Events photography

Interview with Alice Hirsch: Creative Portraits and Musical Photography

Alice Hirsch (they / them) is a portrait and music photographer based in Toronto, Canada. They combine the best of vintage imagery with a new global mindset of collaboration and exposure.

Alice’s father had an old Olympus film camera which he gave her when Alice was 16. Although the camera broke after only a few months of use, the images created on the camera serve as the basis for the types of images Alice creates now. Cinematographic images have a certain appearance and a certain materiality; they are a real object rather than pixels, and they are not always perfect. What digitally is noise is called grain in film, and film photographers actually like grain (for the most part).

On the other hand, and as an expression, Alice is indeed a child of the Internet. Their interest in photography started with a photography blog that they started on Tumblr as a teenager. Finding extraordinary moments in the ordinary is what really sparked this early interest in photography. The spark remained on, and as an adult, Alice used her passion to embark on a career as a professional photographer.

For these reasons, Alice’s images have a certain vintage and cinematic materiality. They combine the best of the real with the imaginary. Alice still works in the cinema when possible, but also integrates digital into her workflow. Even when working with film, they emulate classic film emulsions and imperfections.

What motivates me to create is just seeing photography break down boundaries… seeing people use everyday techniques to create something extraordinary in and of itself.

Alice is a supporter of the use of photography as a fantastic tool. Taking the domestic, the mundane and the everyday and making it into something that is a sublime and surreal tool for highlighting the underlying societal paradigms and narratives is a force that photography, uniquely of all the arts, possesses. It is this transformation that motivates Alice to create.

Musical photography

Alice’s earliest memories are filled with all types of music and records. Their mother listened to everything and their father was a big fan of punk. This early childhood interest grew with Alice’s first forays into musical photography through friends. Alice’s friends would produce and create small concerts of independent music in someone’s basement or in someone’s backyard. Of course, even with these small productions, having pictures to help promote the show and pictures of the performances was necessary.

With their first crop sensor camera and kit lens in hand, Alice photographed their first shows. There was nothing great about the photos straight out of the camera, but with a few tweaks and modifications, they still had a certain visual voice that was uniquely Alice’s.

Your style is your style. If you like it, go for it.

By posting these first images online and tagging the bands, Alice was invited and had more access for future shows, including when the bands started to gain notoriety and perform in bigger venues. Forging connections early and developing them takes time.

Live filming is a great way to connect with groups. I have found it very easy to connect with groups, but not only with groups but also with agencies and managers.

Musical imagery is as valuable as the music itself. The album art is as integral to the music as the music itself. Photographers and visual artists share a common bond with musicians, singers and groups. It’s all art.

Self-assigned projects: “An ode to the inner child”

As a photographer, you know you can get the job done. You know you can create creative and impactful images. But with no images to display, clients are often reluctant to volunteer their time and invest their money in your trade. Working as a photographer is getting used to rejection. Prior to creating this series of images, Alice approached potential clients to photograph creative portraits, the idea being that they were already working on filming live music, so that would be another extra layer to this narrative. Unfortunately, convincing someone to do something you haven’t done yet is an impossible task, and Alice received a lot of refusals and no responses.

Customers need to see what they’re getting. Alice self-assigned a series of image portraits, “An Ode to the Inner Child”, which they could then use to get paid shoots. Self-awarded projects, including test shoots, and treating them as paid shoots is a great way to build a portfolio. These images can then be used in your own marketing material to approach potential customers.

Like much of Alice’s imagery, their series, despite commercial intentions, is a true representation of themselves. They based the images on their own childhood of being someone who’s a little weird and just a little bit goofy and just trying to create something that’s just a little bit off the beaten path.

The images pay homage to Alice’s experience as a trans person of color. Often times, as creatives from minority groups, we are only included in the conversation for our trauma. For my part, the number of times I have been asked to speak at an event or share my series of trauma images is unreasonably too high. Alice wanted to subvert that narrative and speak of a place of joy and positivity and create images that center the other, but in a way that is more about the positive feelings of what is happening in the pictures rather than the trauma and negativity. These images can be anyone, and that’s what makes them great.

I removed all kinds of inner judgments. And I just went with the flow.

It is important to never let go of your passions. It is only through your passions that life is worth anything. So don’t accept rejection and allow others to tell you what you can or cannot do. Of course, we live in a society where money is necessary to live. But if you as a creative are there for the money, that’s not quite enough. There must be a spark or a passion for the craft. Keep creating and exhibiting and eventually there will be an audience for your work.

Images by Alice Hirsch. Used with permission.


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