Last fall, Manhattan-based photographer Olivia Locher released the book I Fought the Law. Featuring a visually stunning compendium of bizarre and outdated laws from all 50 states (as well as a handful of renditions shrouded in myth), Locher was able to hone in on her eye for creativity and wit into one mesmerizing book. Like how in Nevada it's illegal to put an American flag on a bar of soap. Like how in Ohio it's illegal to disrobe in front of a portrait of a man. While the book is still a new(er) release, Locher has continued to assemble hypnotizing photo shoots and release a plethora of finalized portraits. Images that feature women ironing their hair, models freshening their breath with flower petals, men chewing on typewriters, and much, much more. Combining elements of magical realism with saturated backdrops and plenty of playfulness, Olivia Locher has managed to build a world where the strange seems normal, where anything can happen (and when it does, it usually involves a mess). With a home studio at Locher's disposal and with "no off switch," the prolific artist answered a handful of questions and spoke about daily rituals, the pleasure of her own company, upcoming projects, and being allergic to bees.
How has the year been treating you so far?
2018 has been great! It has allowed for me to put a lot of the ideas that have been put on the back burner into production. 2017 was jam packed and busy for me and slowed down my process of creation. 2018 has been slow moving and easy going, I’m making a lot of work and am enjoying the stillness while it lasts.
Can you talk about the birth of your 'How To' series and how it's evolved?
‘How To’ was born as my college thesis project at SVA in 2012, but it’s become a consistent part of my practice. The project chronicles misguided attempts at achievement. Around the time I started the project I was looking through a lot of cookbooks. After a few cooking disasters, I got inspired by how directions could be easily lost in translation. I started illustrating simple tasks that were a little off. In a way I assume the mindset of a child learning to tackle one obstacle after the next with subjects like, “How to Dream”, “How to Walk”, “How to Wear Heels”, and the list goes on and on...
Do you have a lengthy list of 'How To' ideas, or do the concepts come sporadically?
Often times my own misfortunes will spark a new concept! I compile long lists of ideas and then premeditate the best way to approach them. Sometimes a person that I’d like to photograph will inspire an action and I’ve found that’s a really fun way to work and grow an idea.
You recently had bees in your home? And you're allergic? Can you discuss that experience?
Yes, It wasn’t the first time! In 2016, The New York Times Magazine commissioned me to shoot this wonderful photo to go along with a creative writing piece detailing a man who kept bees in his Manhattan closet. Working on this piece gave me the confidence to take a swing at it again this past month. I am outrageously allergic to bees and don’t have healthcare so I was playing with fire! The first time a team of wonderful people handled the bees so I could avoid them but this time it was just the model, the bees, and myself. Just being in their presence gave me an allergic reaction but luckily Benadryl came to my rescue and I’m thrilled with the photograph.
Does it take a great deal for you to draw the line when it comes to your art/vision?
It’s hard to draw a line between real life and my practice, it all sort blends together and intermixes. Setting up my studio in my apartment allows for there to be no off switch. Whenever inspiration sparks I can jump into action!
What have you been listening to / reading / watching as of late?
I’ve been listening to Beehive and The Barracudas, 2003 album, In Dark Love on loop lately. It was one of my favorites growing up and I just rediscovered the LP in my childhood bedroom in Pennsylvania. I’m also really enjoying Ian Svenonius’ new album, Introduction to Escape-ism. It’s flawless and really gets stuck in your head. I made the mistake of becoming a subscriber to FilmStruck and am watching something ridiculous like three films per day. I find myself going down different rabbit holes watching everything a certain director has created, I have a major crush on Jean Cocteau's films right now. Sadly I haven’t been reading because I’ve been spending so much time watching movies.
I Fought the Law was released last September. Do you have any other books / large(r) projects in the works?
I see ‘How To’ coming to an end within this year or shortly after. I have hopes for it to become a book. I’m moving out of my current space in Manhattan at the end of May and have these huge windows. I’ve decided that during the entire month of May I’ll have an art show from my window. I’m going to show a new image to the street each day until my building shuts me down (with a good fight of course!). With that I’ll be putting out a new handmade zine of the same work.
With so many artists and creatives grinding and promoting throughout Manhattan, is it difficult to ignore the competition and/or not be influenced by outside styles/trends?
I was homeschooled and never really ran around with a crowd, this conditioned me to enjoy the company of myself. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body so I’m pretty oblivious to any of that stuff that’s happening. I’ve always been a really good judge of character so luckily the people that I allow into my life and work are generally really honest and pure. I’m not worried about being inspired or influenced by outside styles or trends, I believe everything someone creates is a conversation with everything else.
Do you have any advice for artists/photographers working on their craft?
It’s most important to trust your ideas and execute them. Don’t be afraid of failing, you can always rethink something that doesn’t go quite right and fix it. If you have a desire to create than you should! Also don’t be worried about finding a style right away, it will naturally click...don’t force it.
Any final thoughts / words of wisdom?
I think it’s important to find little rituals that make you feel good, for me they are sensory deprivation tanks, and transcendental meditation. Working little routines into your daily life will keep you centered and focused.