Alex Stoddard – Interview

It’s very rare to see a talent so young and yet so mature. Alex Stoddard breaks into the world of photography through a titanic project and in few months his name spreads like wildfire on the specialized online press and over.
The project is called 365, a simple idea whose real strength lies in its creation. A picture per day for a whole year, only self-portraits sometimes with guests, made with fantasy and a truly amazing technical level. The ability to reinvent himself day after day without relying on a specific plot, generates evocative and dreamy images that trace the author’s feelings and emotions often in symbiosis with nature, a privileged guest of these shots which is able to suggest us, through its constant changes, the perception of time that flows.

We asked some questions to the author in order to discover him and his project:

- Who are you?

My name is Alex Stoddard. I recently turned 18 years old, technically an adult, though I feel far from it. I live in Georgia, United States and am currently a senior in high school, set to graduate in May of this year.

- You are very young but at the same time your images look very professional, how did you achieve such a high technical level in both photography and post production?

I feel like it’s a bit of a cop-out to answer this way, but it was just the product of a lot of practice. Each time I would go out to take a photograph, I would spend most of my time analyzing the scene, taking in every aspect – where the light was coming from, how the background would contribute or distract from the subject. It was the same in post production. Often, I would find a photograph online that I liked something about – the colors, the tones, the deepness of the blacks, whatever – and I would attempt to emulate it, play around with the tools in Photoshop, until I had achieved the desired effect. Still, I don’t consider myself or my images professional whatsoever. I’m still very unsatisfied with my degree of knowledge and skill, and I believe there is so incredibly much more that I still have to learn before I am completely happy with my photographs – if ever.

- Why did you decide to create the 365 project?

I wanted to improve quickly. That’s mostly it. I had seen several people complete their own 365 projects and witnessed their dramatic growth with photography, and I figured that it would be my best bet, as well, at becoming decent with my camera. I also wanted to be able to say that I had completed something big. Never before in my life had I finished anything. I have a history of giving up on myself and quitting when things got too hard. I’m proud to say that I never gave up on my 365 and that I gave it my all. I think it was all worth it in the end.

- Did you really shot a single image per day or sometimes you have shot more than one during the same day?

No, I didn’t. I will admit that I was a cheater. Some days I shot two or three photographs while others, I shot none. I ended up finishing my 365 project three months later than I was supposed to. Often, life would just get in the way and prevent me from taking a photograph that day, while others, I was simply overcome by a perfectionist attitude that I had developed in regard to my images, and no matter what I tried, I wouldn’t be happy with what I produced that day and thus simply did not count it. I don’t think the true essence of the project is in the amount of days it takes to finish, but rather the drive to shoot and create as often as possible and to push oneself to his limits to get the best image.

- There is something about forest and more in general about nature that turns you on, and for whatever mysterious reason it brings out your creativity, could you establish any rational connection?

Again, I’m afraid it’s a little less romantic than how you paint it. Yes, I am very inspired by forests and natural settings, but I have to admit that I am mostly just a product of my environment. I live in a very rural place, with forests and fields and waterfalls all around me, and thus, those were really the only places I had available to me. Had I been born and raised in a city, I would have had to make that work. I will go further to say that I am very grateful and lucky that this was not the case. I love natural settings, for they are so timeless and gorgeous in themselves.

- Do you think there are some basic fears that emerge from your work?

I’d say so, yes. I feel like in a lot of my work, there is an undertone that relates back to death. I’ve always feared the unknown that comes after one’s death, and I suppose this is expressed in many of my pieces, though maybe not directly.

- The venerable genre of self-portrait started becoming popular during the Renaissance because of the interest in the individual as a subject. What are the reasons behind your choice of working with self-portrait? Did this project help you in understanding yourself?

My entire beginning with photography was born out of a need for pictures of myself. When I first picked up a camera, it was because I wanted to take a new display photo for Myspace and Facebook and all of those other social networking websites I was a part of. However, this habit continued when I started delving into more artistic endeavors. At this point, I was very insecure with my photography, and I wasn’t keen on showing anybody I knew personally or asking them if they would model for me. Self-portraiture was convenient. I didn’t need to rely on anybody else. I was always there. I could shoot anything I wanted with myself without having to arrange to meet anyone else or go out of my way to obtain a model. To this day, I still greatly enjoy self-portraiture and consider most of my best images to come from using myself as a model. I feel like I am the only one who can truly bring the exact emotion or feeling to the photo that I desire. When shooting someone else, there is always that danger of losing the concept in the translation of the idea from one person to another. The model will never, ever know the concept 100%, because it only exists in its entirety, in all of its intricacies, in the photographer’s mind. I do think the 365 helped me learn about myself a great deal. I spent so much time alone and came to know myself inside and out, faced my flaws, and finally became comfortable with myself and accepted myself. I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to do so, for I believe that most teenagers at the same stage in their lives – and even adults — have yet to discover themselves or figure out just who they really are.

- Have you been influenced by some other self-portrait artists like Francesca Woodman or Cindy Sherman?

Unfortunately, I didn’t come across the work of Francesca Woodman or Cindy Sherman until after I completed my 365 project, so no. In fact, I didn’t really know of many professional photographers until it was done.
During the entirety of the project, I looked to many of flickr’s other users and self-portrait artists like Rosie Hardy and Lissy Elle, for inspiration.

- Some of your images seem to require a lot of work to be prepared, do you have somebody helping you when you shoot?

Most of the time, I am alone when I prepare and shoot my photographs, unless of course there is a model other than myself involved. There have been several occasions, however, when I have been unable to do something by myself. In those cases, I have had the assistance of family or friends, who have always supported my work.

- On your Flickr profile you have un uncommon number of comments and testimonials, I think this means that you are able to enter in touch with people’s feelings. I quote one from your testimonials who says: “You pretend to be one of us human beings. but I know the truth: you are part of an reconnaissance patrol from a future photography-planet”. Do you think that photography will be your professional future? If so in what way?

I’m still astounded by the amount of support the online community has given me. If it weren’t for all of those who have been kind enough to encourage me, I don’t think I would have pushed myself as hard as I have to improve. Yes, I am certain that photography will be my future career. I have already decided this, without a doubt. I decided not to apply to college or pursue any kind of additional education at this time, because I want to devote everything I have and all of my time to breaking into the industry. Upon graduation from high school, I have plans to move to a place more centralized for photography and submit to fine art galleries, while continuing to do commissioned jobs and shoots for magazines and hopefully get the chance to collaborate with teams and get some big opportunities.

- Are you interested in fashion photography?

Yes, I am. Whereas the bulk of my past work has been heavier on the fine art side of things, I have been becoming increasingly interested in fashion.

- Do you have any established future project you would like to talk about?

I recently shot the cover art for a pretty big band’s upcoming album that hasn’t been released yet, so that’s pretty exciting. I’m in talks to shoot another for an international artist, so we’ll see how that goes. I don’t want to jinx anything by talking about it just yet.

- You are young, talented and awesome, any defect?

I don’t have many friends, haha. Also, I feel like I’m slightly bipolar. But hey, everyone’s messed up in some way.

- Suggest:

- A Book: The Book of Lost Things
- A Song: “Summer in the City” by Regina Spektor
- A Movie: Pan’s Labyrinth
- An Object: Hazelnut coffee creamer

Thank you Alex and good luck.