Q&A: Maggie West
If the name Maggie West doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry it will soon. She is an artist specializing in experimental lighting and installation techniques.
She expresses these techniques through the medium of photography. We asked her a few questions about her journey to become the photographer and artist she is today and discuss one of our favorite photography series.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm originally from Asheville, NC. I moved out to LA in late 2008 and have lived here ever since. I released my first photo book, KISS, in 2015 and since then have released a second book, 23, in 2017. In addition to my photo work, I have also recently begun doing large scale photo installations.
Have you always been a photographer? Did you get formal education or are you self-taught?
I have never had any formal photo training, but I have been working as a professional photographer since I was eighteen. I wasn’t very interested in photography as an art form until after college. Originally, I was much more interested in painting and illustration and viewed photography as more of a technical job I got paid for (I worked at a portrait studio).
Eventually, I discovered the work of photographers like Nick Knight, Erwin Blumenfeld, and Tim Walker and realized that, when combined with production design, photos can be just as illustrative and conceptual as drawings.
How did you discover your photography style?
Years of trial and error.
You have impeccable, colorful lighting. What colors inspire you the most?
I don’t know there is one color or color scheme that inspires me more than any other one. In general, I would say that the process of combining colored light is very fluid. I generally try a lot of different combinations during a shoot to get the look I’m going for.
What or who influences your style?
There are a million artists I love whom I feel like have been very influential to my work, but here’s a short list: Erwin Blumenfeld, James Turrell, Barbara Kasten, Nam June Paik, Diana Thater, Nick Knight, Dario Argento, James Bidgood and Doug Aitken.
One of our favorite projects is a large-scale installation called "98." Can you tell us about the project, how long it took and etc?
Throughout history, most women depicted in stained glass artwork are Saints. The majority of these Saints were virgins, many of whom suffered gruesome violent deaths rather than lose their “purity.” The Catholic church equally revered these women for their commitment to maintaining their virginity as their commitment to God.
Rather than be celebrated for their purity, this piece, titled 98, pays tribute women’s freedom to sexually express themselves and protest sexual violence. The title, 98, is taken from a Department Of Justice statistic that says ever 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted.
98 was an art installation built to resemble an outdoor stained glass ceiling. The piece was constructed out of steel and plexiglass. 98 was six feet wide, ten feet tall and sixty feet long and was located in the center of Pershing Square for the Amber Rose Slutwalk on Oct 1, 2017.
If you could take 6 months off to work on your photography somewhere (anywhere in the world). Where would that be?
Tokyo seems fun.
Do you have a ritual, quote, or affirmation that keeps you motivated with your photography?
Not really. I think in general it’s just important to keep doing what you love, but not to be afraid to try new techniques or concepts. It’s the only way your work can evolve.
Interview by Diane Lindquist