Interview #40: Alex Stoddard
CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?
Alex Stoddard: It’s pretty terrible, but photography started as a really narcissistic thing for me. Using a little point-and-shoot, I would take all sorts of photos of myself to post on MySpace, back in the ancient times when people still used that website, and my friends were always, for some odd reason, impressed with my over edited, contrasted-to-the-point-of-causing-your-eyes-to-bleed head-shots. I guess it started there.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.
AS: I live in a city that’s not really much of a city at all. We have trees and cows and a gas pump and not much else. It’s right on the outskirts of another decently-sized city, though, so I wouldn’t call it rural. There are plenty of beautiful places, most of which are private property and not far enough away from houses to shoot undetected, so there is a lot of running and hiding and driving off at speeds that kick up gravel. Half the people here are well-off, and the other half aren’t, so school is weird and diverse.
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?
AS: Zooey Deschanel. She has such an awkward, confident beauty about her. She seems like such a quirky individual, and even just to talk to her or have her sing to me would be enough.
CUS: What camera do you use the most?
AS: I’ve only ever used a Nikon D3000. I spent all the money I had saved on it before I even knew if I liked photography, and I suppose I’m glad it didn’t go to waste.
CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why?
AS: At the risk of creeping back to narcissism, I’d say self-portraits are my favorite things to shoot. I mean, it’s not even about what I -look- like. Nine times out of ten, I look like some crazed, contorted animal. There’s just something about shooting myself that makes me feel as though whatever concept I’m striving for has been fulfilled. I already know exactly what I’m going for, so the trouble of translation is eliminated completely. I don’t have to explain myself or deal with the strange looks. It’s just me and my idea and my camera.
CUS: What is your most treasured possession?
AS: It’s not really a ‘possession’, per say, but free time. Going to high school and working five days out of the week at a pizza joint, I have come to appreciate the hours that I can just lounge about and let my mind wander or not think at all… not that I don’t do that at school, though. Whatever time I have to myself is almost always devoted to my 365 project, and I hardly ever see my friends anymore. It’s okay, though. I’m working toward something bigger, and knowing that, I believe I can endure it.
CUS: What do you like the least about photography? The most?
AS: When a shoot does not go as planned, when I have a clear idea of what I want to achieve, and I just can’t get it out, so it tears at my insides, and I get frustrated and yell and make things even worse. I have to say that what I love most about photography is how I can take something from inside of me, that very thing that is shredding me to pieces, and release it and see it as something substantial in front of me. I don’t think I’ve encountered anything as therapeutic as setting eyes on an image before you that had, only moments ago, been an insubstantial grain of imagination.
CUS: What’s your favorite time of year and why?
AS: The colder months, definitely. It’s like the chill of the air (or whatever, or whatever else I throw myself into.. it tends to vary) traps a sense of life within me. Like all of the life that had just existed in the leaves and the air is absorbed into me, and thoughts come more freely and easily. And, well, it’s always nice to walk outside without returning as a sweaty mess, as Georgia summers tend to make of you.
CUS: What’s your fondest childhood memory?
AS: I've thought about this question every day since I first read it as an interview question, but I can't choose just one memory as my favorite. Every time we are together, my siblings and I will recount the same memories over and over and laugh just as hard as we had the last time we talked about them. Whether it be the time on Mother's Day when I was six and refused over and over to get out of the pool to put on sunscreen and got so sunburned that half the freckles on my nose peeled off, or the time my sisters and I used a big net to kidnap baby ducks from their mother and then lie to my mom that they had been abandoned, or the time my dad let us play hooky from school and took us out fishing on the boat and I caught the biggest fish of everyone, which was almost bigger than I was.. I can't choose just one.
CUS: If you could be anyone for a day who would you be?
AS: Tim Walker. It would just be an incredible experience to get but a peek inside his mind. He's a genius.
CUS: What’s have you always wanted to photograph but have thought was too hard or difficult to execute?
AS: I've had this vision forever of a great, big sailboat perched in the very highest branches of a forest of enormous trees dusted with a snow from the night before. Lounged about it would be a group of naked, waiflike women with soft, pale skin and thick hair trailing down well-past their feet. On every railing of the boat and tucked within their hair and perched on their shoulders would be thousands of fluffy little owls and giant, fluffed swans.
As you can see, it's not really about the difficulty of the shot, but the impossibility of making it all happen.
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
AS: Without a doubt, I'd say Rosie Hardy was my initial influence in starting photography as a serious hobby. It was her work that I first discovered to show a side to photography that wasn't just pretty girls in pretty clothes, but rather driven by emotion and fantastical concepts. Her 365 led me to start my own, and from it, I've grown tremendously not only as a photographer, but a person in general, and the way I see things has forever been changed.
CUS: How do you feel about photography and the internet?
AS: I know that many will disagree, but I believe that the internet has had nothing but a positive effect on photography. It has allowed a countless number of kids and men and women to see and experience photos that they probably would never have seen otherwise. It has allowed aspiring photographers to post their work and receive critique and inspiration and join communities like Flickr where everyone else only wants the best for them and to see them grow.
CUS: What would you like to ask our next interviewee?
AS: How supportive are your friends and family of your photography?