An Interview with Maya Spangler

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

Maya Spangler's photos feel like the moment right after the party is over, that moment of quiet contemplation and rapidly deteriorating ecstasy, where the pain and beauty of being young seem to at once reach peak clarity.

I first happened upon her work through @oceau's Instagram account,and as soon as I saw the slightly faded, soft, stylishly grainy photos of youthful escapades, I was stunned by her ability to insinuate an entire narrative with just a few images. Although her Instagram photos of herself are incredibly well-curated, showing off Maya's impeccable sartorial taste and creative eye for locations, her skill is most obviously displayed in the photos she takes of her friends. Laced with emotion and genuine tenderness, Maya's photos manage both to realistically document her experience as a young person, and be an artistic representation of it.

Perhaps because her photos never attempt to speak to more than Maya and her friends' lives, or attempt to reach a particular demographic, they have a certain relatability. I certainly saw my own adventures mirrored in her photography, and I'd venture to say that anyone who's found themselves at a convenience store looking for late night snacks, or at the park on a sunny day with nothing to do, would say the same. With work that stems from the wildly personal but, precisely because of that, possesses a universal appeal, the nineteen-year-old photographer is certainly one to watch.

If you were to compare your body of work to a dessert, what would it be?

I would have to say Mochi because I have so many memories from high school of going to little Tokyo with friends and eating mochi there. It seems fitting since most of my photos are of friends and embody youthfulness. 

Do you consider yourself a photographer?

I definitely consider myself a photographer. I’ve been taking pictures since I was 12; although I haven’t been as active lately due to school and work. Photography is one of those things that brings me genuine happiness. My main focus right now though is broadcast journalism.

What themes do you hope to communicate through your photos?

I think a common theme throughout my entire body of work would be youth and love. I’ve always taken pictures of my friends and people that make me happy. When I got my first film camera, my first rolls were only pictures of my ex boyfriend and I still consider those the best pictures I’ve ever taken because they came from a place of such purity and admiration.

What's the best part about being young?

The best part about being young is the firsts. Everything is so new and you have so much time to make mistakes. I always feel like I’m so old but I barely turned 19 and I have to remind myself of that every day.

What do you look to for inspiration?

I try not to turn to other artists for inspiration. I think I draw most of my inspiration from my own experiences and friends.

What's the most unusual thing about you?

Ahh. I have no idea what the most unusual thing about me would be! Maybe the fact that I have never had a nosebleed? I talk to myself all day long (although I believe everyone does), I’m obsessed with podcasts and listen to 45 hours of radio a week. Now I’m just listing off random facts but there’s a few “unusual” things about me.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

The best piece of advice I’ve been given is that you have to Be, to Do, to Have. Basically, you cannot manifest and have what you want to have in life until you are who you want to be and deal with the subconscious fears you hold. The only person ever standing in your way, is yourself. It’s a super cliche thing to say but it’s the most honest advice I’ve ever been given. 

If you had to create a metaphor out of an object in your life, what object would you pick and what would the metaphor be?

That’s a really good question. I’m trying to think of an answer that isn’t super corny but I think I would have to say a metaphor for my life could be the agave cactus my mom gave to me. I’ve had it for years and it definitely almost died a couple of times but it’s still here. I think it’s especially symbolic right now because I’ve always built up walls to protect my emotions but I’m really working on softening myself.

Images used in collage via @luckymay0