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Shooting Suburban Space with Photographer Natalie O'Moore

Anyone who's spent time adjusting ISOs knows that shooting twilight on film is tricky, but photographer Natalie O'Moore's new series documenting LA youth is so gorgeous, we're tempted to try. Aptly titled In The American Night, the use of 35 & 120 mm lends everything a distinctly hazy, nostalgia-laden vibe -- an appropriate gesture as the series itself is named after a book of poetry written by The Doors frontman Jim Morrison. Examining the modern world through an analog medium, O'Moore explores what the American Dream means in 2015, her visions of sprawling suburbs set amongst swimming pools, laundromats and television screens. Peep the photos and our Q&A with O'Moore below.

"Big Boys," 2015

I guess the easiest place to start is why did you choose to take all these photos after twilight, especially using a medium that’s so dependent on light.

Twilight and nighttime are my favorite times to shoot because of the quality of light. Twilight has a beautiful in-between where the sun has just gone down, the sky is soft and beautiful, and there is a really nice mix of ambient and natural light. Nighttime comes with its own set of artificial lighting that I really love. I like to use the lights from street lamps, car headlights, gas stations, and fluorescents to achieve a certain effect.

"Max," 2015

Why the homage to Jim Morrison? Can you talk about how exactly his poetry book inspired these images?

When I started this project I knew the images I wanted to make and what I wanted them to look and feel like, but had no idea how to title them. During the same time I was listening to Jim Morrison’s An American Prayer on repeat. There were a few lines...that just kept sticking in my head - they had a feeling to them that I felt related to the photos I was making. I then bought Morrison’s book The American Night and really fell in love with the way he writes. He makes a lot of these dark, strange metaphors that create abstract narrative poems. When I read I always see images - I used to read and literally feel like I was watching a movie because the images were playing out in my head the entire time. While reading Morrison’s writing and listening to his songs, images would pop in to my head for the project.

"Miles (Cactus)," 2014

"Boys (Laundry)," 2015

There’s a distinctly West Coast sort of sensibility to your photos, with what seems to be an emphasis on wide, open spaces and suburban backdrops -- an interesting choice especially since you just moved to LA, right? How does this series differ from the stuff you made while in NY?

I have been living in Los Angeles for two years (to the day, actually). I moved from New York City where I was living for four and a half years. Making pictures in New York was really different - I was so stimulated all the time that I literally could not focus my mind and my camera. Moving to LA, where I had space to create and time to think allowed me to simplify the images I was making and focus on particular subjects that I was interested in. I think that shows in the images themselves.

"Maddie (Moonlight)," 2015

Why exclusively shoot distinctly modern youth? Especially in such an old-school style/medium?

I love the look and feel of film, and the element of chance that it grants me. About a year ago I decided to solely shoot on film because it was giving me the best results for the vision that I had. In terms of the people I choose to shoot, most of them are friends or my peers who I have access to and who are willing to collaborate with me. Modern youth know how to perform for the camera and it’s fun to have a subject who participates in and is invested in the outcome of the photograph. I am really interested in the idea that modern youth are aware of the power of the photograph, and aware of their interaction with the camera. It’s interesting to see how, when you know an image can be replicated and distributed endlessly and to a huge audience, a person will act in front of the camera.

"Gabe (Nightswim)", 2014

"Red Room," 2015

You mentioned these photos explore both public and private spaces.

Part of the idea for this series was taken from my obsession with photographic history. I started to look at the photographers that I believed defined a distinctly American landscape through their work. I really studied what elements made their photographs “American”. I found that there were specific subjects, spaces, and themes that stuck out to me as repeating signifiers of suburban life - shopping malls, grocery stores, cars, and most importantly the home. Part of the American Dream (capitalism and the consumer society) ended in suburban sprawl and the ideal of everyone having their own, personalized things (their own car, driveway, home, computer,…) A lot of American life happens in the public sphere but is experienced in one’s own private bubble (listening to public radio in your own car, eating at a restaurant while staring at a personalized phone, etc.).

"Betsy (2x)," 2015

"Blue Glow (Char and Lili)," 2015

Do you consider these docu-style shots of these kids in their real lives or is it more of a stylized, artistic series?

In one respect this is a world of my own creation, made from my imagination of what scenes from the “American Night” look like. In another sense, I allowed for organic moments to unfold within the space that I created, so they are partly docu-style image.

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