back to journal

Alexis Paschal, on exploring people and psychology through photography

Alexis Paschal is a twenty-two year old photographer who grew up in various small towns and a farm in North Carolina before making her way to Portland, Oregon. Currently pursuing studies in psychology, her curiosity in people can be found within her work; affectionate and intimate portraits of people and objects around her. Growing up as the black sheep of the family, she found escape through the internet, art and being inspired by everything around her.

Where did you grow up and how did your environment influence you?
Where I’m from I think lies more in the people I was surrounded than the location, because I never stayed in one place for too long. I moved around a lot, but I mostly grew up in small towns. Before moving away for college, I lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina. I looked up the population size of the town once and it said maybe 450 people, ha.

Being raised in the southeast part of the US was definitely interesting, especially in a town so small. Most of where I’m from in North Carolina is super conservative, so, I didn’t have many good influences and most of my family considered me to be the black sheep because I was more progressive than them at such a young age. I remember I stopped shaving my legs at like 16 years old and my family would tell me that I would “never get a boyfriend.” It was difficult and I spent a lot of time by myself because of it- but it led me to the internet where I discovered art and photography. I was the only artist growing up in my family, which made doing it so much harder- they never understood it. I still don’t relate to any of them very much and even to this day, we disagree on almost everything. Growing up the way I did definitely pushed me to move away and be surrounded by people that I felt actually understood me.

Where do you currently live?
I live in Portland, Oregon. Living in a big(ger) city has shaped me a tremendous amount and I am very thankful for the opportunity to live in such a progressive place with such incredible, influential people.

What is your background in photography and what inspired you to start?
I’ve been using cameras since I was about 11 or 12. I originally started taking pictures for myspace and other social media, then I started taking pictures of bands and musicians. I still remember the exact moment I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing photography that wasn’t for a profile picture: I was probably like 11. I was on a camping trip with my family and I had my mom’s really shitty digital point and shoot. There was this river along the spot we had set up to camp and I remember taking a picture of the water with some trees overhead. I was really into the way the trees framed the picture and the way the light was hitting the water and reflecting back up onto the trees. As soon as I got that shot, I thought “damn, this is cool.” I haven’t really stopped taking pictures since. I still have that picture somewhere.

What do you primarily shoot with?
Canon 1D Mark III. I also have like three 35mm point and shoots I carry around with me for fun.

What and who are you inspired by?
Everything. I’m inspired by every photo I see, every artist I speak to, every idea I hear. I think: How can I incorporate this into my work? How can I make this mine? It sounds selfish, but it is what makes photography so fun for me- it becomes so much more than just taking a photograph- it’s the entire experience. Because I am so inspired by everything around me, it gives me so much to play with. I love to experiment with colors, light, clothing, people, make-up, poses, props, locations, etc. I spent so much time being uninspired and making excuses on why I couldn’t do something and there was a big stretch of time where I didn’t produce work because of it. But now it’s as if I’m seeing the world for the very first time and I’m taking it all in. It’s incredible.

Does your work revolve around any specific themes?
I only recently started taking photography more seriously and I’ve been spending the last couple of years experimenting and figuring out what my goal is with it; it changes frequently. So, I wouldn’t say my work revolves around anything in particular at the moment, but there’s a few things that seem to come through more than others. I’ve always been interested in people, light, and color and that’s about as much as I’ve limited myself to. This year I’m taking a bit of time to step out of my comfort zone and really dive into everything I can- no limits. I’m hoping through that, my work will develop some themes and I can use them as inspiration for more personal, conceptual projects in the future. I’ve got a few ideas I’m sitting on.

How does collaborating with other artists influence your work?
I’ve been forced to step out of my comfort zone and really sacrifice what I’m used to. I’ve played with different styles and had the opportunity to talk with and work with many artists who inspire me and push me in a new direction. I haven’t worked with many photographers for my collaborative project, and it’s refreshing to see art and creativity from a perspective that’s not a photographer’s.

Are you currently working on any projects?
A few- the most important being a collaborative magazine with my amazing partner and photographer, Mark Davidson. For my part of the project, I am collaborating with different artists of all types to create images to be used in the magazine. The focus being collaboration and the creative process behind each of their works while combining it with my work. We’re also doing all of the words and design ourselves. It’s a pretty big project so it should keep us busy for a while, but I’m giving myself until the end of the year.

What’s in your forecast for 2017?
Taking as many pictures as I can. Focusing on myself, mentally and physically. Really focusing on my art. Stop letting money get in the way of doing things. Just staying open to whatever else gets thrown at me. Traveling as much as possible. I’ll be in LA, NYC, and Philadelphia this summer for sure.

One book and one film recommendation.
I only recently got back into reading, but I just finished “Chelsea Girls” by Eileen Myles and I would definitely recommend that book to anyone. As for films, I have so many favorites. I just watched Badlands a few weeks ago and loved it.

Favorite instagram account of the moment?
@cameronjgetty, @agvstin, @kentandreasen, @carlota_guerrero

Follow along:
instagram: bigsaddumby
alexis-paschal.format.com

read next

The soft, emotionally driven photographs of Célia Schouteden