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An Interview with Annika White

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

Annika White's talent defies language. Her work is a realm unto its own, and describing it in this context would only cheapen the worlds she's created. The New York based photographer/stylist/filmmaker's unique visual explorations of human nature are as intellectually pleasing as they are visually pleasing.

The viscerality of her short film "Silence is the Merge of Matter" makes it impossible to look away from; it gently envelops the viewer in its current of sunny-yet-poignant nostalgia. Although it is narrative-driven, plenty is left to the viewers' imagination, allowing one to fill in the gaps with their own sorrows and bittersweet memories, within the framework of the circular nature of time and involuntary memory. In "Anxiety of Time," similar themes of emotional rawness and the pains of growing older are expressed in a more surrealist manner, with undertones of delightfully peculiar violence/suspense and titillating sensuality.

Her photos feel beautifully fragmented, capturing a moment in time in a way that both immortalizes that instant and draws attention to the fact that it is no longer the present. Her artistic eye and ability to stick to her creative sensibilities translate well to styling; she recently helped with photos for Mitski's incredibly well-crafted "Be the Cowboy" album. Her affinity for bold colors and her playful contemplation of concepts like memory and time brilliantly unite her body of work.

If you were a character in a book, how would you be described?

Hmm, probably as soft-spoken, cautious, and caring. I’m very interested in connecting with people and with learning. I like to journal everything and make things reminiscent of different thought processes/experiences.

What work are you most proud of?

The work that I’m most proud of hasn’t actually been released yet. I’m in the midst of working on a medium format polaroid photo collaboration series with my partner that we shot over the course of a year in west Texas, Northern California, and New York City. Together, we made custom suits for each location and built a poetic story-like narrative around these two constructed characters.

In terms of released work, I’d say I’m most proud of my short films as it was a big step for me to take the jump and to start making films after feeling intimidated by the process for so long.

Who are your favorite people to collaborate with?

My favorite person to collaborate with is likely my partner, Carl Knight. I feel like we fell in love while making things together. We’ve just always shared so many ideas and I’ve never met another person that I can work so fluidly with. He’s helped me to progress in many ways and has always been an inspiration to me.

I also love to collaborate with my dear friend and photographer Bao Ngo. We met not long after I moved to New York and have since worked together on numerous things. She’s the one who got me into styling for projects other than my own, which was something that I’d always wanted to pursue but had not been sure how to. I am eternally grateful for all the wonderful work I’ve been able to create with her.

What do you do when you're feeling creatively overwhelmed?

I feel creatively overwhelmed quite frequently, and I’ve found that the most helpful thing for me is to distance myself from social media. While having a large platform that allows exposure for artists can provide such a powerful opportunity, I personally tend to get frustrated with the viewing platform itself (ie: art being viewed on small screens) and with the attachment of “likes”. Therefore, it helps me to allow myself the freedom of simply making - for example, I try to create in a stream-of-consciousness like style to the best of my ability in order to produce ideas that aren’t as hindered by self-doubt or other negative thoughts.

What is your creative philosophy?

To make things for yourself or for the greater good of humanity and not just to please other people. While it’s crucial to be constantly aware and criticism is, in many situations, necessary to progress, it’s also important to take time to distance yourself from certain things. Thus, I suppose an aspect of my creative philosophy is to believe in yourself and to learn what to take in and what to leave out (in terms of the perpetual slew of information, people, environment, etc). As I said before, for me it’s important to just write something down or to just take a photo of whatever I find interesting, even if it seems silly or conventionally unimportant. When stuck, you have to find a way to unstick yourself, and sometimes that’s just the allowance and awareness of personal freedom.

Using an analogy, how would you describe your creative process?

My creative process is like observing the roadside from the car window or people watching in the subway car, it kind of just happens and it happens more easily if you take the time to be aware of your thoughts in even the most mundane of moments. I like to catalog observations and be as natural as possible in my initial process before becoming more calculated and exact in the furthering of the process (ie: planning a shoot or structuring a project).

Who are some people that inspire you that don't get as much recognition as they should?

There are many creatives and people that inspire me, and here’s a list of a few of many and links to their Instagrams:

Jheyda Mc Garrell - @jheydamc

Denelle and Tom Ellis - @amarriedcouple

Beth Garrabant - @bethgarrabant

Jive Poetic - @jivepoetic

Zeke Aszman - @zeke_aszman

Akua Shabaka - @houseofaama

Images used in collage via @annikawhite


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