Ali's photography is bursting with colour and vibrancy. Her portraits document Indian and LGBT communities in a striking and honest way. We sent her the Diana Instant Square and some LomoChrome Purple to test out.
Hello Alia, tell us a bit about yourself and what started your journey into photography?
Hi! My name is Alia and I am a photographer and art director currently based in London. I grew up in India and a lot of what I like to shoot is closely related to my experiences as a queer, mixed-race womxn. I have always used visuals as a way to express myself and started focusing on photography as a medium to do this at quite a young age. I was obsessed with capturing memories, particularly of my friends and family, and really loved looking back at the physical photographs after some time had passed. I’m a really nostalgic person so something about reflecting on the past and seeing changes over time was magical to me. It was a way of solidifying a moment, a feeling, a memory that would have otherwise been forgotten.My Indian grandmother gave me my first 35mm camera when I was about eight or nine years old and it was all I used for a long time to take pictures of everything around me. I loved capturing faces and giving my sister makeovers and forcing her to let me take pictures of her in strange outfits and costumes. That initial freedom I felt as a child is something I try to tap into in my work now and although it started as a way for me to create my own world and explore my imagination, it became a way for me to show people narratives that are less seen.
How much influence has your background and culture had on your work?
I am half Indian and half Italian and I would say a majority of my work explores my race, especially what it’s like to be mixed race and where I feel I belong as well as what it is like to be someone who is South Asian and queer. Being able to talk about these experiences in my work has given me the space to understand so much more about myself. It was difficult to grow up around so much censorship and the lack of exposure to LGBTQIA+ narratives made me feel very isolated. The photographs I made allowed me to find a community who give me support and make me feel less alone. They showed me that there is a way to both embrace my culture, and be proud of who I am which has been life-changing. India has always been my home and I’ve taken so much inspiration from my environment and childhood experiences. There are too many aspects to talk about, but I am very inspired by Indian textiles, folk art, architecture, mythology and the way stories are told. I used to read these graphic novels about Hindu gods and goddesses and when I look back at some of my older archives, I really see a lot of parallels between the two. I definitely feel like I will always be inspired by where I’m from and this may be more evident in some of my projects more than others.
How did you get on shooting with the Diana Instant Square and the LomoChome Purple?
I realised very quickly that the Diana Instant Square was a very manual camera and the only way to make a good image was to know the body well. It took me a few tries to find an exposure I was happy with but once I found it, there was no going back. I loved using the external flash too. I work best when using artificial light because I really like being able to control how light falls on to a subject and the way to match this best with their skin tone. The flash allowed me to do this and really placed emphasis on the vignette the pictures usually have. It worked well for my work because of how personal and intimate some of the images are and provided a dreamy feel which I am often searching for in my imagery. Similarly, I enjoyed using flash with the LomoChrome Purple because it gave the photos a different feel and brought out tones that I didn’t see with the ones I shot in natural light.
What have you got coming up in the future?
I have a few exciting things happening this year but am not sure how much I am allowed to say about it! I am also quite superstitious so although I think it helps to say things you want out loud- to put the ideas into the universe, I also keep a lot to myself until something is actually published or released. I love the element of surprise as well so when I release my work, I think about how to share it in a way that’s exciting and new.
The rest of the year for me is about focusing on my work, my growth, and my mental well-being. To study other artists I admire and find inspiration from nature, experiences and things beyond photography too.