In the era of Instagram, we are inundated with images – glossy fashion photos, friends, food, landscapes, selfies. An ever-updating feed is a side-life that is never short of new information.
The divide between online and real life chaos feels so porous, and my recent decision to move into the sensory overload land of New York City hasn’t made this less true. In my fresh-to-the-city fantasy (or, as I recently heard it called, “fresh off the bus” fantasy) I’m excited by the idea of letting NYC teach me some lesson in selectivity, strategy.
In the interest of freedom, a freedom where I am not a pinball ricocheting around an information machine, I want to make myself more exclusive. As Janet Jackson once said, “it’s all about control,” and I thank her for this meditation in these times.
I have to learn how to make constraint work for me, and I need some reference points.
Currently inspiring me with her ability to wield the power of constraint is NYC-based studio photographer Olivia Locher (@olivialocher), who makes her work almost exclusively within the confines of her Manhattan apartment. Dominated by bright colors, a carnival of props, and a healthy dose of body paint, her photos are quick to grab attention. Locher’s work takes a highlighter to life, drawing arrows to everyday absurdity—from laws to lifestyle tips. Here’s how she finds her balance.
On the core of her work and her style
“I approach studio photography though satire and a heavy focus on concept. The majority of my projects are based in language because the caption dictates each piece. I construct my photographs to be bright, crisp, and readable. I am inspired by the tension between the comedic and the tragic plus the pull of high vs low. My visual aesthetic references advertising and commercial photography, enabling me to create images that are instantly digestible and tailored for the digital age.”
“I found my love for the studio in 2012, that’s around the time I found my creative formula for producing images. I was always heavily inspired by pop-art and advertising.”
On working in her apartment
“My practice is very bare bones and can easily become a traveling studio but I feel most at ease working from home. I enjoy having my subjects over and entertaining them. I like to create a full experience and it’s very accommodating to do that from the place I understand the best. I’ve always worked from home, whenever I’ve lived in other apartments I’d set up shop in my bedroom. The situation I have right now is the most ideal it’s ever been. It’s also great because working from home allows you to work freely, I don’t have an off switch.”
On how space informs her ideas
“I’ve assembled my living space in a way that allows me to have everything I need. Sometimes I don’t leave for days! I don’t tend to get ideas from my studio itself but I do from the media I bring in, films, books, albums, etc. My space is honestly my favorite place to be in Manhattan as silly as that may sound.”
On how restraint impacts her work
“…I premeditate every tiny detail of my images. Whenever I find the correct model this restraint and control allows for them to simply step into the frame and act out the given prompt. I am positive that this predetermined process takes a lot of stress off of the subject. Shooting my concepts is always very quick and effortless due to these set limitations…It’s always been a positive for me, [but] I can see how for other photographers it can be a negative thing. Constraint stops impulses, some people make their best work under impulse.”
“One thing that I am sure of is that a face will never repeat in my individual series’. Finding the correct model is most important to me since I tailor each concept around a specific individual. I have certain concepts where I can’t imagine anyone but the person I’ve visualized it for. The majority of my practice is finding the correct subject and then trying to pin them down and get them interested in it.”
“… I like for whomever finds my images to have their own experiences and find their own meaning for the work. I always provide a title but I am interested in the life of the image once the title is lost.”
On the bare minimum she needs to be happy with her work
“I am someone who has never cared much for equipment as long as I can produce my ideas. I use very busted strobe lights that hardly work but they do the trick and I am happy with them! I’ve viewed all of my cameras as tools so I work them to their absolute death, I am not gentle with them. I’ve never put a lot of money into my work, I enjoy working in a very bare bones fashion. Every detail and prop is very important to me but I beg, borrow, or create it myself. The one thing I am finicky with is my prints! I print everything myself on very high quality paper that I am absolutely in love with. Anytime I’ve tried to use a professional printer I was very dissatisfied.”
On the future of her work
“I am at a point where I feel ready to finish up shooting ‘How To’ in the next year or so, I am hopeful for another book project with that work. Otherwise, I plan to keep following my wildest ideas!”
All photos courtesy of Olivia Locher.