There is no denying that the modern Eurasian fairytale world that Emmie America is capturing is distinctively hers. The beautiful lonely princesses that she tells the stories of are powerful, mysterious, sexy and sullen all at once.
I am reminded of the opulent bygone era of splendor at Versailles, but in a way that is distinctively 2018.
These royals are not polite. These mademoiselles are strong and rebel against the security provided them by their position. They seek adventure, experience, and perhaps even danger.
This rich and complex narrative is what I see in the frames, colors, and compositions Emmie America creates. And while they are contemporary, the colors evoke cinematic Euro-70s.
The fashions are opulent. The colors rich. Tones muted and mysterious with angles that are often unusual. Cinematic, feminine, yet intense.
At first glance, I thought the artist was male… not sure why… but it’s an interesting thing to note. Over time I have become accustomed to seeing men aim to portray fierce women as fantasies, and less so poised this way by women. Yet in this day of reckoning and #meToo it is high time for a female person to be creating these kinds of images that were once the fantasies of a male dominated field. And Emmie America is.
She is a trailblazer.
While the artist does not choose to compare herself to others, I cannot help but be reminded of the films of Sophia Coppola, or even Roman Polanski. The models are Eastern European and have features that are both sensual and predatory.
Emmie America is an artist who is savvy enough to balance her art with editorial and commerce. The images are clearly fashion images but also a dig deeper than the usual and with an added dimension of story. While they connote fairy tales, they are far more Grimm than Disney.
It is no wonder Emmie America is shooting for the most avant-garde Parisian and Russian magazines right now. She is making the statement women of the world are chanting, but with images.
You can expect Emmie America to continue expanding her empire for years to come.
By Michael Tronn
What inspires your photography?
Everything. I think when your life is spent creating something, making any kind of art even in the widest sense, your whole resistance revolves around that process. There are of course conscious places I look in for inspiration – photography archives especially of non-fashion related work being a very important one. I try to go to quite a lot of museum exhibitions and regularly look through art books largely for this reason. Old fashion archives are very useful too of course, but lately, I’ve been using those kinds of references less and less as I feel like all my favorite ones are already exhausted. However, colors I might see during the day, a conversation I might overhear, a song line, random people I meet, my best friend especially – all of these are constant, though often unconscious sources of inspiration. Sometimes I hear a story someone tells, a few hours later I remember an image related to this story, the next day an editorial idea inspired by their combination comes to my head.
Do your images have meanings? Themes? Stories? If so, what are they?
The meaning is their own for each viewer to find. If you do – great for you. Themes though for sure. All of my work is almost always rotating around a story. There is always a narrative, sometimes more sometimes less literal. A lot of it deals with loneliness and search for connection. Girlhood. Family. My photos are often about some kind of escape be it from your societal role or your town. Rebellion is another theme, though usually in a form of differentiation rather than violence.
Do social issues and current events influence your images?
For sure. However, I haven’t yet made any work explicitly about it. One of the things they really taught us in school is to be extra careful when addressing social justice. So until I feel confident enough in my visual vocabulary I’ll stick to having my girls just be “possessed” whiteout literally staying the source of such hypnotic power lingering over them.
What other artists are your biggest influences and inspirations?
My love for photography is rooted in community exposed documentary, the works of such artists as Nan Goldin and Larry Clark, Bruce Davidson. I think a sense of community, union, connection translated in an image is something I find truly captivating and something I’m deeply affected by. Otherwise, I’ve been an art nerd my whole life, actually maybe before even more than now so that should be fixed.. I love expressionism and colors of Cy Twombly. When I went to his retrospect at the Pompidou I wrote myself a note that said: “I will fall in love with the first person who gets how seeing a Cy Twombly makes me feel”. So this kind of emotion I’m not sure how to put into words. I learned to paint looking at Lucian Freud’s brushstroke and Giacometti’s sculptures, later I discovered the great Egon Schiele of course. My love affair with fashion began with Galliano’s Dior and McQueen. And the perfect woman to me is embodied by all of early Luc Besson’s protagonists – Milla Jovovich, Natalie Portman, and Rie Rasmussen being ones to single out. This list I can extend forever from one medium to the next, but these were probably the points of reference that influenced me growing up the most.
What jobs have you done other than being an photographer?
I’ve worked many jobs within the fashion industry but not related to making my own work. I assisted a casting director, worked as one, assisted a photographer, scouted models, was an agent for a quick second and worked for 2 years at models.com as an executive assistant. But actually, I’ve never done a job unrelated to my field. I knew very early on what I wanted to do and was determined to pursue it.
What do you dislike about the art world?
I think the art world right now is in an identity crisis. Fine art is a contradiction of itself, as art is supposedly made for purposes anything other than to sell, yet it has become a huge economic investment field. I had a roommate once who always looked down on me for working in a commercially driven art field. Her family is on the Forbes list. I hate that we try to divide art into high and low forms. I think in the reality of 2018 it’s time we admit that everything is money related. The question is how does one manage to not sell your soul.
What do you like about your work?
I think more and more I feel comfortable staying that my work is atmospheric in an honest rather than totally constructed way. And that is very important to me.
What do you dislike about your work?
Lately, my work feels too girly to me. But it’s happening subconsciously so I am letting it be for now as maybe it is what it needs to be in this moment of my life. I didn’t really have a normal childhood so maybe it’s catching up to me, which it should. In the future, I’d like to move towards something rawer.
What research to you do?
I do a lot of research. The exact process depends on the shoot, but I always put together mood boards, usually very detailed ones. I research artists whose work is similar aesthetically to the picture I have in my head, or who have shot in similar scenarios. I always try to think of movies with a similar vibe and paintings of a similar color pallet. I look a lot at pop stars from different eras for style and beauty references. In my moods I address each element of the shooting part by part – mood, vibe, location, set, style, beauty etc. For more long-term projects I read too, usually, that would be psychoanalysis type things or historical facts and biographies.
What is your dream project?
This is a tough question. I don’t think I have one dream project, but I, of course, have a few pretty grand ideas I won’t disclose. Actually, I really want to make a movie one day. But much later, in 10 years or so.
Favorite or most inspirational place?
In a larger sense – Paris. I am in love with this city and especially its young art scene. To me, it’s crazy the grasp of it and the simultaneous honesty.
As a more specific place – there is a bridge in Moscow near Kotelnicheskaya Visotka under which you can easily climb. The view, especially at night, is breathtaking. I’ve been hiding out there with different friends since age 14, and it remains kind of my urban tree house still.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Never compare yourself to others.
What couldn’t you do without?
Techno parties and highlighter.
What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
I really don’t know what to pick. First things that come to mind are to do with my mother. She was very strict and worked a lot. She told me off a lot too, she didn’t really ever grasp that I was a kid and always talked to me like to an adult even when I was 3 and spilled yogurt on an expensive sofa. She made a big drama out of that one. But I loved her a lot as a kid. She would come back late at night and I would see the light in the corridor turn on and only then I could fall asleep. I think my relationship with my mother made a huge impact on me and why I the themes of family and loneliness are so important in my reflections and work.
I have another more positive one, you pick which side you prefer. When I was 10 my mum sent me to England for boarding school. I spoke no English and struggled a lot. I missed mum and home and cried all the time. Most kids thought I was insane because I cried ALL the time literally. But there was one Russian boy I’m pretty sure his name was Dima. We weren’t even friends, but we had extra English classes together. One break time as I was rushing to my next class he tapped by giraffe backpack, I turned around annoyed, and he said: “I love you”. I replied “thanks” and rushed off. I don’t know why I remember this so clearly and why this came up in my head when I tried to think of a memory but it did. I was really not a girly girl when I was younger and now I fall in love all the time. I really do believe that there is some kind of balance for these things and that they catch up to you sooner or later.
Where can we see your work next?
If I have to single some upcoming work out hm.. editorial wise I shot a story I am very excited about for a magazine of my Parisian friends – Alei Journal. The shoot is very special, I’ve had its idea in my head for 2 years now. And the magazine is very special to me too as I know very closely how it’s made and love the team. It launches during show season in Paris. Commercially – next week I am shooting Calvin Klein Underwear capsule for Urban Outfitters with one of my favorite models. Not sure if I’m allowed to say this already.