23-year-old photographer Natalie O'Moore has a refreshing take on Americana. When she's not working in Los Angeles, she hits the road. Gas stations are her favorite mise-en-scène. Staged against twilit filling stations and roadside Checkers, her photographs avoid pre-packaged representations of youthful (mis)adventure. Instead, they speak to the loneliness and strangeness of being on the road. We caught up with O'Moore to discuss her recent series "Girls/Girls/Girls," and how her work has changed since heading out west.
How long have you been living in Los Angeles and how has it impacted your work?
I've been here for a little over a year and a half. Before that I had been living in New York City and was feeling really stifled. After moving to LA, I began working on a lot of big sets while assisting various photographers and got to see how intricate and planned out their shoots were. It was really inspiring to learn that even the images I thought were spontaneous had been created by the photographer with an entire team. So, since living here, I've started planning out my images rather than waiting for a moment to happen as I did before.
What draws you to your settings — the great outdoors, fast food joints and gas stations?
The great outdoors is fundamental to the American spirit — or perhaps what it used to be. I grew up playing in nature and have always been really adventurous. I also really look up to William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Gregory Crewdson, Sally Mann, Tierney Gearon, Alex Prager and Ryan McGinley. Growing up, I would look at their work and think about what they were trying to do with the American landscape.
Fast food both fascinates and disgusts me. I think I'm attracted to it because it is pervasive in contemporary American culture, but more importantly the marketing of fast food chains is so aesthetically unique. If you photograph in any fast food restaurant there are always amazing colors and great compositions. I love the neon lights and the smells that they pump in. It's the ultimate indulgence.
And gas stations are where I feel most comfortable. They are like a Starbucks for the road. They make me happy. I love walking into gas stations and looking at what they're selling, who is working behind the counter, and the customers that come in and out. It's completely democratic. Everyone has to get gas, everyone gets thirsty when they're driving, and especially when you're on a road trip there is really no where else to go.
Tell me more about your series "Girls/Girls/Girls." When did it begin?
A few of the images are from a road trip that I recently took with my roommate and twin sister. We started in Memphis, Tennessee and drove through the Southern U.S. to Los Angeles. The other images are from various shoots that I've done over the past year, as well as a few snapshots that I have taken over time.
My work is pretty organic and I don't always have a formal theory about what a series means, but my idea is that these images are my subconscious memories of my childhood and adolescence. Each girl in the work is sort of a self-portrait at different stages of growing up. This series is something that I've had to photograph to look back at my past, work through it and move on. I think it's a diary, but it also heightens those real-life experiences, which gives it a cinematic feel.
Nowadays it can feel like we are perpetually logged on and sharing. How do you deal with this as a young photographer?
I enjoy taking photographs so much, whether it's with my iPhone, camera, computer or any other device. The idea that I can always do that, even if I forget my camera, is more exciting to me than detrimental to experiencing "real life." I personally don't mind that there is constant documentation and I encourage my friends to take more pictures all the time. I actually think that they don't take enough pictures!
Text Matthew Grumbach
Photography Natalie O'Moore