|"They called her Ame Onna" - © Reylia Slaby|
"I'm Reylia, and I'm a conceptual photographer, but that isn't all I think I am. I am also a graphite artist, a poet, a dancer, a model, a writer and a reader. Not because I do all of those equally as much, or that I'm spectacular at any of them, but because I love them all equally, and have all had their place in my life."I think I can relate to those words. :-)
I came across Reylia's photography page on Facebook and I was instantly blown away. There are many conceptual photographers out there, yet Reylia's work stands out for its freshness and uniqueness. Blending together both western and eastern elements, her images are magical and evocative. How does she achieve that? By "filling them with emotion," as Reylia herself explains in her artist statement:
"In my photos I must have emotion, and I must have feeling. That is all I strive for. I get my inspiration from what I believe to be truths in life. If I can bring to people images they only see in their dreams, and images filled with whimsical hope, beauty, or tragedy, then that is a wonderful gift. And I hope that in that way I can be a friend."
EEG: Thanks so much, Reylia, for answering my questions today! Your work is amazing, and so is your story: you started as a graphite pencil artist before transitioning to photography (you can see some of Reylia's drawings here). And you've been modeling since you were two, which is not surprising, actually, given how beautiful you are! How did this affect you growing up? When did you transition to the other side of the camera and what motivated you to do so?
RS: Thank you! Yes I have! When I was a kid it was a ton of fun, but since I'm a bit short there aren't too many opportunities in modeling for me at present.
Though since I was home-schooled, growing up modeling actually helped me connect with hundreds of people I wouldn't have otherwiseーplus it exposed me to the photography world quite early on. It might sound unusual, but the most valuable lesson it taught be was how to properly deal with rejection. It has been an invaluable skill, because it helps me keep moving forward instead of dwelling on the negative.
EEG: Though your family is originally from America, you were born and raised in Japan. Indeed, one of the things I love the most in your work is the mix of Asian and Western elements -- I had been playing with cheongsams and sun umbrellas for a little bit before stumbling into your work and when I did, I was blown away. "They Called Her Ame Onna" (the picture above, Reylia explains the story behind it in this post) and "It Can't Protect you" are two of my favorite from your Conceptual gallery. How do you achieve such perfect blend of Asian and Western? What do you love best of each world?
RS: Growing up as a "third culture child" helped me understand that there is more than one way of thinking. These days, I'm actually leaning more towards Japanese styled art because I understand it and it takes up so much of my identity.
I started out with a more "Westernised" style. People have even told me that it looks Victorian, which is funny, because I grew up loving and studying that era. But what I love the most about Japan is the depth and emotion in the culture. I'm extremely grateful to have been born into such a beautiful world.
EEG: I loved your blog post Preparation, on how you learned how to plan ahead for your shoots. But do you ever start off with a certain idea and end up with a completely different one? How often do you surprise yourself?
RS: Yes! It actually happens quite frequently. Instead of going for a particular look, I try to aim for a certain feeling, so my pictures often turn out quite different that I see it in my mind's eye. There are many times where I would have a photo-shoot and I'd end up forgetting the first idea and shoot something completely different. I think the biggest surprised with my piece called "The Captain's Daughter". After that shoot, I couldn't see a story in the pictures, so the original files for that had been sitting on my computer for at least 4 months. Then one day I reviewed them again and saw something different.
EEG: Given that you were (still are?) a model yourself, does it make it harder or easier to work with models?
That's a tough one! I actually don't think it has much to do with your ability to model, but the attitude and imagination of the model. Of course it's always wonderful to have someone who has modeled for a long time or someone who dances (I love to photograph dancers) but it isn't a necessary qualification. A person who can move, who is flexible, who doesn't mind going into cold or dirty waters is the best kind of model! Someone brave enough and believes in the idea enough to continue through.
Thank you so much for the interview!!
EEG: Thank you, Reylia, for kindly answering my questions. It's been a great honor to have you here on the blog and to learn a bit more about you and your work.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Reylia and her work as much as I did. You can see all of her beautiful images on her website, and learn more about her work process on her blog.