This week kicked off with Blue Monday the widely dubbed “most depressing day of the year”, a day which brought with it a torrent of opinion pieces questioning the validity of the scientific reasoning behind the date. Either way, we found an antidote in Arielle Bobb-Willis’ photography portfolio which has all the cheering power of an SAD lamp: bursting with images of models pulling power poses in a technicolour wardrobe.
The 23-year old photographer was born and raised in New York City. With pit stops in South Carolina and New Orleans over the years, she’s currently based in New York. “My mom is from New Orleans and my Dad is from New York so I go back and forth,” she explains. “I would say my personality is definitely split between the two cities!” After Arielle moved from New York to South Carolina for high school as a teenager, she fell into a heavy five-year-long depression. A chance placement in a digital imagery class changed everything. “In that class, I started to learn about F-stop, shutter speed, aperture, Photoshop and so on,” she says. “Photography instantly became a form of therapy for me. It allowed me, at the time, to control my environment and make it into something more colourful than what I was seeing through depression. So that was my first introduction to photography and I haven’t stopped since!”
Who, or what, what inspires your colour-drenched photography?
So much! Through depression, I learned that there are actual positives that come from the uncomfortable positions you might find yourself in. I am very interested in promoting growth in everything I, and the people around me do. My ability to have more self-awareness and appreciation has definitely come from all of my growing pains over the years.
The places I live definitely have a big influence on my work. New York I would say is where I learned about the abstract and contemporary world. I used to go to galleries and museums a lot with my parents. They’ve always respected the arts and instilled in me the fact that there’s power in your imagination, so because of that, I’ve always looked up to artists. New Orleans is where I learned about the soul that goes into your art. New Orleans is a dark movie with bright colours. It’s a city that feels heavy when your there and there’s a big sense of community and pride. It’s where I hope to live full time and continue to be influenced by. I would say New York is my head and New Orleans is my heart. I owe a lot to both places.
Painters like Sister Gertrude Morgan, Jacob Lawrence, Benny Andrews, William H. Johnson, and many many more inspire me as well. But when it comes to photography I’m always looking for photos that make me ask why? Or how? I like seeing photos that look like they were hard to take, or photos where I don’t quite understand what the photographer was thinking when they took the photo…
I’m also inspired by children: I have three siblings under the age of 11 so being around them all the time and seeing how honest they are with their expression has helped me do the same!
Tell us about your preoccupation with palette and pose.
The way Joan Miro and Kazimir Malevich use shape to create composition is my favourite as well. There’s a quote by Monet that perfectly describes how I feel about shooting…he says, “When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you — a tree, a house, a field. . . . Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape.” I like to see my subject as a shape and make them become a part of the bigger composition rather than their face be the main focus. Color is just super, super important to me because for so long my life was in fact very grey…very black and white. It’s me accepting the light playfulness in my life right now.
From idea generation all the way to final execution, how does your process take shape?
Where I start differs almost every time. Sometimes I draw a photo out and try to recreate that. Other times I wonder around thrift and 99 cent stores and just have a flow of ideas come from what I find there. Like the other day, I found this thick and heavy colour blocked hula hoop that I want to use for something. It’s just a great way to build ideas. I really love walking around and going for long car rides around whichever state I’m in because I get to just get lost and find locations that I feel compliment how I feel at the time. After I find props, a location, and/or clothing I usually start off with a specific idea but the shoot usually branches off into me improvising positions and seeing how much the subject can do. My shoots never turn out exactly how I imagined them in my head but I love it!
What plans do you have for 2018?
I think 2018 is definitely going to be a year of broadening my perspective through travel and learning more about videography. I’m really ready to test that out more so I’m excited to see how that looks. I’m also just looking forward to doing more fashion shoots and collaborating with more people! I’m selling framed prints at the moment. It’s always fun knowing your work is finding a home elsewhere. So far I’ve learned a lot about the importance of platonic love and just surrounding yourself with people who support you 100%. It’s gonna be a good year!