Q&A: Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

Issue #3 of Hot Chicks with Big Brains features an incredible spread of images of Angela Serrano in Wild Barra clothing. These were taken by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea to accompany Angela’s beautiful piece on yoga and body positivity, Style, Skin, Soul.

HCwBB has since caught up with Alexis for a Q&A about her career as a photographer, and we’ve included some additional takes from the shoot as an extra special treat for your eyeballs.

Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

I hail from Canadian shores, but I’ve been based in Melbourne for four years and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon! I’m a music lover, film nerd, and mother to three adorable rescue chickens and a cat, Miss Mia Wallace. I picked up a camera for the very first time at the age of 14.

Having spent much of my adolescence travelling from place to place with two parents in the entertainment industry, I became immersed in theatre, music, and art from a young age and mainly loved all the curious interactions, diversity, and freedom of expression in those worlds.

When did you know you wanted to be a photographer, and when did you begin pursuing a career in photography?

Growing up I always wanted to be a musician and singer songwriter. I still do! Though I decided ages back to pursue that in my spare time and channel my love of music through photography. Most of my photography, particularly my personal work, is often inspired by music and lyrics, theatrics, movement… Anything with a performative quality. I didn’t think of pursuing a career in photography until I reached my late 20s.

I was working long hours in a postproduction house for film and television and, though I loved the people, the work was really uncreative. Just to stay sane I picked up my camera again and began photographing with my mates most every weekend. At the beginning, I’d conceptualise an idea for a shoot and then make it happen.

Sometimes it was a zombie glam shoot in a studio, or a military themed shoot in a swamp with twin models. It was always different but always adventurous and challenging. Eventually, I started getting requests for shoots that were more alternative. Things like live burlesque or abstract life model stills that were to be painted by a painter. At that time, I began to envision the possibility of pursuing a career in photography.

What been the biggest challenge you’ve faced throughout your career to date, and how did you overcome it?

Good question! There have definitely been big challenges. I’d like to say the way the photographic industry has gone, and is still going, makes it really tricky for really skilled and visionary photographers to earn a living. You have to become a master hustler to get paid for your work, and paid a living wage, and if you don’t have the tools to manage how that can make you feel sometimes, it can be challenging to keep energy levels up. But on the flip side, challenge accepted! I’ve learned a lot of lessons from the way the industry and business itself has shifted and is still evolving.

Staying flexible, adaptable, and true to my vision has been really key to keeping the passion. Working with really switched on people that respect what you do and vice versa is integral, too.

A community-based mentality can really help take the edge off of the way big industry functions.

What’s been the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a photographer so far?

My barefoot wanders exploring across Canada, the United States, Central America, Europe, Africa, and Australia with my camera have felt really, really rewarding. Recently, I walked across Portugal with my partner and I was told not to bring my camera because of pack weight, but I refused. I paid for it, but it was so worth it! When I’m travelling, I leave the “You must take a solid photo” mentality behind and I really get back to playing and experimenting. I love zooming in on unusual textures, taking portraits of strangers when they aren’t looking, getting details of road kill (other than sanctuaries or zoos when else do we get close to these incredible creatures we live with?!). It’s a lot of fun.

My camera becomes my visual journaling, and I fall in love with all the things that might be considered ‘flaws’ by industry standards.

I would also say photographing some of my early music idols have awe-inspiring. I photographed Shirley Manson a few months back and I got that high school girl star struck feeling at the edge of the stage. She was a force of nature just gallivanting around the stage. It was a workout to photograph and I had to channel my emotions on the night into being hyper focused on getting the shots.

But when you’re photographing artists who are speaking out for equality, justice, freedom of expression and speech, and who are unashamedly themselves, there’s a real charge in the room.

Feeling that collective and uniting energy at powerhouse shows, whether it be music or kick-ass drag and burlesque gig it is the best high.

What was your favourite part of the Wild Barra shoot?

Hands down, Angela’s passion and enthusiasm! She was so much fun to shoot and a real professional. I felt the concept of the shoot really resonated with both of us, and this made the shoot feel really organic from start to finish.

We both want to see more cultural diversity in fitness based (particularly yoga) imagery, as well as body diversity.

There just isn’t enough of it out there, and the one note visual we keep being fed we feel has really deterred people from getting to experience the joy that yoga (however you practice it) can bring to your life. I also got pretty excited knowing we were shooting for such a fab publication, and Angela was wearing beautiful Wild Barra clothing.

Supporting Australian-based publications and fashion designers putting really great content and wares into the world felt great.

What’s next for you? Are you working on any upcoming projects? In particular, any personal projects?

I’ve found Cat Scratch Studio, home based LGBTIQ, QPOC, body/kink/sex positive space for creatives to use, that I’ll also use for my own photography. I’ll be launching it in November, and I’m really excited to see how it goes. The feedback has been really positive, so I’m hoping I can make that a real big focus in the near future. Other than that, I’m working on Issue 9 of Archer Magazine now with a visual team and prepping some fun studio and live shoots for the spring.

Grab your copy of Issue #3 before they’re all gone!


Answers and Images by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

Questions and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

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