Women Crush Wednesday: Alison Viana
Born in Miami, FL and now based in New York City, photographer Alison Viana uses her work to explore themes surrounding sensuality, identity and race. Viana received her BFA in photography from the Parsons School of Design. Her work has been shown in numerous galleries as well as a few publications. Viana now works as a staff editor for the New York Times.
Interview by Ashley Rosas
1. What influenced you to begin Dons and Divas?
I vividly recall the first time one of my teammates removed her hair from her head taking out sections at a time revealing her natural hair. As a child I was not aware that people applied fake hair to enhance their looks I always wondered how my friends had completely different hairstyles from one day to the next I accepted these occurrences as magic and that black women had magical hair that would change in shape color and texture until my friend strand by strand revealed the truth that this malleable hair was in fact not magical I often heard the phrase good hair thinking to myself do I have good hair. As a Hispanic woman raised in Miami FL I was influenced by several cultures growing up. When I was a child my mother would take me to the salon to get my curly hair straightened out I never quite understood why but all I knew at the time was that I liked the compliments I would receive after getting my hair straightened. She always said how beautiful I looked when my hair was straight and silky I prized my mother’s words certain ideals and standards of beauty were being crafted within me since I was a young girl. These experiences in my community and at home lead me to begin this work on barbershops and beauty salons to explore notions of beauty standards in a place where people construct their identities.
2. Looking at your other personal work you shoot mostly in black and white. Could you talk about your decision to work in color for this project?
We see the world in color. The color in the spaces I was photographing is part of the story and the color becomes just as important as the content It helps differentiate the salons and creates a mood and personality to the images I wanted the images to pop I wanted them to be vibrant saturated and bright color plays a huge role in the story telling aspect of these images If I had shot this project in black and white I would’ve missed the color in the hair skin clothing and the interiors of the salons. In addition there is a lack of representation of people of color in photography and I wanted to give these salons and barbershops visibility because they are extremely important social grounds for the communities in which they exist.
3. How often did you visit these barbershops Were there any in particular you felt more connected to than others?
I visited the shops about twice a week and I would spend about 4-8 hours in the shops photographing and Hanging out. Although majority of the shops were very friendly and gave me access there were only a few that I became close with and developed more of a connection.
4. Are you still working on this project If not do you still keep in contact with those you’ve photographed?
I’m no longer working on Dons Divas but I still keep close ties to some of the salons I photographed in and always stop in when I’m in the neighborhood.
5. What is Collectiv_ﬂISM?
At the start of 2017 two friends and I created a collective called “Collectiv_ﬂISM” in which we collaborate on Works of visual expression encompassing music fashion art and design Our goal is to tell stories that push the envelope within narrative expression collaborate with local artists and friends to create work that promotes healthy discussions surrounding politics race gender and sexuality We began this collective because we believe art has the power to build bridges across communities and we want to give more artists like us visibility.
1. How would you describe your creative process in one word?
2. If you could teach one one hour class on anything what would it be?
Importance of community spaces
3. What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
A memoire called Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
4. What is the most played song in your iTunes Library?
Vuelve by Daddy Yankee and Bad Bunny
5. How do you take your coffee?
Short and sweet a Cuban cortadito
To view more of Alison's work click here