Marissa Alden | Interview

Age no barrier for success

Born in Australia and becoming interested in photography after studying photojournalism at school, Marissa Alden is conquering the professional realm at the tender age of just seventeen.

Self-taught, Marissa began by photographing nature, landscapes and animals, which then grew into photographing portraits.

It’s definitely inspiring to see a young person with big ambitions, and it’s fantastic to have an Australian photographer featured here on Ezra Magazine.

After submitting her work to us, we thought it was high time to feature a young photographer on our website, so below is our interview with Marissa. Like Marissa, if you’re a photographer and would like to be featured, you can do so by submitting an article here.

Hey there Marissa, how is Australia treating you at the moment?

Hey Ezra Magazine! Australia is great.

Have you always lived in Australia?

I was born in Australia in 1996 and have lived here my entire life.

So tell us a little about how you became immersed in the world of photography…

I first became interested in photography at around the age of fifteen, when I was able to choose photojournalism as an elective at school. I then purchased my first DSLR camera and started teaching myself new techniques on weekends. I began taking photographs of nature, landscapes, animals (anything and everything really), which soon grew into my love for portraiture. I was fortunate enough to find amazing models in my younger sister Darcy and my neighbour Cynthia, organising spontaneous photo shoots in my backyard and at nearby locations.

Copyright 2014 - Marissa Alden
Copyright 2014 – Marissa Alden

What sort of camera do you use?

I currently use the Nikon D7000.

Your collection of images is certainly eclectic and beautiful. How did you go about first starting your portfolio? Did you have training in photography or was it more of a hobby at first?

Thank you so much. To date, I haven’t had any training in photography. At first I considered photography as a hobby, treating it the same as I had treated my hobbies such as painting and drawing, something I would do in my spare time. With time and practice I began to realise that I loved taking photographs more than I did my other hobbies, and now I just can’t imagine ever putting my camera down to pursue another career. 

How often do you plan shoots and how often are they spontaneous? Do you work better with one rather than the other?

I would say 80 per cent of my shoots are planned and the remainder are spontaneous. I like to prepare shoots in advance, often spending the week leading up to the shooting hand making props, backdrops and accessories. On occasion, my imagination is triggered by certain lighting, prop or location and I have to shoot right away, without any planning. The image pictured, was taken late one summer afternoon. the lighting in my backyard was so perfect that I couldn’t resist photographing it.

I pulled my sister from her room, got her to change into the sheer blouse (still wearing her pyjama pants) and went out and shot for less than five minutes. I love random shoots like this, I had no idea what my concept was before I walked out the door, but after I was finished shooting, I felt as though my goal had been accomplished. I can’t say that I work better with a planned shoot rather than an unplanned shoot (or vise versa), it all depends on several things such as the lighting, weather, model etc. Sometimes I spend a week planning a shoot and it completely fails due to bad lighting, or sometimes I plan a shoot in 10 minutes and it goes perfectly to plan.

Copyright 2014 - Marissa Alden
Copyright 2014 – Marissa Alden

Who in the photography world do you admire for their skill, and who in the photography world do you admire for their work ethos?

My photography idol is Tim Walker. I am in love with his unique style, boldness and his ability to capture fashion in a way no one else can. I also find inspiration in artists such as Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, Paolo Roversi and so many others, it would be impossible to list them all. I think Lara Jade is one of the most hard working, dedicated photographers in the business. I admire how her age hasn’t stopped her from being successful. I also admire Emily Soto, who proves that you don’t need professional training to be a great photographer.

Photography often takes up a lot of spare time. How do you go about juggling it with school, as you’re only seventeen, which is fantastic to see you exploring your passion so young!

During my final year of school in 2013, I tried to balance my school work with my photography work. I would do photo shoots on weekends and during breaks when studying for exams. I often used photography as a motivation for studying. I would sit in my room, writing an essay or completing an assignment, picturing in my head the photo I would create when I was finished. I also participated in three folio subjects at school, so I had the opportunity to combine my school work and my passion.

What would you like to do with photography as a career? 

I would love to pursue fashion photography as a career. I love how limitless fashion is, and how clothing can help enhance a concept.

Tell us a little about a favourite image of yours and how you went about constructing it…..

I took this image recently of one of my close friends Rachel. I had been planning this shoot for a while, collecting vintage clothing items, jewellery and props and hand painting a backdrop. I constructed the the set in my backyard, hoping to use the diffused natural lighting of Autumn. On the day of the shoot the sun was extremely bright, casting harsh shadows and causing the backdrop to look terrible. Luckily I had a creative model, and we both constructed a sort of tent using bed sheets, a flattened garbage bag, the fence, lots of pegs and a washing line, blocking the sun from the set. It was difficult shooting in such changing light, however I feel the final shots are more rewarding when not everything goes and plan, forcing you to think on your feet.

Copyright 2014 - Marissa Alden
Copyright 2014 – Marissa Alden

What do you enjoy most about going out and photographing? What is it about that process that drives you to keep going with it?

I love how limitless photography is, how I can create a scene inside my head and bring it to life. I enjoy being behind the camera and directing the model, seeing my ideas come to life through the lens before I have even captured the image. I am driven by my dream of creating art, new ideas and concepts excite me. I just love being in the moment when photographing, a shoot is so fulfilling, it makes me happy seeing how a concept in my mind has developed into reality.

Has being a photographer opened up any opportunities you might have not experienced if you weren’t a photographer? If so, what were they and how did you respond to them.

I wouldn’t say photography has opened up lots of opportunities for me just yet, however since I started photographing, I now see the world in a different way. Photography has given me ‘eye’s’ in a sense, enabling me to see the beauty of this world and allowing me to appreciate the beauty of small things such as the light, colour and patterns in our everyday life.

Photography has given me the opportunity to travel to areas I wouldn’t normally visit and really pay attention to how beautiful the simplest of things can be.

Ezra 1 (8)
Copyright 2014 – Marissa Alden

Being quite young in the field must have advantages and disadvantages, have you come across any and if so, how did you approach them?

I think most people are surprised when they hear of my age. I haven’t come across any disadvantages yet, but imagine I will when I start to work with larger clients. I think age is a factor when it comes to photography, with many thinking young photographers aren’t as capable or experienced as those who are much older and have been working in the field for a longer period of time; when in fact many beginner photographers are just as capable as those who are “experienced”. I believe if a photographer has a high standard of work, their age should not matter.

Who is an inspiration to you and why?

My family inspire me everyday. I am so grateful to have such supporting people in my life. My mum, in particular, assists me a lot with my photography, driving me to locations and helping me carrying equipment around. I am also inspired by my teachers, who supported and believed in me from the beginning.

What is your favorite thing about living in Australia?

I think I am very fortunate living in Australia with the weather through out the year. I’m not sure what I would do if it snowed for months and I had little chance to shoot outdoors. I also love the scenery in Australia, there are so many different locations in a small area. I love having access to the beach, the city, forests etc. all within an hours drive.

Ezra 1 (9)
Copyright 2014 – Marissa Alden

If you had the opportunity to organise a feature shoot any place in the world, where would it be and why?

I would love to shoot in Iceland. The landscape is so surreal and unique, it would make an amazing backdrop. I can picture models floating on glaciers, or lying amongst the rocks. But first I would have to find some very willing models to brave the cold.

You can view some of Marissa’s work below:
flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marissaaldenphotos
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marissaaldenphotography