Alecia Williams is a graduate of Adelaide’s Centre for Creative Photography and recently exhibited as part of the 2020 Shimmer photographic festival. She grew up on a farm on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and moved to Adelaide for study and work.
Alecia – I love this shot that seems to playfully subvert the notion of the “skater-boy”. I mean – technically it’s a great shot; framing, light, motion blur, but above all if your subject comes off that board she’ll lose some serious skin. Can you tell tell us something about it please?
“I was looking through Instagram at skate pics, and like you say, it’s often very masculine, and I didn’t think that was doing justice to what skating can be. I grew up in the country, and when we’d go to the coast for the summer holidays the girls would get around on longboards in bikinis, which I guess makes sense at the beach, and I thought of what I saw there, which I found very beautiful; just how beautiful and free the girls looked while skating. I shot this for an assignment for my study, and It’s unusual for me to plan a shot this much. My friend Ailsa who’s on the board couldn’t skate and one of my other friends who skated gave her a crash course, and we tried this over again and again until I got something I was happy with, and it was actually really funny seeing the progression of her skating during the day. We saw how quickly she could achieve something, and we had the photos as a record of that. We’re best friends now, and we were friends at the time, and her personality really came out on that day. She started out nervous, but by the end of the day she made the comment, “Oh my gosh – I can’t believe that’s me. I’ve never done something as invigorating as this.” So I guess that’s how the image ended up showing more than I was expecting it to. It started with me setting out to tick a box for an assignment and it ended up becoming such a wholesome experience, and more than just a photograph I guess.
This might be a good time to talk about how this fits in with the series that you exhibited, and the other work on your website. I hope I’m getting this right, but I can sense a celebration of beauty, both of nature and the female form, but each of those is being shown without judgement or expectation. I also sense a collaborative process between you and your subjects.
“Yes. I guess I’ve always been interested in the natural state of things. Growing up on a farm means I’d do anything to have a moment in the fresh air so I think that’s why most of my work is taken outside. I’ve used a studio but I don’t really like it. Even shooting indoors I’ll still look for natural light. I admire people who can control lighting, but that’s not me. I think it comes from my belief set of taking things as I find them, and because I do that, I can’t plan a lot. So even if I do plan to a degree, it’s still quite spontaneous and I never know exactly what I’m going to get. It’s a team effort with whoever I’m with. If I’m shooting someone new and they tell me they’re unsure of what to do, I’ll say, “Don’t worry about that – you just do you. That side of it’s not about me.” I think that comes from growing up that way, with the freedom just to roam and appreciate things for what they are. It’s a cooperative effort; they’re doing something and I’m doing my something, and it’s not me taking a photograph of someone – it’s us creating a piece of art together.
“I guess I only work with a handful of people who are friends, and one of the first people I worked with was Zoe, who I just found through Instagram. I thought she was really beautiful and there was something about her, about the the way she spoke – even through social media – and I was really drawn to her so I ended up messaging her and she’s one of my best friends now and I owe so much to what I learned through our shoots. Without what she brought to our shoots I don’t think I would have found out so much – certainly not as quickly anyway – about what I have fallen in to, and appreciated it for what it is. On our first shoot we were just wandering through Kuitpo forest and she said, “I don’t really feel right wearing clothes, is it okay if I strip down a bit?” And I said, “Sure. Well I wouldn’t have ever asked you, but – yeah.” And it was from that experience that things grew. And that was a nice starting point because some of my friends wanted to shoot but were a bit nervous, but when they saw the things that Zoe and I were creating together they’d say stuff like, “Oh! I want to be part of this – because when I think of nudes or lingerie it’s stuff that’s raunchy and I mean – if you’re into it then good on you but it’s so not me,” and I could say, “No – me neither. This is more my style.” So Zoe helped me formulate my style and because I’m shooting with friends I guess that’s why it’s been more female based initially. I actually did my first male shoot in my kind of way when I was back on the Eyre Peninsula with my partner, who’s really beautiful and I guess who doesn’t hold himself in a particularly masculine way – which when you’re a twenty five year old male is not that usual – but I was really drawn to that – to an exploration of a sort of feminine energy; which everyone has to a degree. So I guess with me it’s not such a male/female thing but more people I’m drawn to and connect with, which has been more a female thing for me so far. I guess with Jacob being my partner it was always going to happen eventually that I’d make him let me take photos of him; but there is a side to him that I can identify with, whereas with other male partners when I was sort of finding my way, there was never a connection that would make me want to take up the camera.
I was going to ask about beginnings, but let’s skip that for the moment and let me ask you what you think photography will be for you in the future – in the next phase of your life.
“That’s something I’ve been wondering about myself recently. I don’t think I see photography for me as ever being a job. I don’t see it ever making me a living. I think the work that I’ve been most proud of has been the work that’s not forced. It’s been when whoever I’ve worked with and I have decided that we need to express ourselves. So I think it will remain as a side project for now. I’ve always had a really strong art side to me, and strangely enough always been good at handling a camera, and I had to drop out of school because of being really unwell so couldn’t go to Uni, so I sort of fell in to photography with a course at the CCP and I’m very thankful for that time because I definitely learned how to express myself and work through things that I’d been ignoring, but I think that’s where I’ll leave it. I’d like to do exhibitions, and I’d like to collaborate with other women or men, or those with that in-between defining experience – people finding themselves; that would be good. But I don’t see myself turning it in to something commercial because I can’t see myself being proud enough of my work if I was doing it for any reason other than for all of our sakes.”
Thanks Alecia – that was a lovely conversation.
Alecia is currently working long hours managing a cafe, but it did not surprise me to hear that she is thinking of continuing her studies with a degree in psychology. You can see more of her work at https://www.aleciawilliams.com
Image copyright: Alecia Williams.
Text copyright: Alecia Williams and David Hume.