Alexzandra Chandler: Creating "Digital Surrealism" Through Art and the Photography of Metaphysics
By Donna Letterese
Alexzandra Chandler has always been intrigued by the metaphysical and always drawn to create. While she experimented with many mediums growing up, it has been photography that has called to her the most. Photography allows her to create whimsical and imaginary scenes, yet give it an air of realism because of the medium used.
In fact, she calls her own work "Digital Surrealism," while managing to employ both digital and traditional film techniques. She is an accomplished fine art photographer in this genre, in addition to her work professionally creating advertisements and album covers. Here, she discusses her passion and art in greater detail.
How long have you been taking pictures, both using traditional and digital photography methods?
I have been photographing since my first photo shoot in 2006, which landed me a full page in National Geographic. I was able to capture lighting striking the largest building in the southeast. The publication made me realize that it was perhaps a sign: I was destined to be a photographer. Ever since then, I have worked equally in film and digital photography.
Did you study fine art and photography in school? If you did, how did that influence your work?
I earned my M.F.A. from Savannah College of Art and Design, with a focus on photography and graphic design. SCAD is a big proponent of educating their students about the history of their chosen field. As a result, I learned the historical timeline of photography, as well as all the artists that influenced its evolution. This had a massive impact on the influence of my style and technique. If it wasn't for learning the history of photography, I mightn't have ever stumbled upon my beloved fine art technique (that I invented in the darkroom).
What artists have inspired you throughout your life?
Jerry Uelsmann has inspired me in more ways than I can count. This is not only because of his unique style of printing in the darkroom, but also his visual aesthetic. He was creating imagery that looked digitally manipulated years before the digital era even began. His unique way of using multiple negatives in his imagery helped inspire my own formula for printing in the darkroom. He taught me that rules can be broken, so long as they are broken right. In addition, Salvador Dali's wild imagination and DaVinci's use of sacred geometry has also been a huge influenced on my approach to image making.
I understand that you employ a technique that you call "Digital Surrealism" in your work. Do you prefer digital or traditional photography? And/or, as you use both, what do you enjoy about these different processes?
I love film and digital equally, but for different reasons. Digital allows me to create on the fly, quickly, and seamlessly for the most part. On the other hand, film is a slower, more hands-on technique that takes lots of time and tons of precision. I think any photographer that truly loves their craft should most certainly study film and darkroom printing, because it allows a better understanding of the art which then impacts their approach to creating it. I turn towards digital creation when I want to create something more commercial-like or contemporary. As far as the darkroom goes, I have invented a new way to print so it allows me to be extremely creative in a very unique way. This way is mine and mine alone. Because of that, I feel a strong connection to the imagery I create, because I know that nobody else in the world is doing it quite like me.
How has your style, and what you choose to photograph, changed over time?
To be honest, the more I studied the history of photography and the more I dove deeper into different ways of photographing and printing, my style began to change as well. It was like the more I knew, the more experimental I could get. Once I was able to learn more about what I was doing I was able to create more intricate imagery. There are so many different components when it comes to photography that the more I learned, the more creative my pieces became. That being said, I look forward where my work will be in five to ten years from now, as I continue to dive deeper into my craft.
How has your life overall impacted or influenced what you do as an artist?
The impact of my life itself has tremendously impacted my work, so to speak. I have struggled with health issues for over thirteen years. It was my pain and desire to be free of it that helped inspire most of my creations. Some artists like to revel in the shadow of their lives and create a mirror image of that pain. This often results in what can appear to be "dark art." That's not me. I went in the other direction and chose to find the light that was hiding in the shadow of my pain.
If it wasn't for my challenges and the life-threatening illness I suffered from, I would have never created such dense, dimensional creations. As a result, if I could go back in time and change my past so that it wasn't the trip through hell it became, I wouldn't. If I never went through that suffering, that would mean I would never have come to create the beautiful creations that I have today. I would also not have had the inspiration to create them.
Life is an artist's number one muse. Luckily for me, the world gave me enough muses for a lifetime of work.
Can you talk about the galleries and spaces you've shown your work at in the past?
I have hosted many art shows throughout the years. My favorite had to be at the Kai Lin art gallery in Atlanta, GA. This is primarily because the space was able to house my light box creations, which require a dark space to be illuminated. The recap can be seen on YouTube, alongside my second favorite show in which I opened up my studio for one night for everyone to see the framework of my process. It was called "An Invitation to My Imagination," and everything in my studio was for sale, including the unfinished pieces. I ended up selling a 1/3 of my collection that night and people really loved the idea of having a show inside my studio. It was a wonderful night and I look forward to hosting another one as soon as I get my LA studio set up.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I am working on a very intricate series that will show the nine different versions of myself. The series makes up the nine different sides of myself. For example, I will have the artist, the warrior, the musician, the princess, and so on. Each will be in their own frame, but mounted in a grid similar to that of the Brady Bunch title sequence. All the images will look like nine different people, with nine different spirits. However, it will in fact be me playing nine different avatars that sum up my entire being. The middle image will simply be a black and white close up of my face looking directly at the camera.
Throughout my trials and tribulations, and the fight against death throughout my twenties, I had to develop different coping mechanisms. I recently realized that those can be translated into different aspects of my being. I want to illuminate the dimensions through the power of my craft. After all, nine images are photographed, I will then translate each one into a "digital surrealism" version and also a "film surrealism" version, so that people can see the wide spectrum of my approach to photography.
What projects do you have planned for the future?
I plan to get back into the darkroom and continue mastering my new technique of printing. Unfortunately, my recent move to Los Angeles has left me without a space to print in. However, I know I will manifest one soon. Until then, I am working with a movie script to help develop the key art and imagery for the campaign. As a freelance photographer, I always have new projects coming my way. That said, I hope this future projects leads to many more down the line. I can say this about my work: it is high-impact art that holds enough power to send a message through one moment, captured in a still frame. So, what better place to be spreading my wings but within the city that is the capital of the television and film world?
If you have any upcoming shows, can you please talk about where we can next see your work?
As of now nothing is set in stone but I am planning on having a warehouse show this summer in which I will be putting everything I've ever made up for sale and in one giant space. The work will be set up in accordance to the timeline of its inception so that the viewers can see the development of my process and style. I will be promoting it months before the date so be sure to be stay tuned.
Chandler is working towards having a show in a warehouse space this summer. She will be putting in everything she has ever created up in one giant space, where it will all be for sale. This work will be set up in accordance to the timeline of its inception. This will be sot that the viewers can watch the development of her process and style. She will be promoting it months before the exhibition date, so fans of her work should be sure to check her website for updates.
To see the artist's work and for updates on her future shows, please go to: www.ARCPhotography.com
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