing up to class crits highly unprepared. I just work at my own pace, so I turned those really high stress events into opportunities for inspiration. It definitely took some nail biting, but over the course of like 3 years it happened. Even more fun is kind of building off of other people's interpretations to form my own philosophies about a piece. I’d say that’s when I’m really in my element, and the final decision lies there. It's a wicked little secret.

What is your set up? 

My set up is an anxious mess that I'm constantly trying to reorder. A lot of camera pieces, Halal Guys receipts and dresses that I’ve got to take in an inch. All that chaos and restlessness leaves a lot of room for discovery though.

Where does your art bring you? 

My art brings me into the homes and lives of so many interesting people. That's what's ultimately thrilling for me. I’m constantly rediscovering and redefining myself in the thick of what I can best describe as the web of humanity. My life is my biggest art project, and finding the balance between what aspects of myself came with birth versus what labels I can try on and take off is an everyday opportunity to do something new. 

What are your favorite places in your city?

I've got a few weird fire escapes I probably shouldn't be on. Panna II – and it’s surrounding clones – is another recent, thrilling discovery.

Who inspires you and your photography?

I love and primarily practice photography but for some reason I tend to draw art inspiration from other places. I find myself inspired by people doing the opposite thing from me. Honestly yeah, it’s more like the antithesis. For instance, like, everyone has their version of country music, you know? Everyone and their tinder bio is like "oh yeah, I love all music. Except, country. Like obviously." For me and art mediums, that's printmaking. I'm terrible at it, and I don't particularly find it fun. Every so often I'll do something slightly related but it's a special occasion type of Bon Bon. For that reason, Daniel Danger, this nutty printmaker out of Western Massachusetts is a total icon to me. Even though we're on completely different wavelengths, I feel we hold similar conversations with our respective media. My admiration for Gabe Gill, a good (majorly talented) friend of mine and also the frontman for DRMRL works similarly – I find a connection there even though these days he primarily works with audio.

How is being a woman shaping you?

The crux of my art practice is psychological. I do a lot of thinking about the body I am in, my environment and the relationship between the two. Womanhood is one of the most potent lenses I have to look through and I use it to let my viewer share in my experience as much as I can. I think in some ways the need for feminism, as shitty as the problems that required its conception are, has actually opened up some beautiful and empowering art opportunities for makers in this day and age.

 

Slideshow courtesy of the artist.

@cassandrabils