By Kate Ferguson
This photo here is the one that made me want to chat with Cape Town-based photographer and director Alexa Bortz. (It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m obsessed with blue, water, and film. So yeah, I’m a fan.) Alexa and I chatted about her current projects, creative mediums, and being an artist.
Tell me about how you got started in photography and directing.
I began my photographic journey while traveling for a year. Somewhere along my travels, I stumbled upon my first film camera, and ever since I was hooked. I think what originally drew me towards film was the rawness of it. I’ve always found that film captures things in their true essence, whereas with digital I always felt that I had to retouch my pictures to get the perfect colors and lighting. In regards to directing, that’s something that has come naturally when trying to execute an idea as I had envisioned. For me, directing is simply just having the vision and being able to make it come to life, which goes hand and hand with being a photographer.
Are you drawn to certain colors and creating certain moods?
Color is hands down, the driving force behind pretty much everything that I create. To me, the element of color is what inspires me and a very important factor when trying to express a specific tone. I usually find that the moods I try to express stem from the what I am feeling from certain colors at the time.
How do you approach taking photos of people, as an observer or a director or both?
I find snapping a picture in a moment where the person is least expecting it is where the magic happens. Regardless if I’m photographing and directing on a shoot, or simply taking candids in random moments, going about them are the same. Snapping the picture in that split second where the individual in front of the lens is at their most vulnerable, yet most comfortable state, is what I find to be key.
Does living in Cape Town influence your work?
Cape Town holds such a special place in my heart, and I personally find it to be one of the most incredible cities on earth. The endless array of natural beauty and saturation of color within the city has without a doubt inspired my photography.
How do you find balance as an artist?
I personally find that the key to having the perfect balance is immersing creativity into my daily life. Being a student, I have an opportunity to produce work that can be used for my portfolio. I currently am in the process of creating a few interesting projects, and hopefully, collaborate with other talented artists. So I guess the most important thing for me at the moment is solely to just keep on creating daily, in some shape or form.
What inspires you?
I find the people and places I surround myself with tend to be my biggest source of inspiration. Being in the right environment helps my creative juices flow and tap into personal or social topics that I am experiencing at the time.
Tell me about your mediums, you shoot 35mm, you also illustrate…
I have quite a few creative outlets at the moment. My priority and main craft is film photography, but I occasionally switch to digital when I’m shooting stars at night (which is very rarely at the moment). I also enjoy creating digital collages from my photographs, it’s a really fun way to get a bit weird with outtakes. On the side, I enjoy illustrating and painting. I’m currently going through this phase where most of my drawings are hairy naked men in BDSM gear, so let’s see where else that takes me!
What is success?
Success to me is simply doing what makes me happy, and surrounding myself with likeminded people that keep me inspired. I don’t believe success as a creative is solely measured by the amount of recognition & attention their work receives. I personally feel it’s about being able to tap into these feelings and emotions deep down, and having the ability to spew out magic from it. It’s as simple as that.
Any challenges about the industry or your personal experience of making art?
Overall, I have found that many people are extremely willing and excited to collaborate. I mean at the end of the day creatives thrive off of each other. Although I am still quite new to the industry, I have found in some instances that it can become more about who you know, rather than the content of your work.
What are you working on now?
I currently just finished an editorial series with my best friend and creative partner, Andrea Loupis, entitled: “Plastic Never Dies” focusing on our plastic consumption and the consequences it ultimately has on our environment. Andrea and I will be releasing the full project on our Instagrams soon, so keep a look out!
What is your dream career?
I would say that my dream career at the moment would be to work at a magazine like i-D or Dazed as a photographer and creative director. But it’s very hard for me to say right now, as my goals are constantly evolving.
Hmm what’s next… that’s a good question! If only I knew the answer to that question myself, but that’s the beauty of art and life. My ideas are largely a result of my experiences, so let’s see what else life throws my way.
Cape Town Photographer Alexa Bortz can be found on Instagram.