Interview with Alexis Noelle Barnett

So Miss Alexis welcome to the Snobbyamish.  We are very happy to have you with us. We’d love to dive into personal story and your career. Let’s jump right into it. You’ve spent the last few years in different places across the globe. What’s it like being an American in Paris? It’s challenging, but very rewarding. The past 3 years have been an intense learning experience but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I grew a lot personally and also creatively, so I’m happy to say I’m leaving a different person even more focused and ready a for what’s to come. A little evolution.

What first motivated you to go to Paris? And why leave now? It was an opportunity that came up and I think the fact that it was such a risk is what turned me onto it. Like, I dropped everything at 18 and moved to a foreign country with no idea what to expect. Now I’m still young and have plenty of opportunities to go back whenever I want but for now I’m starting something new in a different city.
01 02Street Style has blown up over the past 5 years and is now one of the most common perspectives on fashion.  What makes street style, seen through the lens of a camera, so attractive to you? It’s all about the energy and excitement within each photo. As someone who grew up in a Virginia suburb, coming to Paris and experiencing Paris Fashion Week was so fascinating and  especially because I have such an interest in fashion. That’s really why I started documenting everything I saw at fashion week and dropping it onto my Tumblr-it was kind of like my diary of every experience I had during that one week. It was never my intention to create content to get followers or “internet famous”. Nevertheless, I am beyond thankful for the following I have right now. I’m about to hit the 17,000 mark with my Tumblr followers and I’m just like “damn, that’s a lot of people”.
You are quite young and we have seen you photograph multiple famous, infamous and influential persons. The beauty of your work is your ability to create these natural but drawing portraits. How hard is it to get the perfect shot? At what point are you satisfied and walk away with a “dope photo”? My photos are all pretty much candid so part of it is being in the right place at the right time to be honest. But there’s definitely been an improvement of my photos since I started 3 years ago and that’s mostly because I learned the importance of framing a photo. Every photo I take needs to be 100% about the subject. Fashion week is so chaotic especially now that every kid with a camera hangs out outside the show venues. So while I’m shooting I really just have time to take 10-25 quick shots of one subject then I have to move on to the next- I don’t have much time to review my shots until the post-production phase.

Do you have any great encounters/ with any of these subjects? Have you developed relationships with any of the people you have shot?  The coolest experience ever was having Kanye West listen to me talk for a solid 45 seconds. I was actually shooting a Rick Owens show which was already a major moment for me and right before the show started I saw that he was seated across the way from me. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Kanye. My lame ass spent the entire show trying to come up with something cool to say to him because I knew this was my only time to shoot my shot. So after the show ends I go up to him ( literally sweating), and was like “Hey Kanye” and I told him about my work and I gave him my website and everything. He was actually really cool. The funniest part is he paused and looked at me before he left like he was waiting for me to say something else and I completely panicked and was just like “ yeah man I’m just tryna do dope shit like you” and he goes “aight cool” and walked off. I nearly died.

You have also collaborated and worked  with a lot of prestigious organisations such as Complex Magazine, Grape magazine, Milk Studios and many more. Can you tell us a bit about your experiences?  What’s it like working with a smaller/bigger team. What is usually requested of you? All the teams I’ve worked with have been rather small and I’ve been fortunate enough to have full control over everything I shoot, so far. I’m pretty laid back in who or what I shoot because a majority of the time I’m shooting for my own site so when it comes to me working for other publications or sites the major difference is I have to focus on getting photos of celebrities or big names in the industry. Like when I was shooting New York Fashion Week: Men’s this summer I missed out on getting a shot of ILoveMakonnen which, to me, wasn’t a huge deal but I know for the publication I was working for it was a missed opportunity.

013You mentioned ILoveMakonnen, how does music influence fashion or vice versa? I think hip-hop and black culture have the biggest effect on what’s “cool” in general. I mean, hip-hop literally changed fashion. The interaction between hip hop and street culture is what got kids wanting Raf Simons sneakers even when they don’t know who the fuck Raf is.

Even legendary advertiser Steve Stoute said Hip Hop culture is the most influential culture in the world opening the gates for a lot more diversity in across multiple industries. What’s it like being a black woman in the fashion industry? I think being a black creative in general can be kind of tough. There’s a weird stigma that comes with being black and creating art that’s sort of hard to explain. It’s like, you gain success or popularity for being the “cool black person” rather than for what you actually produce, if that makes sense…Anyway there are so many black women like Shiona Turini, Tamu McPherson, Vashtie, Michelle Elie, who all do really amazing things within the industry and you rarely hear about it. Why? High school me didn’t think black women in fashion existed because they aren’t really talked about, which is sad when you think about it. Representation is so important and there are so many black teenage girls who want to work in fashion but think it’s a world they can’t fit into because the face of fashion is white. 06 08I’d like to quote ‘Public Enemy’, “if you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything’. What do you stand for Noelle? What do you think is your role in culture in 2016 and what would you like to eliminate or make better in this world or your industry? I stand for all the young, black creatives about to take over this industry! Touch the Sky by Kanye is literally the mood for 2016.

What is your opinion on today’s social media oversaturation of “talent”  and  this “rush to the top” mentality? How hard is it to stand out from your peers? It’s wild. Like, isn’t it crazy how obsessed people are with the idea of being famous? Or even how often mediocrity gets rewarded? Especially since street style is such a saturated style of photography nowadays, you often see newcomers focusing only on shooting celebrities or big names, because they think it’s the easiest way to gain popularity on social media. Not me, girl. when it comes to my work I shoot the shit I like. I shoot clothing that interests me, especially what the Parisian kids are wearing- they’re the coolest. Like I said: I never started doing street style because I wanted to gain a following, nor do I know how long I’m going to be shooting fashion weeks. When it comes to standing out…I got 17,000+ kids who think my perspective is cool enough so…like.. I’m chillin.

What’s the role of the street style photographer in 2016? The role of the street style photographer has always been the same. I think in 2016 there’s more of a challenge because there are so many more people shooting on the street. For me personally, I hope my role is to bring a new perspective and make people fall in love with the photos I take.
09 011Is photography your only passion or is there’s something extra on the side you like to do as well? I really have a love for art and design in general, so I try learn as much as I can everyday about my favorite designers, photographers and creators. I spend a lot of time reading or going to exhibitions to try and learn as much as I can and gain new perspective. It’s small things like that that impact my own work.

What would you say to the people entering the world of fashion photography?  Just do you. There are no rules to photography, so find something you love and just shoot.

Photographer | Alexis Noelle Barnett
Be sure you check out her blog for latest work.
Interview | Sanja Čežek, Edio

Sanja Čežek

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