An Interview with Arielle Bobb-Willis

28th June 2024
Arielle Bobb-Willis Portrait

As Arielle Bobb-Willis’ career goes from strength-to-strength, we caught up with the photographer to hear about her practice, her inspiration, and what she’s been working on lately. Here we discuss the History teacher that encouraged her to pursue photography, her commitment to fall in love with as much as she possibly can, and her new book, ‘Keep The Kid Alive‘, which will be published by Aperture later this year.

Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'Brooklyn, 2016'
Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'Brooklyn (2), 2016'

How did you get into photography?

When I was 14 I moved to South Carolina for high school and was placed on a digital imaging course. It was my history teacher who saw how happy photography made me, and he gave me my first film camera. I shot my first roll in my room at sunset. The town we moved to was really small and conservative. I felt very isolated, developed depression, and felt that my environment didn’t support my values and the life I wanted to live. It was frustrating to say the least. But after I shot my first roll of film in my room, I realised that photography enabled me to create my own surroundings. My grey, isolating, and emotional teen bedroom suddenly became this saturated, warm, beautiful jumble of colours and shadows. Photography allows me to create the world that I’d like to live in. It’s super therapeutic, and since that moment, it became a necessity in my life.

Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'Los Angeles, 2020'
Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'New Orleans, 2017'

We know that a lot of your inspiration comes from painting. What else inspires you?

I’m very inspired by Milton Avery, Jacob Lawrence, William H. Johnson and Sister Gertrude Morgan. With painting there’s no limit to what you can do with the body, you can give someone five heads or turn someone green. I try to bring that sentiment into my photos. I like to push my subjects to do something different from their day-to-day. I find it so freeing and fun to use reality to create things that aren’t necessarily seen everyday.

That said, I’m also inspired by everyday things. I love wandering around whatever city I’m in, seeing poetry graffitied on a wall, having dogs bark at me through a fence when I walk by. I love the way older people dress, and I love blue hour. There’s so much inspiration all the time!

Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'Long Island City, 2017'
Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'New Orleans (2), 2021'

Which photographers are you inspired by?

I really love Alex Webb, Synchrodogs, and Spencer Tunick.

How did you develop your unique style?

I always say that my purpose is to fall in love with as much as I can, and my photos are a conglomeration of everything that I love. Photography is a tool that helps me remember it all, like the way the light hits a green wall at 4:13pm—I want to capture it and keep it forever. Photography has given me the gift of seeing beauty everywhere, every day.

Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'New Jersey (5), 2018'
Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'New Orleans, 2023'

Your use of colour is very prominent, can you explain what it means to you?

My first introduction to art was through my Dad, who loved artists like Basquiat and Keith Haring. He grew up in NYC, around the time that those artists were creating. So I’ve always been particularly drawn to art that is abstract, colourful and expressive. My Mom lives in New Orleans, which is where I went to college, and I’m heavily influenced by the city’s culture and architecture. Everything is kind of falling apart there, but it’s so colourful and beautiful at the same time. So I guess I have to thank my parents for my love of colour!

Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'Los Angeles, 2022'
Arielle Bobb-Willis, 'New Orleans, 2021'

There is a strong sense of motion in your work, how do you incorporate movement?

It definitely has to do with my love of the abstract. I wish everyone looked like the people in my photos – expressive blobs of colour and light. My work is definitely intuitive and I improvise a lot. I have an idea of how I want the shoot to go, but it always comes out differently, which is a happy surprise.

What’s coming up next?

I have my first photo book coming out in October with Aperture! I’m so excited. But otherwise, more pictures, more travelling, more being present and more being in love!

    FeaturedArielle Bobb-Willis

    Arielle Bobb-Willis Portrait
    Arielle Bobb-Willis Portrait

    The ArtistArielle Bobb-Willis’ work has been published in Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New York Times, and she has collaborated with brands such as Nike, Apple, Valentino and Hermès. Her work has been presented internationally in museum exhibitions and she has photographed many contemporary musicians, including Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X. She is one of the few photographers to have shot a Vogue cover before the age of twenty-five.

    Arielle Bobb-Willis: New Featured Artist


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