Somewhere between grace and awkwardness lies a colorful world of textile and concrete. This realm is the masterpiece of Arielle Bobb-Willis, our latest portfolio discovery.
Based in NYC, the 23-year-old photographer is taking the world by storm—galleries and the fashion industry included—and yet long before turning into a career, her camera had been a therapeutic shelter. “Photography allows me to be present and take control of my surroundings, which at times were pretty grey and dark,” she tells us.
Bobb-Willis grew up looking at Jacob Lawrence, Picasso, William H. Johnson, and Romare Bearden. “Within paintings there’s no end to the things you can do with the body and this has pushed me to see restrictions within reality differently,” she explains. The sceneries we encounter in her work aren’t organized by means of familiar outlines (bodies and architectures), but rather deconstructed into geometries and colorful volumes that lead the viewer’s eye to a new perception of space, leaving him/her with an invigorating and dazzling sense of possibility.
Her visual language is inspired by the “uncomfortable positions” she has been in throughout her life. “Moving from NYC to a small town in South Carolina at a young age was an extremely tough transition, which turned into depression, and eventually into depersonalization. I felt, and still feel to a certain extent, that my body was something that I was renting or that was given to me… It was a time of too many questions and very little answers.”
More so, garments play a significant role in molding boundaries, in determining whether a body will be at one with reality; translate as yet another splash of color in the urban landscape or reveal itself as the scene’s protagonists. “The feelings of being an outsider or being comfortable in your environment are where the clothes come into play… This is how I show unity and anomaly.”
Twisted into arguably challenging poses, her models remind us of Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures. “It’s about creating a space for my subjects to feel un-judged. I don’t want to hurt anyone or make models feel entirely exhausted. It’s more about gently pushing someone to move out of their comfort zone and trying something new.”
But photography and fashion aren’t the only ways of substantiating perception; Bobb-Willis confides in music as well. “Music validates whatever I’m feeling in a certain moment. It emphasizes whatever state of mind I’m in, which in return leads me to creating what I do! My dad first started out in the music industry as a house music and radio DJ, so growing up that’s what we would listen to. As a kid, I hated it, but now I listen to a lot of electronic music.
In high school, I was super into Toro y Moi, Radiohead, Misfits, and Balam Acab. In College I listened to a lot of Frank Ocean, Daniel Johnston, Real Estate, Kali Uchis, and Purity Ring was the first concert I went to when I moved to New Orleans for school. I’m definitely super into Jazz and R&B as well. Lots of sad love songs and I'm really big on Rex Orange County, Daniel Caesar, King Krule, Mac Demarco, Tyler, The Creator, and Flying Lotus at the moment... Kind of Blue by Miles Davis is a go to as well!