BY ALLISON FONDER
Bringing a somewhat cathartic energy to her work through honest and humorous portraits of life on both coasts, Amanny Ahmad’s photo work demonstrates part – personal perspective – part dedicated observation. Never objecting to the practice of getting a photograph of the most unassuming moment or unapologetically capturing multiples of one image, this seems to speak to our desires to always capture the moment, our anxieties and curiosities regarding overlooking a small cultural footnote, and enjoyment of scrolling through memories as old as our most recent meal. In modern society, our photo-prowling minds often focus on the micro – what can be found in quotidian life that stands out, that feels unique or noteworthy? All of these “banalities” are precisely the kinds of nuances that influence her practices (and really undeniably our own lives), and what engaged me to learn more. With her own studio work, she incorporates these observations into elegant reconstructions involving commonplace cultural phenomena and perhaps its more deeply entrenched symbology. In this recent interview and photo essay, Amanny shares several of these everyday influences that include elements of the L.A. landscape and studio meditations, showing the gradual significance of these quiet moments of reflection that occur when we snap a pic.
Q: What’s your favorite art book?
A: Gottlund Press put out a book called “Simple Pleasures” by Zoe Ghertner, and it’s just what the title claims, a succinct and beautiful set of photographic images, simple shapes in beautiful colors and compositions. It is out of print now, but at the most recent Los Angeles Art Book Fair, Gottlund made xerox bootlegs of his own out of print titles, and I have that version as well. I think that the original and the bootleg in tandem are my favorite art book currently.
Q: What’s a project you’re working on that you’re most excited about?
A: Recently I had the opportunity to design and set up a collaborative retail space in LA called STUDIO STORE. The storefront is attached to a larger warehouse filled with 12 studios that are occupied by different types of artists and makers, from painters and photographers, to jewelers and letterpress printers. We decided to activate the front of this space in order to create an environment that was accessible to the public, where we could share what the tenants do as individual makers, alongside carefully curated objects and vintage garments collected by myself. Although STUDIO STORE is intended as a store, we are interested in offering an affordable, specialized experience, where collecting objects or clothing, by way of particular interests, is an act of recycling, rather than a gesture of support towards the already overstimulated mass marketplace of unending consumption.
As part of my personal practice, I began incorporating plants and flowers into my sculptures, installations, and photographs last year. Working with these elements has become a dominant part of my practice, and I appreciate the perishability and transience of plants as materials.
Q: Anything you’re studying right now?
A: I have been studying plants, flowers, and the technicalities of floral design, as well as the different types of Japanese Ikebana. Although the presence of flora in my work cannot be seen as traditional Ikebana, I am guided by the aesthetic and principles when I make some of the choices in my sculpture arrangements. The transfer of one set of techniques to a different language of communication outside of its’ original realm, i.e., floral design applied to installation or photography, is a theme that runs through how I approach my practice. This interest in Ikebana of course furthers my desire to go to Japan.
Q: Have you ever wanted to be anything besides an artist? If so, what was it?
A: I’ve never considered being anything other than an artist. One of the things that is exciting about now, to me, is that to be an artist means to be so many things, the word encompasses all the things that I try my hand at, such as floral arrangement or photography, or whatever it may be at any given time. I do not suddenly become a florist, or a whatever it is that I’m doing at the time. I remain an artist, capable of communicating through multiple languages, although I certainly wouldn’t consider myself fluent in these adopted languages. 🙂
Q: What’s your most cliché inspiration? Your most unexpected?
A: I find that all inspirations, no matter how commonplace, have the potential to be equally unexpected, until they become a part of your language, in which case they become familiar. The lense through which we view even the most obvious and mundane images or cultural icons is what activates and elevates something to become a relevant part of the way we chose to see, and subsequently how we represent things.
Photos courtesy of Amanny Ahmad