This is a new weekly series where we feature our incredibly talented Adolescent members and their work! Sign up here to join the Adolescent Membership and be part of the @ family!
This week, our Adolescent Member Crush is a good one: Mitchell Allison! This photographer subverts queerness, often creating optical illusions and distorting viewers’ perspective of his work. Mitchell has been published on Adolescent and is currently a photographer for Lithium Magazine. Read below to learn about his adoration of absurdity and the influences behind his work!
Adolescent Content: I love how raw and intense your photos are. Has that always been your style? What influenced it?
Mitchell Allison: It’s ebbed and flowed. I always intend for specificity in composition and for my work to be eye-catching, but the reason it catches your eye—out of disgust, beauty, arousal—shifts. I pull influence from a mixed bag of things—music, other artists, a mannequin stuffed in a dumpster, an odd reflection I pass. My last series, In the Night, was a Frankenstein of sorts, drawing inspiration from the German Expressionist movement of the Weimar era, along with the work of Ren Hang and Egon Schiele, among others.
Adolescent: How has queerness guided your work?
Mitchell: The Venn diagram of my artistic work and my queerness is a perfect circle. My creativity first started as an expression of more complex feelings I didn’t really know how to articulate when I was younger. As I’ve grown older, putting a face to these abstract, difficult feelings and taking pictures of [them] has been cathartic. Also with age has come a frustration with the lack of queer history taught in my public school education. The discovery of a lineage of queer artists and creatives like me (notably led by many trans people and queer people of color) pushing the progression of art, fashion, music, and culture in general is endlessly inspiring to me and, if i can say so, pretty fucking badass.
Adolescent: You mention on your site that your photos are taken with an “abstract and absurd” perspective on the body, sex, and sexuality. Is that absurdist lens intended to ever come across as satirical, or is it more a criticism of sorts?
Mitchell: Both. A lot of my recent work has revolved around my own insecurities with my body, and the lame reality that there is a facet of the queer community offers love and acceptance...if you’re 6’2/190 lbs/Caucasian/fit/top/minimum 10k followers/no fats/no femmes. Like, that’s bonkers, right? So how far can I push that archetype? Yeah, I’m gonna take a gorgeous picture of a model who fits your demographic, and let’s see if you take a moment to look away from his pecs long enough to notice he’s got one too many eyes. I enjoy playing with expectations and twisting them for my own purpose.
Adolescent: What’s your rationale behind only shooting on 35mm film?
Mitchell: From a purely logistical perspective, you’re forced to compose every shot you take. People I shoot with are often surprised at how slowly and deliberately I shoot. I can’t just hold down the shutter and shoot and shoot and shoot and hope that one picture’s good—I’ve only got 36 exposures. I take time testing and trying out poses before I shoot, and sometimes that means taking thirty minutes to set up a shot, deciding I don’t like it, and starting from square one again. Film’s expensive, I don’t like burning through it.
Adolescent: You’ve been working on a series called In the Night for a year. Is it ever tiring or frustrating to put so much time into a single body of work?
Mitchell: I don’t think so. Every series I work on tends to have a strong concept, and I really enjoy chewing on that concept shoot after shoot, playing with every aspect of it before I move on to the next thing. So, if I’m working on something for months and months, it’s because I’m enjoying the work. If I get tired of an idea after a few shoots, then it’s on to the next thing. And each concept informs the next. In the Night involved a lot of darkness and strict composition, and my next series that I’ve already started testing is almost a literal take on “shedding the skin” of the last body of work I created.