Featured Artist: Yolanda McMahon

Yolanda McMahon is a  self-taught photographer from Medford who describes her work as cinematic, dramatic and abstract.

How did you get started as a photographer?

I started photography once a friend of mine in 2010 got a DSLR and we would go around MA finding places to shoot. I experimented a bit with lighting and settings

What kind of gear do you use? Do you have a favorite lens?

I work mainly with my Canon Rebel. I’m not big into the technical side of photography so as long as I can capture a moment, I’m set. (Shout out to Galaxy phone cameras as well!) Some of my favorite photos in low light have been from a Galaxy phone.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the vision I see in a shot. I have a goal with almost every photo, I see the photo how I want to in my head and then work from there. I love making ordinary things look out of the ordinary

You said your work is very “cinematic” and I totally agree. Can you talk more about this? Are you inspired by film? How do you capture the world in a “cinematic” way?

I wouldn’t say I’m inspired by film (I actually don;t watch much TV or movies) I’m more in tune with music, vision and emotion. I like putting music to the mood of my photos and make up my own cinematic world

Do you plan out the entire shot beforehand or do you see what happens in the moment?

I always shoot in the moment. I wish I could plan better actually

What’s your favorite place to take photographs?

My favorite place to take photos is typically outside or anywhere that I can turn into something more than it is. Even subway stations, stairs and hallways catch my eye. It usually depends on everything being “right

Do you edit the images in photoshop once you’ve taken them?

I edit my images in Adobe Lightroom. I’ve been seeing a lot of photoshop work recently, which has its own beauty, sweat and tears. But it tends to lose its authenticity for me

What project are you currently working on?

I feel like I’m always working on multiple projects at once. I usually have thousands of photos to edit that just pop up in my camera roll.

Are there any artists who inspire you? Any photographers you style your work after?

A good friend of mine, Jen Rose @Jenniferrose has always inspired me with her photos and also due to the fact that we share a lot of the same style.

What is the greatest achievement you’ve reached so far as an artist? What are you the most proud of, and what are your goals?

There is a hint of personal meaning in my photos once I’m satisfied with my work. But, I tend not to have a connection to the shot itself, only once I’ve “perfected” it

My most recent achievement has been my first published photos in a magazine (Visual Mag Issue 006) I dont have any strong goals with photos other than doing better and better with my work for myself. Everything good tends to come after that like a cherry on top

What words would you use to describe your work?

Abstract, cinematic

I love the neon colors of the people on a dark backdrop. How did you achieve that look? What does it mean to you?

I have very little experience with all things photo, as for the past 8 years I’ve self taught myself everything. The neon photos were shot in my basement with a little color changing light bulb from my room!

From these images I feel like you spend a lot of time capturing your life with a camera, is that a fair assessment? Do you find value in capturing moments or memories?

I originally would always take photos due to my short term memory being not so great. Being a visual person and having photos of certain moments would jog my memory of the feeling I had when I went to go take the photo. If it was important enough for me to capture it in the moment, then I want to keep it to look back on.

Above all, I’d like to add that depth is everything. To pull emotional depth is important. Its understanding others, I guess I’d say I connect more in negative space* with others. Creating a very real, raw, sometimes sad, special and beautiful outlook on the world. 

*negative space may sound bad but is my term for the unseen part of our world. Its kind of like that “feeling” in space around us, not us, and how we experience it. It’s fun to build around it in a photo- composition. 

Yolanda can be found on instagram @yolandamickman , on her website yolandamcmahon.com And on Facebook at Yolanda McMahon Art


Featured Artist: Jess Ferraro

Jess Ferraro is a Boston-Based artist, performer and model who works with other artists to “create something new and different”. She is involved not only in modeling but in circus arts and we are thrilled to share this in-depth interview with her focusing on her current “emotions” series.

Top left : Sadness – shot by Jen Rose Photo
Mid left : Loniless – shot by Jen Rose Photo
Bottom Left : Anger – shot by Andrew Veenstra Photography
Top right : Isolation – shot by Captured by Ginny
Mid right : Love – shot by Tori Sviokla Photogrpahy
Bottom right : Anxiety – shot by Shutter Bunny Art

How do you visualize how each emotion is represented? Do they have stories that go along with your life?

Visualizing each emotion has been a very interesting journey. I often don’t identify with many emotions, if any at all most days. So I started this project to get a bit of a better grasp on feelings and emotions. I’ve been kind of playing to how many people refer to them and the other stigmas, interpretations and figures of speech that correlate with each feeling and emotion to create some really interesting visuals. For example when shooting love, I had an underlying mood of ‘love is blind” but also other themes like toxic relationships, fake love and similar things like that. When shooting anxiety, I took from some feelings that I tend to run into when my anxiety increases in situations where I feel like my hands are tied and I can’t do anything about the situation at hand. Feeling vaguely helpless, foggy and in a mild panic. It is all a process of interpreting these emotions and feelings in as many perspectives as I can fathom and working with multiple other photographers on this project definitely helps that process.

When you’re working with a photographer on each image how do you explain what you want to accomplish? Do you plan ahead with colors in mind? How much of the photos are edited in post?

I give the photographer’s an outline of the concepts I am trying to portray through the costume and makeup look I’ve created for the shoot. I then give the photographers the creative freedom on how to shoot and edit the shots. Sometimes there will be a few shots I have in mind and we talk about them and see if they will work with the overall vision of that feeling or emotion. I usually show up fully ready to shoot in most cases, unless I need to change or add extra elements once I arrive on set due to transportation.

Photographer: Marc Klaus
Stylist: The Style Astronaut
Makeup Artist: BaelienMUA

When you’re photographing this series, are you focusing on feeling the emotion you’re trying to represent?

I often try to embody as much of the emotion as I can when actually shooting, but mostly try and express the underlying themes and create the imagery I want to portray ior the outcome.

What kinds of reactions do your photos get? How do you feel about those reactions

I have received many reactions, mostly positive and encouraging. Which has been wonderful, but I also tend to get a few odd interactions when I create some images that are a bit more out of the box that people often think I operate in. I often read the mixed reactions as a good sign that I’m making people think about my art instead of just putting something out there and having people not be affected by it. I like that this series has the ability to make people feel something.

Photographer: Andrew MacRobert
Edited by Pengwar
Stylist: The Style Astronaut
Makeup Artist: BaelienMUA

Do you associate certain emotions with certain colors?

When I first started this project I realized that most of the emotions I had on my list were all on the sadder, bluer side of the spectrum. As it expanded and I work with more people, more emotions have connected to more color schemes and have gone in multiple directions. I also tend to correlate each emotion with specific textures and textiles, but I think that might just be the fashion designer in me peeking its way out.

Describe your style in 3 words.

Extra, unconventional, and unique

What is the weirdest thing you’ve done for a photoshoot?

I don’t often think things I do for shoots are weird, but other people probably would haha. I’ve spun fire in the snow at 1am, modeled with loaves of bread, gotten bottles of champagne poured on me in a bathtub, had my head put in fruit webbing, poured milk all over the sidewalk, balanced on abandon rocking horses in a field, climbed inside of washing machines, swam with pineapples, pretended to eat eyeballs, rode the T covered in blood, had my butt spanked with handfuls of glitter, strolled around a cemetery with no pants on. All things that I don’t find that weird, but other people probably will haha.

Photographer: Ginny Cummings
Stylist: The Style Astronaut
Makeup Artist: BaelienMUA

What artists inspire you?

I have had the pleasure of surrounding myself with artistic friends that inspire me every day.

How did you get started modeling?

When I was a kid my parents took me to a casting call for child models. I made it through the whole process and had gotten so bored of it by the time it came to the casting, that I asked if we could just go home. In my later years I picked it backup as a hobby and a way to showcase some of my work when I was still actively designing clothing. I have since expanded my modeling and honed my skills to create other things with many artists.

I know you also take part in circus arts. Does that inform your modeling and art? Can you tell us how you got into doing that? It sounds so cool!

I am a performer, so I guess I got more into aerials through wanting to explore more circus arts. I really enjoy it and it definitely brings other weird poses and mannerisms into my arsenal. I often use my character building skills to create acts and other forms of art. It often brings a fun perspective to new art projects.

What inspires you?

I often pull inspiration from many things; nature, my fellow artists, textures, feelings, fabrics, the reflections off glass and iridescent rainbows. Collaborations, working off each others ideas, creating new worlds and alternate dimensions. I also get a lot of inspiration from space and my surroundings. People watching also sparks some great inspiration, as well as roaming through museums and other public spaces.

What are you working on next?

I feel like I’m constantly working on so many things at a time, but I have a few things in the works that I can’t quite divulge just yet. So you will just have to keep an eye out on my socials to see what I’m up to next haha.

Photographer: Kermen T
Stylist: The Style Astronaut
Makeup Artist: BaelienMUA

Jess can be found on Pengwar.com . Her instagram handles are @supernova_vision and @pengwar and she can be found on Facebook @pengwarart

Featured Artist: Samantha Marcone

Samantha Marcone is an incredible local artist who creates beautiful nature-inspired colors and brightened up our week with her stunning watercolors. We are thrilled that she was able to take the time to talk to use about her work and to share this interview with you.
© Samantha Marcone

How did you start out as a painter?

I always really loved art, and got into painting acrylics a little bit when I was in college. I really started getting into painting, especially watercolors when I had to take two days off from teaching due to a cold last fall. With no much to do and an unused watercolor palette I really just fell in love with the medium and I’ve been almost addicted to it since.

Walk me through the process of beginning a piece. Is each painting done with full intention? Or do you find yourself crafting new ideas as you go along? How do you pick your subject?

Almost every piece is started with me staring at my watercolors and deciding what color Id like to work with. I usually end up scouring the internet looking for whatever interesting animals, plants or fungi I can find with that primary color and I go from there. Depending on the day or mood I’m in, my artistic intent can range from being as accurate as possible, or more loose as I decide to play with colors and let go of the realism that usually drives me.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work finds a lovely blend between abstract and realism.  How do you balance these two aspects of your work?

By day I teach Biology and Anatomy, so often I go for the scientific illustration when it comes to my art work, specifically when the subjects are things I am familiar with. At one point in my life, as I pursued a degree in zoology, I had intended to pursue art to be a scientific illustrator- this ended up switching to a masters in education, where and I find myself using art to teach almost daily. If I can’t explain something verbally to my students the next thing I do is try to draw it out, and I find that’s where a lot of my practice comes from. I think that also dictates what my subject is some days, after I’ve drawn the brain 6 times on the board in expo market and erased it to draw a neuron, I start to miss the brain so I go home and draw a nice one to keep for myself. When it comes to the abstract aspect of my art, I think it tends to come out when I’m not familiar with my subject, or have a lack of resources. The giraffe, one of my more abstract pieces, was painted during one of the blizzards we had last winter, I had no internet, no good books for reference, just a doodle of a giraffe. I actually think the abstract work takes me a lot longer to paint because it is just so different from what I teach and interact with on a daily basis. It’s a fun challenge for me, and I like trying to change my perspective from the way I typically view the world.

© Samantha Marcone

In a broader context, what inspires you about nature?

Outside of work I consider myself a naturalist, and can spend hours outside. I constantly find myself  appreciating the perfection and beauty of what nature has designed, something I try to reflect in my artwork. I was a 13 year Girl Scout, something that I think made me appreciate not just nature and outdoors, but trying to protect it. I  have my degree in zoology, and have spent most of my working life working with animals (specifically fish and insects) or focusing on conservation through environmental education. One of my really good friends Sam Jaffe, who owns The Caterpillar Lab in NH got me interested in bugs because of the way he photographed them- listening to him tell me how amazing these plain looking caterpillars were. He would literally drape them on my shoulders and head when I would go hang out with him and it definitely started to change how I saw macro universe.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work is very colorful! I also adore how soft yet boldly geometric all your pieces are. Was this choice on purpose?

I love color. I think the color and line work I choose is a reflection of the ebb and flow of my personality that I impose onto my art. Growing up in New England I faced some harsh winters and found myself always looking forward to the burst of colors of spring, summer and fall. My personality I think definitely flows with the seasons, and reflects what environment I’m immersed in. My art in the winter tends to be those more geometric and lined work, with more muted and softer colors. I have seasonal depression and tend to see things as more hard and muted when I’m in those lows that I experience. When I’m in those highs, especially when it’s warm, I spend more time outside and I’m generally seeing the world in brighter color, which I bring into my art to hold on to that happy place.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work appears scientific in nature. Do you keep your pieces more accurate to the subjects or do you take creative liberties with some?

I don’t often take creative liberty with my subjects- I have been fascinated with anatomy since I took a comparative anatomy class in college and have transitioned my observation and inspection of nature to be more of a comparative approach, trying to observe and admire the adaptations that each living thing has that has allowed it to survive on this planet. I really enjoy researching why my subjects are built the way that they are and try to reflect their unique differences in my art. If anything, my creative liberties come in the form of overly bright colors, mostly highlighting the things I see as the most impressive in an evolutionary aspect.

© Samantha Marcone

Is there a personal meaning to any or all of your work?

All of my work is based on things that I find interesting… I am a bad business person in the respect that if someone wants me to make something, almost every bone in my body is like “don’t do it, go paint this ugly vulture that almost no one would want to hang in their home, just because you’ve been really into researching why they’re bald this week”. Every piece I make is meaningful to me in some way- I pour my emotion into my art every time I make it, sometimes based on my photography or my friends Naturalist photography, sometimes based on something I saw while hiking, sometimes based the subject of a question a student asked. I tend to get momentarily obsessed with the idea of something until I paint it, and then get to sit back and appreciate it.

What project are you currently working on? At any given time I’m honestly working on 3-5 things. I am not one of those artists who can sit and work on one piece for more than a few hours. I like to take mental breaks by switching up my mediums and subjects (which sometimes means I have art that goes unfinished for days, weeks or years at a time). I’m currently trying to play around with graphic design, and explore the world of Lino printing. I also have been getting back into acrylics, but using wood slices as a canvas for naturalist based art. I am absolutely obsessed with bones and skeletons and I have been working on doing more anatomical artwork.

© Samantha Marcone

What is the greatest achievement you’ve reached so far as an artist? What are you the most proud of, and what are your goals?

I think the greatest achievement I’ve reached as an artist is having a few people get my art tattooed on their body. Being asked to design something they wanted to have on their body forever is truly the biggest compliment I could receive, and their happiness with the final product is just overwhelming.I’m most proud of taking the step to sell my art finally. The response has been empowering and made me better myself as an artist; I feel like I am much more motivated to make art, as well as up my game and my techniques. I truly think each piece I make is better than the last.My goals currently are to create an educational coloring book, and to start designing a naturalist art clothing line-  there is a very small niche of people I think will be interested in it, but I would honestly love to see people wearing my art. I just think that would be the absolute coolest thing I could do.

What kinds of reactions do your pieces get? How do you feel about those reactions.

I’ve started doing pop up shows to sell my art at indie-style craft markets and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments. A lot of people will sit and talk to me about why I have painted a specific piece and end up buying it once they have heard my (sometimes bizarre) backstory to why I chose a specific subject. One person visited my booth, talked to me for about 20 minutes, then came back with their parents and said “Mom this is the artist I was telling you about!”. That kind of  positive feedback blows my mind. I think the craziest thing is that the people who come to the pop ups don’t know me, and then end up buying 3-5 different pieces because they truly enjoy my art so much. I had a woman tell me that my art “brought her so much joy” when she saw saw it that she had to have it. It’s crazy. I’m still not used to it.

© Samantha Marcone

What words would you use to describe your work?

Naturalistic and nature inspired- I don’t think I’ve really found my niche in mediums or style aside from my subjects, so this is definitely still to be determined What do you try to express in your work?  In general, I think I try to express the beauty I see in sometimes unappreciated nature. I paint a lot of insects and mushrooms, which is not a go-to subject when people look for living room art, but I get to explain how amazing these things are when they ask why I paint them, and I hope it makes people reconsider stepping on them at the very least.

© Samantha Marcone

Are there any artists who inspire you?

Dino Nemec, Laurelin Sittery, and Joe Weatherly are all contemporary artists that constantly inspire me. They all are nature based artists, very different in styles but I really enjoy the realism aspect of art, mixed in with sometimes abstract linework or colorful additions to their pieces.

What is your goal as an artist?

I just want to make people happy, and maybe teach them something through my art. I would love to incorporate more conservation into my art, and help people appreciate and understand nature and our role in the environment.

Samantha can be found on Facebook HERE and on instagram at @birderincrime

© Samantha Marcone

Featured Artist: Kimmy Lola Cunningham

Kimmy Lola Cunningham is a model, stylist, art director and self-described “Sustainable Fashion Enthusiast”. Her unique, colorful vision inspires us to create on a daily basis and we’re thrilled to share this interview with her!

Photo by Sydney Claire

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?

I think a lot of people really place me in one or two categories and that’s usually weird and colorful, and although I absolutely adore both of those, I’m pretty much open to anything and everything. To me, the whole play of being an artist/model is having the freedom to explore multiple avenues of your art and what you are really capable of. The more diverse, the better and funner in my opinion.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve done for a photoshoot? 

Oh man, either willingly allowing myself to be slimed 

or having hot wax poured all over me —- actually yeah the slime definitely wins, it was soooooo uncomfortable. 

Photo by Bob Canto
Model is Kitty Collins
Styling by me and clothing provided by Great Eastern Trading Company

Do you approach a photoshoot differently when you model versus when you are the stylist?

That’s a great question! I approach things a little bit differently but not by much. My styling is very niché and almost all the outfits I create for photographers and models are ones I’d wear on a daily basis haha. I definitely try to consider other models though when they wear my outfits, like is it 20 degrees out? Okay — how can we still make them warm but still look effortless and fun? Where as if I’m modeling and styling myself I’m way less thoughtful and will allow myself to freeze if it’s for the art. Probably not the best idea…

Photo by Chorale Miles for Verb Hotel

What things do you look for in a photographer when you plan a shoot?

I shoot with people who are generally open minded to sharing concepts. As much as I love modeling, I also love being able to collaborate first hand with the photographer on ideas and also being a ‘director’. Some of my best shoots are with people who are willing to just explore and bounce off of ideas with each other. I appreciate people who can direct me when needed but still let me do my own thang rather than just trying to tell me what I should do for everything. Not that this style of shooting isn’t acceptable or anything, but it just makes me personally feel less comfortable and less creative. 

How did you get started as a model? 

Kind of by accident! I was just doing this fun side project where I was documenting my fashion outfits in my upstairs apartment hallway, and then one day my best friend and model Grace asked if I wanted to shoot at a carnival with her and my friend Jaina, and ever since then, things were never the same again! I fell in love with the characters I could put on and the play of emotion you can really capture within a photo. Like hey! That’s my face — I did that! 

Photo by Paige Miller
partial clothing provided by Lucy in Disguise

I love how unique your work is, how do you feel you fit into the overall trend of modern day fashion photography?

Thank you! 

I’m not too sure honestly. I definitely don’t disregard fashion trends or anything, but I do try to stay authentic to myself and what my specific taste and vision is and I hope that shows within my art. I really like doing avant-garde shoots and editorial work that kind of bends people’s brains in half because they have to try to make sense of what’s going on in the photo. I think Fashion can sometimes be taken too seriously and being able to make it even weirder than it already is, is definitely my ultimate goal.

I also have been trying to involve more vintage and second-hand clothing within my styling and modeling shoots because it’s an awkward topic that we ignore in America. Fast fashion is dangerous for many reasons but a few to name as that the people who make your clothes are treated and paid horrifically unfairly. Fast fashion also minimizes local designer’s and shop’s hard work and creations, and additionally it wastes so much material and is a further contribution to pollution. Honestly, shopping green, local and second hand too is great because you save so much more money and feel like you’re doing something to help benefit your society while still looking fabulous! 

Photo by David Morales

Do you think there is an art/fashion “scene” in Boston?

I believe in the last few years it has definitely grown from like 2% to 5% out of 100%, but we still have a long ways to go and I don’t think we will ever be like NY. I don’t see anyone pushing the boundaries. People are too scared to truly express themselves and cause a scene or stir, fashion-wise.

My favorite fashion icons in Boston are usually people who own vintage stores because I feel like they get it and I appreciate them for keeping alive quality made, one of a kind pieces! 

How do you plan out a shoot? Are there poses, compositions or scenes you plan out beforehand?

It really depended on the photographer and how they like to work! I generally like to at-least have an idea or concept or come up with them on my own that way I can piece a look together. But once I have that outfit on or a prop in my hand, the rest just falls into place. Sometimes I like to think of a back story so I can get myself into a state of mind of what this person would be like in real life, and I think that usually really helps aid me in my expressions and poses. 

Photo and set design by Ally Shcmaling

I love your use of color in your work (The all yellow piece is amazing), are you conscious of this before you start working? Do you specifically work with photographers who use bright colors?

Yeah, Ally Shcmaling is an absolute blessing to this artistic community! But no, I don’t usually seek out people who work with color, they seek out me because of my hair, I think! Which is pretty cool, because sometimes people can get a little terrified of color, I’m not sure why, but I love how it can really evoke so much emotion. 

Photo by David Morales

Are there any artists who inspire you?

Literally like every artist in the Boston community! We’ve grown SO much these past three to four years it’s insane and so exciting!

On a grander level by biggest inspiration is Nadia Lee Cohen. Like if I could marry her I probably would just because I think she is the coolest person alive. Everything she does blows me away. 

Kimmy can be found on instagram @holalalalola and online at https://kimmylolacunningham.com/.

Featured Artist: Seosamh (Saint Vagrant)

Seosamh, or Saint Vagrant, is a trans author and illustrator living in Central MA. He works with his partner, Anka on incredible sci-fi comic series SUPERPOSE. SUPERPOSE is an entirely self-published project focusing on quantum physics, glitches, trauma, and identity. Seosamh also does beautiful paintings and we are so grateful that he was willing to share some of his work and to talk with us about his process, thoughts and ideas.

How did you get interested in comics? Is there a specific artist or writer who inspires you?

I grew up reading Tin Tin and the Pokemon Adventure comics, Calvin and Hobbes, Sandman… but it was when I found team anthologies and companies like Oni or Image, producing totally different and very emotional work, that cemented in me that maybe it was actually possible to create this stuff myself, and that approaching it differently from what I’d seen before wasn’t some sort of cardinal sin. I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a turncoat, but I was initially (and still am) inspired by cinematography, and timing, from film. I think I still am in a lot of ways, and I try to translate that inspiration to visual art without making it static.  Really, it was manga and webcomics as a memorable and viable medium that changed my life and career path.  I wasn’t sure I’d ever do comics.  There are a lot of stories that may not have ever existed without the push for this, and I’m really lucky to be in leagues with the creators. I’m still experimenting! I definitely don’t approach every story with the same process or product. 

My favourite manga-ka is Hirohiko Araki; I admire his ability to craft a world and keep it going for… 30 years, always introducing something new and always very open about reflecting on his relationship with his work.  My favourite webcomic… I have many, but a big one is Brainchild by Suzanne Geary (which even takes place in the Boston area.)  Other artists/authors who inspire me are F. Choo, Katie O’Neill, Toril Orlesky, Kam “Mars” Heyward, Taneka Stotts, Michelle Perez, Reimena Yee, Higu Rose, Otava Heikkilä, Rami Lehkonen… many more! I’m non-stop inspired by my partner Anka as well, the way they think and approach stories/characters/the world makes me think and explore in brand new ways.

 ©Saint Vagrant

To me it seems that the people pictured in your paintings are characters in a story, they have so much personality. When you go to create a painting do you create or invent stories around these characters?

 Some of them are from stories (Superpose or otherwise) and many of them are me, and many of them are strangers.  People I could know, or maybe never could.  It’s hard not to imagine lives or circumstances for them, especially when painting traditionally since it’s such a physical and in that way an almost intimate process, if that makes sense.  But I try to keep some distance, too, if I don’t know them.  I’m happy to hear that a personality shows through!  The paintings are definitely to provide a space where the subject is comfortable, even if relative to whatever story might be hinted.


 ©Saint Vagrant

How do you feel your work fits into modern day pop/counter culture?

 As far as fitting in goes, I’m not sure how objective I can be– sometimes I think my work is still kind of niche, in that it layers niche on top of niche. But I also know I’m in good company– I’m lucky to be surrounded by friends and people I admire, and our interests/needs may veer slightly from pop culture or even counter-culture as a block. I do know independent and small-press work, and the people represented by/in that work, have found more footing now, so I think I fit into that in terms of who’s telling and reading stories, merging genres and reinventing what can be done with them. People making/seeking out this work isn’t new, but it’s above ground now. There’s also the cycle of resurgence of nostalgic themes and concepts, complete with elaborate neon colour grading, to play off a real or imagined collective memory… that concept alone is really interesting to me (inventing memories) so maybe my work fits into that movement.

“Listless July”
 ©Saint Vagrant

In your comic, Superpose, do you work on writing the story as well as drawing it? What kind of input do you and your partner have? How did you initially come up with the concept?

Yes! We write and draw it entirely together. (We live together, which makes it easier.)  We came up with it having both just graduated from school, figuring ourselves out, and reevaulating what we find important in storytelling. The break from school meant gathering up everything we put on hold or discovered in that time, which ended up being: our own lives/childhoods (we both spent them on various shores,) those of new friends, and the media we like, have always liked, and finding more of it to feed us. 

 We watched all of Miami Vice and read all of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, a manga series by Hirohiko Araki, and presented on it at Anime Boston 2016, focusing on its legacy and art history. We realised we were dedicating a lot of time and attention to this thing we ultimately couldn’t do much with, and we’re both driven people with a desire to make earnest and productive narratives. So as soon as I asked my partner if they wanted to create a project/world with me, one we could actually affect and build ourselves, it went pretty fast: the original idea was implanted in December 2015, we made what was supposed to stay a simple zine in February-March 2016, and we launched the comic in May 2016.  


 ©Saint Vagrant

I love how the website and all associated media for the comic are hosted on old-school websites, it reminds me of internet in the 90’s! Is there something aesthetically or otherwise that draws you to that period of time?

Thank you!! This is a bit of a spoiler but the comic takes place over… some amount of time, starting off in the early 80s, but not staying there. The website design is meant to reflect this, and has many hidden treasures ;^) So I’m excited to hear it jogs personal memory! My formative internet looked like that, I even built a few geocities sites in middle school. It’s so visceral. I talked about inventing memories or tapping into a collective memory, and that’s really the motivation. There’s a generation who grew up totally separated from the hands-on experience of this, and yet due to resurgences, find themselves being a part of what came before them. The fake-real we build, we want it to be like what you might find on a blank VHS tape at a liquidation sale.

If I can plug, I’m extremely inspired by the work of Olia Lialina, who in addition to being an artist herself (and has been using web-based/hypertext since its inception) maintains the Geocities Archive. In 2018, we went to the ICA for their “Art In The Age Of The Internet” exhibition, which was deeply inspiring and validating in terms of the work we do. Olia’s “My Boyfriend Came Back From The War” was in show, a narrative piece, and an installation, since it’s inside a Netscape browser on– I think– an old Gateway desktop. It has to be shown that way. I mean, it has to. The experience would be so different otherwise, tapping into something completely different.

If I had my way… well. Superpose is actually in part shown through similar means. We make physical items from its time– or somewhere else– and send them off to people. I only found out last year (talking to the partner of a MIT lecturer, the lecturer being Shariann Lewitt who specialises in the subject) that the word for this is “transmedia.” That’s fitting on a few levels.

superpose goods.png

Do you find elements of the character of Rafael reflect some of your experiences as a trans man? Are any storylines inspired by your own experiences?

Oh, for sure… this work isn’t meant to be autobiographical or even biographical, everything in it is a total amalgam of many many other things, people, experiences, and Rafael isn’t an analogue for myself. I’m not at all qualified to tell too real/biographical a story, for all kinds of reasons. For one, I’m white, so Rafael’s racial/cultural background is something built from the guidance and experiences of other people. In other respects, parts of me do show up, bluntly or vague. Not committing to neatness about some aspects is, I think/hope, also fair representation, with the goal of portraying how hard it is to know what you feel or how to react in the moment.

Rafael is transitioning around people, hasn’t and may never have surgery, he has his documents changed during the story. With his transition being public, people react aggressively, with entitlement, or they pointedly ignore and neglect him. I do really relate to the pressure of needing to be “the best version” of __, in this case a trans person, in order to keep the peace and be safe. But the pressure to keep ones head down and not make a fuss isn’t safe, that’s still a thing being done to you, and for some (like me) passing as cis is impossible. Rafael’s also gay, and for me that’s been invalidated along the lines of “well if you’re a gay trans boy, why can’t you be a straight girl? Why can’t you be a lesbian?” like people beg for this to make sense in the narrow way they understand it, they need it to look like what they want, and will enforce it. A challenging moment is when Rafael hooks up with a guy when he (Rafael) isn’t in the best state, and it’s almost something, but then the guy’s pretty uh… mean. And it’s unfortunate but when I was young, even mixed or negative attention felt like proof of existence when living in a haze. It wasn’t a good thing, but it was a thing, it happened. However, on a positive front, I also relate to finding myself through things unrelated to cis-passing or at all cis-centred standards. “Man” is such a loaded term for some and I have no interest in fulfilling the expectations attached to it. Many of my trans man/masc friends feel the same.

There’s a lot of pressure to write only the most diplomatic narratives about trans people, like it has to be didactic and clean and relatable to a cis audience, or a het audience, a thin audience, a white audience that values and trusts themselves as the default and does no diligence to correct it, unwilling to either relate or respect other lives, and take it personally that a piece doesn’t centre their comfort. My pieces don’t always centre my own comfort! Fiction has been a carefully-considered cushion, or, map-making in real-time to understand experiences and concepts I didn’t previously have perspective for… it’s a place to put things, it’s an ongoing process. It’s not supposed to be a vacation for people who don’t want to do the work.

I want to share these considerations/journeys with people who feel it, and that’s absolutely not everybody. I’m in my stories, but they’re not about me. All of my stories feature trans people no matter what the story itself is about, and SUPERPOSE is still a sci-fi, with increasing unreal elements.


 ©Saint Vagrant

How do you start world building for your comic? There are so many details in the world and characters that add a lot of texture and feeling of “reality” to your story!

 Oh man, that’s so awesome to hear!  Yeah, it’s like setting up a sandbox to play around in… for SUPERPOSE, the characters came first, but even as we were developing them, Anka and I were both living in a coastal town and working overnights. We wanted to capture that bizarro-world feeling where everyone’s made honest by the witching hour versions of ourselves. I want to create a… fake-real reality, a merging of places that maybe can’t be pinned down to one particular place, but a place you know.  You can recognise certain parts of it, like migraine-inducing fluorescent or thirsty crabgrass, grainy Sanyo flip phone photos, squeaky wet flip-flops… it’s all super sensory to me even though it’s flat images, so I want to share that.  The more “believable” some of it is, despite its cartooniness, the freakier I hope the unreal parts will be. The people, too, are like this, I hope they feel like people you could know, but maybe never quite did, or you had a really personal moment during a party where you both spilled your guts, had a tender time of it, and never talked again until you hear a weird rumour about them and defend them on principle.


 ©Saint Vagrant

Did formally studying art affect how you work, or how you define yourself as an artist? Did you find that time valuable?

 I have mixed feelings about it. I did very well in school, and it allowed me to escape from where I was before. But this also came with constant misgendering and even arguments about my identity, little consideration for mental illness or for people of dissimilar backgrounds/circumstances to the status quo, a lot of administrative gaslighting, loads of debt… so it’s hard.  I’m grateful to have had 4+ years to make work, to touch base with and expand on my values, to meet my partner and many of my closest friends. I had to fight to be taken seriously in some respects, which I don’t think is a necessity in academia.  Every year, more and more people are being hired for incredible jobs and starting amazing self-driven careers without school, and I think that’s something institutions themselves should also acknowledge as being totally viable.

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

 All I know is that I get personal responses/messages from other trans people of various backgrounds/experiences, in all stages of transition, whether they’ve come out or not, going out of their way to say touching things about what my art means to them.  I had more reach and more opportunities a few years ago when my work had less of a so-called “narrow” focus, but not only do I feel better about it now, I feel better about the way people approach and talk about it. When there are negative or questioning reactions to it, I do whatever I can to understand where someone’s coming from, and figure out what I can improve on, or whether or not it’s a unique personal reaction and not something I alone can fully take on/dismantle.  The difference there can be hard to gauge, so at the very least, I aim for compromise.

Uh, SUPERPOSE was recently the subject of a presentation at High/Low, the Film & Media Graduate Student Conference at UC Berkeley.  Tony Wei Ling, the presenter, has also written about SUPERPOSE for two other publications (Lady Science and WWAC.)  It was also nominated for a PRISM Award for Excellence in LGBTQ Comics.  So… I guess as far as reactions go, that’s pretty intense. Sometimes I lose my own place, like, so much of this is about an individual’s relationship to my work, and just making the work doesn’t guarantee me access to that experience.  So I’m grateful when I get to hear about these reactions– positive or negative.  Someone letting me into their emotional space is a huge act of generosity and I’m moved to respond in kind.

 ©Saint Vagrant

You mentioned your non-comics art has a goal of “Dignifying queer people” Can you explain what you mean by that and give an example of how you’ve achieved that in one of your works?

 Maybe that’s the wrong wording, but essentially what I mean is not only make up for time I lost to curating my work to a vague audience, and bring queer and trans people into art/genres/stories where they’ve been frequently excluded.  I want to portray various lives and presentations as being valid whether I relate to them or not.  A lot of things have felt very off-limits to me for a long time, like being scrutinised for my choices to include queer and trans people in genre fiction, or for my approach to even writing/drawing being trans. My personal work has focused on using traditions of iconography, loosening the more churchy grasp there (the church has no interest in what I do, haha) and instead utilise a more general idea of iconography– to perpetuate the importance of a life, rendered in a way and with imagery meant to inspire. (I completely understand another trans person wanting to hold themselves far away from even the mere themes of any religion which ostracises them, so this work, like everything else, is more an exploration of/for myself and whoever feels similar.)

For a really exaggerated example, I recently I participated in a show by Light Grey Art Lab (in Minneapolis) called “TASTEFUL NUDES”, and created the following gouache painting, titled SACRED HEART. I used motifs from a carpet page in The Book of Kells, sacred heart imagery, sticky rhinestones mimicking Mater Dolorosa, and with a mood to resemble The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.  But it’s a self-portrait, the figure is transgender, euphoric in the maybe-painful sense of total unity of mind and body.  

sacred heart.png
©Saint Vagrant

What is your goal as an artist?

I want to make very honest, heartfelt work that honours the complexity in trans/queer lives rather than remaining in super-simple territory.  Right now, SUPERPOSE is the largest project I have going, but it’s nowhere near the only one I have planned.  I want to do a lot more personal exploration too, delving into my history while still using fiction to navigate it.  I hope to do more residencies and gallery work and experiment with other, bigger mediums

“Dreamy Memories of the 80’s”
©Saint Vagrant

Seosamh can be found at saint-vagrant.com and on twitter/instagram as @saint_vagrant.

SUPERPOSE can be read online at superposecomic.com (rated 16+)

Featured Artist: Jaina Cipriano

Self-Portrait ©Jaina Cipriano

What kinds of reactions do your photos get? How do you feel about those reactions.

A friend who came to my last solo show told me she’d had a dream that mixed several elements from my photographs. Gut reactions like this are my favorite. I want to get in your head. I want to remind you of something you’ve forgotten.

One of the things that sparked my interest in your photography was the emotion portrayed in the models and how much energy and movement they have. How do you work with models to achieve those elements? How do you find models willing to get into that state of mind?

I’ve carved enough of a niche out that models who want to experience their emotions in front of a camera actively seek me out. This rawness and authenticity is achieved through my use of continuous lighting, music and the set design itself. I strive to make an environment so visceral that you want to lose yourself in it.

“Tell Me You Remember More Than I Do”
Model: Emma ©Jaina Cipriano

When you approach someone about modeling for one of your shots, how do you explain what you will be doing?

In the past I’ve gone so far as to write an immersive script for them to read before hand and get them in the headspace I recommend before we start shooting. This script is available to purchase on my website as a professionally printed zine.

Do you plan out the entire shot beforehand or do you see what happens in the moment?

I considered myself a documentary photographer for years before I began working in the studio. I took inspiration from Nan Goldin and followed my friend closely in and out of their darkness. I still work this way in the studio. Move through, experience the space and react to it. I’ll capture you.

“Take Your Time”
Model: Zen Crosby ©Jaina Cipriano

How did you start out as a photographer? Did you study art formally in any way?

I started out as a child stealing my parents polaroid film. I got my first (terrible) digital camera when I was 13 and I was hooked. In 2013 I began studying at The New England School of Photography where I fell in love with light.

“Something About You I Don’t Understand”

Models: Kimberly Cunningham, Grace Drinkwater
©Jaina Cipriano

I love the vivid colors in your work, they feel otherworldly, like all of your images are taken in a slightly altered version of reality. Is that a fair statement? Are you conscious of the colors in your work?

That is absolutely a fair statement. I am extremely conscious of the colors in my work, I spend most of my time thinking about color combinations and the emotions they elicit.

Do you edit the images in photoshop once you’ve taken them?


I know you build your own sets for some of the images, how do you conceptualize those sets and props? Where do the ideas come from? How long does it take you to build them?

The ideas stem generally from some place or time that has deeply affected me. I chose props by looking at their emotional symbolism. Sets vary in time but some take upwards of 40 hours, especially if I’m welding or working with lumber.

“We’ve Got To Hold On”
Models: Kimberly Cunningham, Sarah Bliss
©Jaina Cipriano

What project are you currently working on?

My newest project’s working title is “Finding Bright”. I haven’t found the proper words to describe it yet, but I want to build sets that are more daring, complex and seamless while pushing my ideas of my art and working with my models to get even stranger and more raw.

Is there a personal meaning to any or all of your photographs?

All of them, there’s no reason to create without.

What is the greatest achievement you’ve reached so far as an artist? What are you the most proud of, and what are your goals?

Finishing “The Garden”. A year’s worth of shooting edited down into 40 photos that got two solo gallery shows in less than a years time.

My goals are to work bigger and better, every day.

“Not so Tough Anymore, Huh?”
Model: Grace Drinkwater ©Jaina Cipriano

How do you pick out the best image in a set of similar ones? What are the things you are looking for?

I am looking for The Decisive Moment. I need emotion, movement, light and framing to all come together to tell a story that hints at movement before and after the photo. When work is coming from my core like this, my gut lights up when I see the right one– I just know.

What words would you use to describe your work?

Loaded. Visceral. Un-reality.

“Get Away From Me”
Model: Grace Drinkwater©Jaina Cipriano

Jaina can be found on instagram @jainasphotography. For more of her photography, including full series, check out her website jainaciprianophotography.com

Featured Artist: Haley Cormier

Haley Cormier is a Boston-based artist who creates beautiful things from natural elements. Today she talks to us about her process, inspirations and how she got started as a visual artist.

© Haley Cormier

I am amazed by the detail of texture in your work? Did you sew those leaves? Can you explain some of the processes you used to create these pieces?

 I did! I had a series of leaves I embroidered into, whether it was imagery or playing around with different materials to see how the leaf reacted to it. When creating these I would sew into the lemon leaves that fell off the trees I keep in my apartment then let them dry naturally.

Where do all of these natural pieces come from? Do you collect flowers as you go through your life?

 A lot of different places. Some come from the plants I keep in my apartment (about 25 right now?), others are flowers from the store and the rest are things I see in my travels or everyday life. Stores like Agway and other hardware or greenhouses are a large source of both materials and inspiration for me.

© Haley Cormier

The gallery installation is incredible! What was your thought process going into that? Did you have the whole piece visualized before you started? What was the process of making it like?

I honestly was not sure what the final product would be. I had a vague idea of what I wanted it to look like but really it did not fully come together until I was actually installing it.

The whole body of work started with my interest in bark. I originally tried recreating it with plaster castings and though the object looked interesting it wasn’t quite what I wanted. It was then suggested I just use the bark itself.  The bark I decided to use is Pine Bark Nuggets which actually is what my mom uses on her gardens, so it was a material I was very familiar with as I’ve spread many a bags of it when I was younger.
Once I had the material the piece came together through experimentation of how I could combine the pieces of bark to each other and what could make sense in some type of suspension. Most of the art I make is very exploratory in this sense. I find materials I like and see what I can do with them, very much trial or error.

© Haley Cormier

What do you try to express in your work? 

This is a question I never have a great answer to. I think I am mostly expressing myself and my interests, if it happens to peak someone else’s interest then the expression becomes even richer.

© Haley Cormier

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

 I would say overall positive reactions to most pieces. Some are always more of a hit than other but it’s part of the learning and artistic process. I am very okay with failure in a piece because there is always something to be learned from it. 

© Haley Cormier

Are there any artists who inspire you?

My first art crush at age 13 was John Baldessari (watch this if you do not know about him), his work was the first time I ever saw art that wasn’t an impressionist or renaissance painting. It showed me what art and my art has the potential to be. Since, I have loved artists like Patrick Dougherty and Yayoi Kusama to name some famous ones. I also am constantly inspired by different florists, foodies and pie makers on Instagram.

© Haley Cormier

How did you get started doing this kind of work? What were your initial inspirations?

My mom has had gardens my whole life and I’ve always lent a hand, whether I wanted to or not, in taking care of them. As a kid I was always outside and playing with my imagination, I remember friends and I being entertained for hours coming up with different scenarios and games, using whatever was around us as props.  Later, I worked for Hart’s Greenhouse and Field & Vase which really made my interest not only in art but plants as well ~flourish~. I’ve always found support in those places as well as meeting some of the most inspiring women. They showed me so much support be it in friendship or in letting me take home the wilted flowers.

“Message of Innocence” © Haley Cormier

I love your use of natural pieces in all of your art, does your medium change throughout the New England seasons? 

I actually haven’t explored much of the seasons, although I could retrospectively pair up different pieces to a different season. I am constantly collecting materials and surrounded by plants that seasons do not necessarily interfere. That said, I am a true New Englander and love all the seasons, I think there is beauty in every day of them.

“Ranunculous” © Haley Cormier

What is your goal as an artist?

Like most “making it big” doesn’t sound too bad, but my ultimate goal is to continue making art and to find ways to always incorporate it into my life. My goals as a human are to always be surrounded by art, plants and happiness. Art connects people and I want to be a part of that connection.

How can people reach you? Are there any websites or social media links you’d like to share?

Haley can be found on Instagram @haley.cormier.art and at  www.haleycormier.com. 

Featured Artist: Valerie Prosper Imparato

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Valerie Prosper Imparato is originally from Haiti ,but has lived all over the world. Valerie’s aesthetic draws from the diverse cultural influences in her upbringing, with an emphasis on East-African and Caribbean art.

Valerie’s art teeters on the balance between the ethereal and the earthly; the fantasy of the whimsical and the perspective of the realist. She hopes to make art that inspires dialogue on issues of faith, race, immigration, feminism, and the plight of the oppressed.

Her most recent work is focused on the Black Woman and all of the identities folded within the intersectionality of blackness and womanhood.

Valerie attended our first Boston Visual Artists meeting at Zuzu in Cambridge, and we were all stunned by her work, and we are excited to share this interview and samples of her work.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?

 It definitely changes piece to piece, but I think that I get in these moods where a series of pieces will be about the same thing. Lately a lot of my work has been about  black women and presenting black women as holy. It has been about the godliness that lives within black women. As a Christian, there are all of these representations of white Jesus which are frankly, historically inaccurate. More than that though, I think that many black women don’t see themselves in the American Church, and they certainly are not often presented as holy or pure in American media. The golds that I use, and the Renaissance style-esque aesthetic that I  incorporate in my work all point towards that holiness. 

I see you are from Haiti, how did you end up in Boston? How do you find the art scene here? What is the most artistically inspiring place that you have lived?

I am indeed from Haiti! I have moved around A LOT. I was born in Haiti, and then spent 13 years in Maryland, followed by 1 year in Johannesburg South Africa, followed by 3 years in Nairobi Kenya, followed by college in New York (with a brief stint in Spain), law school in Cambridge MA, back to NY for work, and back to Cambridge when I got married a couple of years ago.  So I guess the short answer is that I moved back two and a half years ago after I got married because my now husband was located here. I am still learning the art scene in Boston. I have found great community here, which is wonderful, but I will say that it has been harder for me to find my art people in Boston than it was in New York. The most artistically inspiring place that I have lived is New York, but only because New York is filled with art from all over the world.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

How did you start as a visual artist?

I have only recently been calling myself an artist (in the last 5 years), but I have always loved art. I did a lot of art work with my mom when I was a child, and drawing and painting have always been soothing for me. I started taking my work more seriously when I was in law school and the stress of life made me a true insomniac. I would paint at night since I couldn’t sleep, and then I had so much art around the house that I figured I should start sharing it with others.

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

Recently a lot of people have told me that my art makes them “feel something,” and that’s the goal. It is often difficult for people to articulate, which is great, because it’s difficult for me to articulate too. I think that a lot of my work feels intimate, even though it’s about more universal themes. I love that people feel that way.

Do you hope that your work will inspire a change in the people who view it?

I do. I hope that my art makes people view black women differently. I hope that it makes people view faith differently. I hope that it makes people view the world differently. Ultimately, I hope that people share a private moment with my work, and that that moment causes introspection.

How do you start a piece? Do you have the finished idea in your head when you begin?

I never have a finished idea in my head before I start a piece! I think that has happened maybe once. The way that I start depends on the kind of work I am going to do. If it is mixed media, I usually start with an image that speaks to me, and create the are around that. If I am working on canvas, I usually start with the figure that I am going to paint, and then create my world around her.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Are there any artists who inspire you?

So many. I have always been inspired by Dali’s surrealism. I am very into Kehinde Wiley lately. I would say that any artist that puts themselves out there inspires me. It’s a really hard thing to do, and it is sharing such a personal part of yourself.

What draws you to East African and Caribbean art?

I have always been drawn by the color and whimsy of both East African and Caribbean art. A lot of Haitian art has this ethereal quality to it, and I often incorporate that into my work. Kenyan art to me has always felt alive. It’s just so full of life and color, and I love that.

What is your goal as an artist?

I think I am still trying to figure that out. I want to make art that is true. If that truth sparks something in others, then all the better, but I never want to make art for other people.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Valerie’s work can be found on her website Valeriepimparato.com and on instagram @Vp_visualart.

Featured Artist: Tatiana Dorokhova

Tatiana is a Boston-based photographer who creates incredible eye-catching photography. We are thrilled to share some of her work and this in-depth interview about her process.

Model: Carter Pierre
Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Is there something universal that you express in your photos, or does it change piece to piece?

Beauty! It`s all about the beauty. It comes in different forms, shapes, colors and that is what excites me the most. I want to show people how beautiful they are.

Some of your photos look like they come from another world, it’s so beautiful! Do you have a vivid imagination?

Thank you! This means so much to me! Ever since I was a little kid, people were saying that I had a very vivid imagination. 

Many things can be a source of inspiration for me. Very often I get ideas from my dreams: I can see a perfect set, a beautiful color pallet or even a pose. And when I wake up I have a vision of what I would like to photograph next. 

Sometimes my inspiration comes from music: at first melodies bring up a certain feeling, and then it grows into a vivid image. 

And of course I must mention the nature. It is the biggest source of inspiration for me! And it doesn’t have to always be a forest or a scenic river. I just take a walk outside and start looking for a “photogenic” set. 
Quite often after posting a photo I get messages from people asking in what garden/forest that photo was taken. And they get very surprised when I say that “This is a giant rhododendron blooming right next to Dunkin’ Donuts in Arlington”:) 

Inspiration is everywhere! Generating ideas is a very exciting process that makes you look inside of you by being open to the outside world.   

Model: Tina Bell
Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Do you plan what a photo will look like before you plan the shoot?

I always know in what direction I want the certain project to go. Having a vision helps a lot to have most of preparation work done before the actual shoot. When you are well prepared you feel more relaxed, and that helps to boost your creativity. There’s no strict starting point of the planning process: it can be the location that a concept is based on; it can be the model, the outfit, the color pallet, the props. Each time the options are endless and I get to choose what inspires me the most.

I truly enjoy when the models and hair&makeup artists take an active part in the creative process. I discuss the details of a shoot with everyone who is involved. We do sketches, mood boards and share our thoughts.

What is something you look for in your models?

Oh this is a good one:)  

I am always in search for new faces for my projects. If it is a particular look I am going for, then in this case I am looking for someone who would fit perfectly onto the concept I have in mind. I can even ask a person on a street if they would like to be my model! In fact, the majority of people I do the art projects with are not professional models.  

Sometimes there is no concept yet, and I am simply looking for a muse. In this case I open all my social media resources and start the search. I get quite a lot of messages/emails from people who would like to work together and I am very grateful for that. However, the moment someone says “I have a big white fluffy dog/snake/big ladder/huge truck/collection of wigs that we could use…” my attention immediately goes to that person! When I see that someone is willing to contribute, to be a part of the process or simply has a desire to create – I usually can not resist! I guess that is what I am looking for in my models.

Color seems very important to your images, is that something you are conscious of when editing them?

For me it all comes naturally. I know that the color has the power to create different mood for images: it can make you feel happy, or calm, or sad. It can be used to show the contrast between the objects, or harmonize them and bring together. However, I never think of it from a technical perspective. I want the image to look certain way, and to give certain feelings to people who see it, so I make sure it represents my vision. It`s a very intuitive process to find a right color scheme, and it begins at the stage of planning the shoot.   I can find a beautiful color combination at a very unexpected place, and then use it later for a project. It can be anything – a reflection on a wet pavement, a colorful bird, flowers, paintings… Few days ago I was at a fabric store and noticed that three different fabrics were randomly put together on a sale shelf. They matched so well, that I took a photo of them and guess what, it’s in my “inspiration folder” now;)

Model: Ciara Fitzgerald
Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Do you use a lot of photoshop after the fact?

Photo editing is an amazing tool, if you know what you want from it. It provides you with yet another opportunity to express your vision. Sometimes I use it to make light corrections, sometimes I use it to create different worlds;)

Drawing, changing the mood of the entire photo by stylizing it, turning summer into winter, adding different effects – all that is a part of the editing process that I enjoy a lot. You can be a photographer and a painter at the same time! Isn’t that great?

Of course, not every photoshoot is a creative art project, so it really depends on what I am going for. I can improve every little detail of the photo and make it look impeccable. Attention to details brings the entire image to the next level. 

How did you get started as a photographer? Do you find this area a good place to work on photography?

It all started few years ago with me taking photos of… myself 🙂 Then friends started asking if I could take their photos as well. That’s how it all started. A year ago I moved to Boston and started discovering new possibilities. I think this area is a great place to work in photography.

Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Are you outside photographing in all the seasons? What is the worst weather you have shot in?

Yes, I am always outside! Nature is my biggest inspiration and I absolutely enjoy shooting outdoors with natural light. It feels like the entire world is my studio where I get to create absolutely anything I want. So much freedom!

I believe every season has something magical to offer, but things get tricky when the weather goes to its extremes. Excessive heat, cold, snow or rain are challenging. Of course you can always postpone the shoot, but if it is exactly the extreme that you are looking for your project, then you should look for a model who is equally willing to do this. Team work is essential. No matter if it is a client or a TFP model, you need positive energy at the shoot, and a mutual desire to create beautiful photos. That way you can overcome even the worst weather conditions and turn the entire process into a fun and unforgettable experience!  

I had several snow shoots at the frozen lake few weeks ago. It was extremely cold, windy and the models had to wear light summer dresses. We parked the cars as close to the shooting location as possible and kept them running in order to be able to come back any moment and warm up. We also brought hot tea and warming pads. After finding a perfect spot and making test shots, the models were taking off their winter jackets and we were shooting for few minutes. Short break. Shooting for few minutes again. It was challenging but fun at the same time!

Model: Carter Pierre
Photo: Tatiana Dorokhova

Where do you find the amazing clothing and sets in your work?

I consider myself a lucky photographer because I get to work with many very talented and creative people. I am proud of a network of professionals I know: everyone is a pro at what they do, and that allows making any ambitious idea come true!

Very often clients and models suggest their outfits/props/ideas and then we put it all together into one art look.  
I am also good with making props myself, starting from flower crowns to making simple dresses. This is exactly how I started doing my first art projects – making things with my own hands. 

Where can we find you on social media? Do you have a website we can promote?

Website: https://tatianadorokhova.wixsite.com/tdphotography

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TatianaDiPhotography

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tati.style/ 

Introducing Mae Horak And the Taiga

Questions by Andy Conley

Series: The Taiga

‘The Taiga is a photography series initially inspired by the Decemberists Hazards of Love album. It tells a story of destructive love, heartbreak and rebirth through handmade clothing, sets and photography. The story takes place in an ancient mysterious forest and is inspired by European fairy tales. The Taiga reminds us that nature is vastly more powerful than any individual.’ ©Mae Horak

“Her Domain” ©Mae Horak
Model: Kimmy Cunningham

How did you get into fashion design? Where was your start?

I started making clothes as a child, I remember learning to sew when I must have been 12 years old. The first clothes I ever made was a Halloween costume for me and a friend in sixth grade, and in high school started buying used clothes at GoodWill just to tear them apart to use as pattern pieces. I’ve never followed a store-bought pattern, so that’s how I learned to make my own patterns!

I studied fashion at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and graduated in 2018. Two of my favorite classes at fashion school were Couture Techniques and Tailoring where I learned about high-end clothes making, and I think those techniques of making very structured garments is evident in my work.

I love how unique your work is, how do you feel you fit into the overall trend of modern day fashion photography?

I’m not sure it does, I can’t say. I’ve never had my finger on the pulse of modern fashion or pop culture. I hope that there is a place for what I do in the modern art world. I try to use social media to show my work. I don’t think I’m great at it but I try. I’m doing a gallery show with this series in the summer, hopefully the first of many!

“The Rake” ©Mae Horak
Model: Charli Summers

Your work is very dark, both emotionally and physically. Is there a meaning or reason behind the tone?

I think it’s important to be comfortable with darkness. Without darkness there would be no light. That’s true of everything, it’s about balance. There’s a lot of beauty in dark things.

For me this project has been an escape from my life. In the good times, a celebration of creativity and the wonderful people who help me create each image, and in the bad times, a way for me to channel my energy and escape from the bad into the Taiga, a world I created in my head.

Like I say in the project description, nature is more powerful than any one person. It’s humbling. That humbling feeling can be terrifying, or it can be freeing. It’s up to you.

You mentioned this series was inspired by European Fairy tales. Which tale would you say you pull the most inspiration from and why?

So the original story of the rock opera “Hazards of Love” was meant to take sort of archetypal folk tale characters and tell a sort of twisted story of their doomed love. When I read that it sparked the idea of using elements of folk costume in my work. I am especially drawing from slavic tradition, as I think you will see with some of the clothing I am making right now for the shoots in the spring.

It started with the “Cranberry Witch” character, the first photos I did for this series (in a Cranberry Bog, read about that here!) Where I made her a headdress inspired by a Ukranian vinok.

“Cranberry Witch” ©Mae Horak
Model: Alana Grace

You make all the clothes for this shoot? How long does it take?

Yes! Everything worn by the characters in the photos is completely handmade by me. I start from scratch making each piece. I start by sketching silhouettes and little details. I learned to sew while I was in school by replicating historical garments in my free time so I tend to be very inspired by historical garments from Europe and Asia specifically.

“The Queen” ©Mae Horak
Model: Kimmy Cunningham

How do you conceptualize what you want the clothes to look like?

I like to work on a series around a story because I find any art that tells a story fascinating. The first full collection I did was based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Now that I take the photos myself as well, I design the clothes specifically with a photo in mind. That means a lot of the clothes are cumbersome or impossible to be worn in “real life”, like the Winter Witch’s skirt which is about 4 feet too long, or the Queen’s gloves made from real tree branches.

About half of the clothes I have made for the Taiga are made for specific “characters” from the story that inspired the project, and the others are characters that I have created to fit into my own imagination and my own version of the world that makes up the entire project.

For example, the Cranberry Witch is a character I came up with while driving through the south shore towards Cape Cod.

The project started out 4 years ago when I was listening to the Decemberist’s ‘Hazards of Love’. The album is a concept album that combines many folk tale archetypes into a story of doomed love. The thing that drew me to the story was this sense of doom, and the overall sense that nature is more powerful than all of us. In fact, the most powerful creature in the whole story is a part of the forest herself, made of tree branches. She is a character I had a really fun time creating, and can be seen in “The Queen” and “Her Domain”

I have worked in the past in theater doing costumes and the stuff I design for the Taiga is done in a very similar way to that. I sketch a lot. What I’m really looking for in a sketch is the silhouette. From there, I source fabric and drape each garment to a dress form.

“Snow Witch” ©Mae Horak
Model: Carter Pierre

From an outsider perspective, your work seems very primal and yet has royal and medieval aspects. Would that be right? How do you achieve this balance between two very different themes?

Thank you! I get so wrapped up in my own head that it’s always really interesting hearing feedback from people viewing my work!

I would guess that the “primal” emotions you’re getting from the pieces comes from what I was talking about earlier, the connection with Mother Nature as this humbling force. I love designing characters that are beautiful but fierce, especially my female characters. Alexander McQueen once said “I want people to be afraid of the women I dress”. I love that.

The more refined details are things I picked up from the historical clothing and couture designers that inspire me!

You had mentioned that the series “The Taiga” reflects ‘destructive love…’ to a ‘rebirth’. Is there a specific order these pieces are to be viewed? Is the work guiding use through the theme from piece to piece or is each a whole story in its entire image.

Yes, there is a specific order that the series is supposed to be viewed in and the passing of time is something I’ve been very conscious of throughout the series. I am planning to shoot in every season. So far I shot in early and late autumn, winter and plan to do another midwinter shoot, with the main bulk of the series being shot in the spring. It’s funny to be answering questions about it before these significant images are shot, because I know exactly how I want them to look, but no one else does!

I plan to make the final series into a photo book, which should be sometime later this year!

Which is your favorite from the series?

The ones I am in the process of working on right now! They don’t exist yet, only in my head. Those are always my favorite.

Are there any artists or designers who inspire you? How did they influence you? Did they influence the series at all?

I mentioned Alexander McQueen. I think he’s my biggest influence as a designer. All of his collections tell a story.

As I get more into photography, I am learning about the work of photographers who do sort of similar things to me. I like people who take editorial fashion to a creative way, and people who build sets and costumes for their photos.

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

Mostly people are shocked that I make all the clothes, and that we do the smoke and special effects live. I don’t photoshop the images beyond basic color correcting.

Honestly I think that people tend to like the more classically “pretty” images best, the ones of pretty girls in dresses, or ones that look more like traditional fashion photos, but that’s ok. I don’t expect every person to like all of my work.

My wish for this series is that it affords people a little bit of the escapism it has given to me. And that it sparks imagination.

“Haunted” ©Mae Horak
Model: Chali Summers

Last question: Is that a real skull, and if so, do you still have it or do you let the models keep the clothes??

Ha! It is a resin cast of a deer skull! I actually had to use a dremel and shave off the back of the skull to have it rest properly on the models head – it was still very hard to balance, that was a stressful shoot!

I don’t give the clothes away, as a lot of them are the product of 50+ hours of hand work, and I am going to be showing them off in a runway show, and actually show some of the costume pieces in the gallery show of the photographs as well!

Mae can be found on instagram @maehorak and her website is maehorak.com