Ava Alamshah

it’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present, you know what I mean?
— Little Edie Beale, Grey Gardens

tonight you're mine completely / you give your love so sweetly

tonight the light of love is in your eyes /but will you love me tomorrow? 

is this a lasting treasure / or just a moment's pleasure?

can I believe the magic of your sighs? / will you still love me tomorrow?

tonight with words unspoken / you say that I'm the only one

but will my heart be broken / when the night meets the morning sun?

I'd like to know that your love / is love I can be sure of

so tell me now, and I won't ask again / will you still love me tomorrow?

so tell me now, and I won't ask again / will you still love me tomorrow?

will you still love me tomorrow?  / will you still love me tomorrow?

"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" © Carole King / Gary Goffin, recorded by The Shirelles, 1960

What was the first thing/subject you photographed? How do you feel about the photo(s) now?

I truly wish I could remember the first thing I ever photographed. I'm sure I took photos in elementary school because I remember being curious about it at some point in the 4th grade. There was a campaign to become the school historian, which was sort of like a journalist, and I remember really wanting to be a part of that. My mom got involved, creating this really elaborate campaign poster with a photo of me in a bright red jacket, a beautiful wool jacket with little gold studs all over (my foray into the sartorial arts). I think I was in the air in a paper balloon, holding a camera. I had to write a speech and everything. Ultimately, I didn't win, but that is my first memory of wanting to photograph anything. Another strong memory was in high school - I went to high school in the late 90s and was still figuring out where I belonged. I had crushes on some older, arty boys. One was goth and I remember wanting to be a part of it all, somehow. This sparked my renewed interested in photography since some of those boys were taking classes. I still have some of those images I took - they're pretty embarrassing in their teen angst melodrama. Black and white images. A self-portrait I staged, in front of a metal fence, looking serious, wearing a giant sweater to hide my shape and some imitation Doc Martins that my mom purchased from the Delia's catalogue. 

When you hit a roadblock, what is your favorite thing to do? (take a walk? chug gallons of coffee? dance naked around your living room?)

I write. Drink coffee. Go on long walks. Record shop. Listen to records. Dance naked. So, yes to all of the above. I also like to take my camera with me on these walks because you never know what you are going to find. Some of my best images are random ones. 

Do you have an affinity for other creative pursuits?

I do. I've been digging deeper into writing, lately. I love non-fiction stories, so I've been delving into my own experiences, which gets a bit heavy at times, but something that's so rewarding to my psyche. I also love music and dabbled in bass guitar, although I am lazy and never ever practice - something I'm trying to work on. Self-motivation is something I've struggled with forever. 

Tell us about the art scene where you grew up, is it supportive of your work?

I grew up in Glendale, and then the suburbs of the Santa Clarita Valley. There is a bit of an art scene in Santa Clarita due to CalArts being stationed there. I feel lucky that I found some misfits in that town - a couple I hold dear. It's a very conservative area, so aside from CalArts, there isn't much of a community for people who think outside the box. Now that I live closer to downtown [LA], I've managed to cultivate friendships with some really inspiring artists who make photos and zines, and who are writers and organizers. They are all very supportive and I feel more connected to this particular scene. Most of us have day jobs, too. It's hard out there! 

Tell us a story about something you made/photographed that remains very important to you.

Three years ago, in September, I took a solo trip to visit friends in Seattle and Portland. I had just moved into my apartment, was living alone for the first time, and low on funds, but my friend had just moved to Seattle and I had never seen the Pacific Northwest, so I felt compelled. The day I thought about visiting was the day I bought my train ticket. I documented that experience. Wrote in my journal about the people I met and about the details of my day-to-day. I made a zine about it called "Along the Coast." It sparked a newfound independence in me and led to more zine-making and helped me form new friendships through this practice. I'm currently working on a personal zine about relationships, love, and rejection. It's heart-wrenching to replay certain memories in my head and lay them out on paper, but I have a feeling that this will be my most important work to date - that, and the continued portraits I take of my aging parents. 

Are you self-taught or did you learn from classes?

No, I'm not at all self-taught. For the longest time I used a point and shoot. I didn't start learning about analog cameras until college. Now everything is digital, but when I went to school, we were still processing our own film and printing in the dark rooms next door. I ended up at CalArts after high school and had some amazing teachers that were very critical and supportive during my time there. I learned to see my surroundings very differently. I learned how to challenge myself and am still learning. I try to use as little Photoshop as possible. Ultimate purist. 

Who do you draw inspiration from? Are they people you know personally?

I was heavy into the work of William Eggleston while at CalArts. Hands down my favorite photographer. Besides his work, I'm really inspired by imagery from films. Kenneth Anger's Puce Moment (what dreams are made of), The Red Shoes, & Cocteau's Beauty & the Beast. I aspire to make pictures this beautiful, but I don't think it's possible. I also get a lot of ideas from music. Lost Girl is based on shoegaze songs, like My Bloody Valentine's "honey power", and girl groups like The Shirelles, Shangri-Las & The Crystals. Also, John Water's Female Trouble. I love the local artists I have become friends with and they personally inspire me continuously. I tend to latch onto the past and the natural world, which gives me a lot of material to draw from as well. Life is mysterious. 

Born in Los Angeles, CA, Ava Alamshah approaches photography with a sense of whimsy and childlike wonderment. A constant dreamer and collector, forever enchanted with thoughts of nostalgic fancy. Ava's favorite things include (but are not limited to) a morning breeze through her apartment window, strong Turkish coffee, walks to the lake, making out to The Stooges "Funhouse," her twin lens camera, the bushels of bougainvillea in Echo Park, petting her neighbor's cats, train rides along the Oregon Coast, art deco, Annie Hall, golden hours, & pale pink peonies. 

Model - Rachel Fae Coleman
Wardrobe / Makeup - Rachel & Ava
Shot in Los Angeles

©  Ava Alamshah 2015