Five years ago, I spent some time at artsy events in the East Village of Manhattan, and was lucky enough to befriend the lovely Samantha West. She snapped a pair of photographs of me which are to this day my favorites — some of the few digital photographs I've actually printed and framed. Since then, I've kept track of her work on her website, Facebook, and Flickr and watched her career blossom into a truly wonderful, inspiring thing. Be it in the realm of music, fashion, or advertising — and no doubt her personal photographs — Samantha's work exudes a sense of intimacy that's absolutely unique. There's something maternal and therapeutic about her that fosters a sense of trust in every face, every frown, and every eyelash her camera approaches. West has also made a habit of self-portraiture, "because sometimes you are your own best subject," she says. From what I can tell, her own intuition drives her ability to detect the true nature of her subjects. And let me remind you: being yourself with a lens a few feet from your nose is not an easy thing to do.
I'm no Christopher Columbus, though: West has already been published across Europe, Asia, and North America by the likes of The New York Times, Nylon Mexico, New York, Jalouse, Vanity Fair Germany, Time Out New York, Rolling Stone France, and Vision. As for the noted faces she's framed, Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, Noot Seear, Nico Muhly, Carmen Hawk, Elle King, and CocoRosie have all had the pleasure of being photographed by her. Her work is also represented by the Geneva-based Agitatto Gallery, is featured in Chronicle Books' Nerve: The First Ten Years, and is in the permanent collection of the Jerome L. Greene Space in New York City. Her latest coup is the cover of Delta Spirit's new album, History From Below, out Tuesday.
I asked Samantha a few questions about her style and inspiration to give you some background. To read our mini interview and see more of her work, continue reading.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I would describe my artistic style as intimate and honest — the dichotomy found in femininity and grittiness, raw beauty, truth.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I am heavily influenced by painting, particularly the Renaissance, Pre-Raphaelite, and Neo-Classical eras. I love Hollywood portraiture from the 1920s-50s, vintage nudes, pin-up photography, and the portraiture of photographers ranging from Julia Margaret Cameron to Toni Frissell to Helmet Newton. I am obsessed with spending ages on Google Images. The Internet is an amazing web of delightful tangents!
I am being driven wild by the incredible light of Spring in New York, particularly in my neighborhood of Williamsburg. I am currently obsessed with all the beautiful shadows this light creates which can found on the side of buildings and peoples' apartments, on rosy cheeks, and car windows. I love faces, I see beauty in oddities, long hair, scars, people with flair and pizzazz, fairy tales, and the amazing diversity found in women!
Samantha's "Ava With Owl and Bears" photo (above left) is also in my own permanent collection! I fell in love with it a few months ago and claimed the first print as my own. If you're interested in the limited-edition print yourself (14-by-14 inches for $300), there are still a few left, so contact her.