ISSUE #1 INTERVIEW
Alex Phillips is a self-taught photographer based in Houston, Texas. Her work explores urban landscapes, the uncanny, and the secret life of nighttime. We caught up with Alex to ask her more About THE IDEAS BEHIND HER PHOTOS:
So, when did you first become interested in photography? Do you remember what it was that made you want to pursue it?
I came to photography kind of late in life - about five years ago when I first moved to Texas from the West coast. I was exploring a lot, taking long walks and going on little road trips to discover weird stuff, which there’s plenty of in Texas, and I started feeling this urge to document the places I was checking out. I had this mix of homesickness and excitement about finding new places and felt like making a visual record of my life at that time was important somehow.
Were you always drawn to the same subject matter? Do you think your style has changed over the years as you explore more?
My style and subjects have definitely changed over time. I started out wanting to document things I found strange or extraordinary without much attention to composition, light, etc. While I was scouting weird stuff to photograph I started to find myself drawn to the visual environment of the neighbourhoods and towns I was driving through, the vernacular architecture and signage, signs of decay, little visual vignettes that tell a certain story about the place and what it’s like to be there, and began to focus more on capturing that. At the same time I was starting to get a sense of what made an image compelling and how to capture something in a way that draws you in and brings a story or a feeling to reveal itself in the image.
Is there anything you wish you could photograph more of?
I really love neon signs and other kinds of coloured light, nothing really beats the atmosphere that neon creates, and it can be eerie or unsettling or romantic or surreal. Neon is disappearing unfortunately, and I’m always trying to hunt down old signs and capture them in the right light and mood before they’re gone forever.
Has your work been inspired / influenced by other photographers? If so, what is it about their work that intrigues you?
Yes. One of the first photographers that really changed how I see the places I photograph is Natalie Christensen - a minimalist photographer based in Santa Fe - who captures these gorgeous, kind of abstract, geometric details of the local architecture. It’s both stripped of context and intensely local and suggestive of the colour, texture and mood of that place. Leah Frances’ work was another big influence. She is more of a documentary photographer who captures diners, storefronts, and other kinds of endangered spaces, mainly in the rust belt. Not only does she preserve a memory of these places before they go, but she captures them in this beautiful subtle detail that tells you why they are important - not just as kind of quirky relics of Americana but as a part of the fabric of life in a certain place for a certain time. It really speaks to this sort of longing I have to set down a permanent record of, like, “this is how it felt to exist here for a minute.”
What’s your motivation to shoot? Have you got any plans for your photography in the future?
I’m always itching to explore new places and see new things, so I’m always passing through places that have a strong vibe in one way or another that I feel a need to preserve and share. Shooting stuff, especially in a nightmarish time like this, kind of calms my nerves and makes me feel like I am doing something with my restless energy. In the future, I’d really like to start experimenting with analog photography. I love the look of film and I’m interested in the ways photographers use different film stocks to create a tone, a palette, etc. in their images. I think film would really suit the places I like to shoot.