We recently commissioned Brooklyn-based photographer and model Alexandria Spencer Foot to shoot a pre-holiday lookbook for us. Intrigued by her experience of being both behind and in front of the camera, we spoke to her about how this influences her photography, her inspirations, and her life-long love of vintage clothing.
Give us a quick bio – where are you from, where do you live now, what was your background before you started shooting?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area until I was 19 when I moved to LA to sign with a modeling agency. I struggled out there for a few years and then after modeling in Hong Kong and then Shanghai I got tired of LA. I missed the hustle of busy city streets and decided to see how I liked New York and I’ve been here for almost 6 years. It was never the plan to stay for as long as I have but New York has a way of grabbing hold of you.
What first drew you to photography as a medium?
I think I really became drawn to photography after seeing Linda Mccartney's A Portrait of the Sixties at a local art gallery when I was around 12 or 13. Then when I got to high school I took a photography class, my teacher didn’t really teach me all that much so a majority of what I did at that time was self taught. My mother had also loved photography so she helped me in a sense, she always questioned what I was doing and why. I also loved pulling out her portfolio from time to time to see her images, and search her contact sheets and prints for beautiful treasures.
How do you think being both in front of the camera and behind the camera affects your work and/or how you view images?
I think that modeling for so long gave me a sense of how to make my subject comfortable and feel safe when they are shooting with me. That is always my main goal to make my model feel comfortable and that whatever we are shooting is a collaborative effort. I think that a lot of the time it doesn't feel that way and you become a prop or a doll for another person and you can feel like you loose a bit of your humanity. I never wanted my models to feel that way, I just want to create and inspire more people to feel comfortable in their own skin. It also helped me to understand lighting better, and how to pose my subject.
You have a nice mix of portraiture, lifestyle, architecture, and landscape on your website – do you have a subject that you enjoy shooting most?
I really can’t give you a straight forward answer on that because I really love to shoot it all. When I started shooting I was terrified to shoot people so I would mainly shoot architectural images and maybe some landscape but as I grew as a photographer that changed. I think that with modeling and when I was starting out I styled and came up with most of my creative directions with shoots. Modeling in LA at the time was not a place for a girl like me, even though I was born and bred in California I was not what the industry thought of as a “california girl” and most agencies didn’t know what to do with me. So I was always trying to show them and because of that when I moved to New York I became more comfortable photographing people and telling them how I want them to pose as well as capturing the honest moments. The constant thing that I am finding inspires me or that I prefer to shoot most is light and I find myself tracking it in a sense. Magic hour this summer was killing me with its beauty. All the beautiful days with stunning pink light, what can be better.
What other artists do you draw influence from?
Well Linda McCartney is certainly one, Imogen Cunningham, Helmut Newton and Petra Collins. I also draw a lot of my inspiration from my friends. A lot of the time they are the ones who inspire me to want to create something new.
We love to talk photography - shop… Do you have a favorite camera or set-up? Film vs digital? Do you always have your camera on you?
I have four cameras that I actively shoot with and plenty more that I don’t. My olympus stylus epic I keep on me at all times but my favorite camera to shoot with is probably my Pentax K1000. It’s so easy and carefree to shoot on. It also holds a bit of nostalgia for me as that is the same model camera my mom used to use and it was the camera she gave me for my 16th birthday. I was so happy that I cried.
We’re great lovers of vintage everything and we hear you also sell vintage clothing on the side. Tell us a bit about how you got into that.
I have always loved vintage clothes and honestly just clothes in general. As a kid I used to like to dress up and create different characters all just from my dress up box. I think that is what drew me to love acting as a child as well as modeling. When I got out of high school I wanted to become a costume designer because that's how much I loved creating a character. I really think that the way you choose to put yourself together says a lot about you and you can always tell when someone has gone through a shift in their life by how they choose to dress themselves. I decided to start selling vintage because I wanted to create a way for people to buy vintage in a way that was easy to understand. To show someone how to really wear these great pieces that I was finding. My mom taught me from an early age how to find great pieces and to wear them. Most of what I own and wear is second hand especially since the clothes are typically more unique and way better quality than what you get at fast fashion retailers.
How would you define your personal style? Do you have an everyday uniform?
I try to be as effortless as I can in what I choose to wear. I don’t have an everyday uniform but I do have certain staple pieces that I really can’t live without.
We always like to hear about other women’s beauty and skincare routines – do you have any rituals or favorite products that you can’t be without?
I love skincare but at the same time I am very picky with what I choose to put on my skin. I aim for plant based as well as cruelty free. Some of my favorite things are my Blemish Clearing Cleanser by Juice Beauty, Mario Badescu’s Rose Water spray, my Max Correction pads by Peter Thomas Roth and my jade roller. Also the main thing that I can't live without is my face cream that my mom and I formulated together. It’s my favorite thing.
With the holidays approaching and the new year upon us, what are you looking forward to? Any goals for 2018? Any long term projects you’re excited about?
I’m honestly most excited about continuing to create. I have recently seen a real shift in my work for the better and I can’t wait to see what I do with it next. My next big purchase is going to be a medium format camera as well as an old school camcorder. I have lots of new ideas that I want to try out and play around with. Also non conventional photography tools are my favorite so you will definitely see a bit more of that as well.
All images courtesy of Alexandria Spencer Foot.