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An Interview with Blair Waters

My friend Annika White recommended I check out Blair Waters' work and I was instantly enraptured. Her work feels phantasmic and fugacious, yet also concrete and rooted in reality, like a barely-retrievable memory, something that exists in our world but is also distanced from it. Even when she's working within the framework of a brand, personal flourishes always shine through.

First driven by her love of music, Blair has done work for Nylon, which inspired her to become more involved in fashion. Her interest in these various artistic disciplines gives her films a holistic quality. From her collaboration with Petra Collins for DKNY to her profile on Yaris Sanchez for Dazed, her projects are replete with visual wonder.

Although her commercial work is certainly something to marvel at, it's only recently that Blair really came into her own with her first short film "Princess Rita," which garnered praise from Vice. I'm eagerly awaiting the eventual online premiere. With Blair's artistic eye, attention to detail, and humanistic outlook, the film will doubtlessly be even more impressive than her commercial films.

When I met Blair at Ludlow Coffee Supply, she was bubbly and thoughtful, enigmatic just like her work. I couldn't help but hope for more projects like "Princess Rita," more projects that were completely her own vision, not only because her fresh perspective is much-needed, but also because I selfishly wanted more insight into her effervescent personality.

What work are you most proud of?

I don't know if I've made it yet. I think that the film that I made this year was a good step in that direction. It's called "Princess Rita" and it premiered at BFI in February, and Vice wrote about it which was really exciting. I was really proud because no one had cared about anything I'd done before. So that was cool. I think it's hard to be proud of commercial work really. I also have a band, so I'm proud of my EP. But I think that short film is the only thing that I've made that I'm like proud of, which is kinda sad. But I didn't start as a director. I came into this from really liking music. That's how I got into Nylon. And then Nylon pushed me into fashion, and then literally a year ago, I was like, "I probably should make non commercial stuff." I did this miniseries for Netflix last year and it was the first time I'd ever directed actors or worked off a script. I didn't tell anybody that, but it was terrifying. So "Princess Rita" was my first short film ever. Like, I didn't study film. Debbie Ryan had to tell me what a oner which was the most embarrassing moment of my life.

What was the Netflix series?

It was a promo for Insatiable. It was really cool because I got to work with this woman Lauren Gussis, who was the showrunner for Dexter. Seeing her was like really important. I was like, "Ok, it's possible." Being physically there with her on set was really important to me. I work well with actors, too. I thought, "maybe I should do stuff like this."

What advice would you give to your younger self?

This is still something I deal with every day of my life so I'm not past this at all yet. But I think I would say be less afraid of putting stuff out there, even if you don't think it's good or if it's not perfect because that fear can destroy your life kind of. If I could go back and talk to my younger self I would also say "Keep playing music and don't stop."

What's a common, overarching theme you've noticed in your work?

For commercial stuff, I think everything feels like a stoned afternoon. Or at least it should. I can always tell when a guy has directed something, and I think when you have a girl shooting fashion stuff, which is implicitly sexual because you're shooting a form, you just approach it a different way. And especially because I love clothes, I approach it in a way that I put the clothes first. It feels more fun. Fun and handheld is how I would describe my work.

What's your favorite piece of art?

My favorite piece of art in the whole world is this thing that Roni Horn did. It was at the Tate in 2009 I think, it was during her solo show there. It was this piece, it was like a mat. You know those mats that are like gold? The light hit it at a certain time of day and it filled up the whole room. What's crazy about that is that my favorite favorite piece of art in the whole world is by this guy Felix Gonzalez-Torres. He was like a really big gay artist and he made this really long installation of tiny wrapped candies that were silver. It's really famous. That was actually for the same guy that the other piece was for. I thought that that was weird. Maybe I knew him in a past life.

Who are your favorite fashion designers?

I don't really follow fashion that much anymore. I do really like Sandy Liang. I've been wearing a lot of stuff from her. I really like Goodwill. I go there a lot. I really like vintage stuff.

What's your best vintage or thrifted find?

Actually I was just in LA and I found these shoes. They're like pumps, but they have like a chiseled heel, and there's like a tiger on the heel. Oh there's so many. I found a Martin Parr photo at a thrift store. It was $150 and I was really broke, but I was like, "I know this is a Martin Parr, I know it is." So I bought it. It wasn't signed, it was like matted. So I took it home and it was like this moment of truth. I took it apart and it was signed Martin Parr.

How do you think your work will change over time?

Ideally I would like to do a lot more narrative stuff. Like I'm working on a script right now that I would like to make into a feature next year if that's even possible. Hopefully it will go from being this like "I'm a girl in the city and I love stuff" to being actual art. I love commercial stuff like a lot. I enjoy the process. I like working with models and fashion people. But when I die I'd like to be remembered for movies that are kind of depressing.

What's been the most transformative experience of your life?

Probably moving to the states. I grew up in the Virgin Islands and I moved to the states when I was 14. That was weird. But it was also a good thing. I thought I was way less weird than I actually am. I thought I would move here and everyone would want to be my friend and it's like no, I was still a weirdo. I've been so consistently like this since that time. I'd like to change, but obviously that's who I am forever.


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