August 22, 2014

Spotlight: Anna Ladd

Getting into the knitty-gritty of the Internet, teenage blogs, and art school with Anna Lad.

Before I became aware of artist Anna Ladd’s digital presence, I considered self-portraiture as a medium that refused to adjust itself alongside contemporary art. I considered portraiture outdated-- the kind of art that only existed as studio setups stacked to the brim with apathetic high school students pressed wall to wall, blinking each time the shutter goes off to ruin their yearbook picture forever. Self-portraits, to me, did not exist outside of sky-blue backdrops and forced two-rows-of-teeth smiles until recently, when I got mixed into the world of Anna Ladd. 

Anna Ladd is from Philadelphia, where she's been stretching the seams of self-portraiture for a while. Anna is known for producing pieces of herself within the spectrum of her own art. Whether it’s through the documentation of her own experiences via her spoken word releases, or through a photographic series extracting her personality frame by frame, Anna can always be found somewhere, fetching us something new that she has found inside herself. Fascinated by her universe beyond the surface, I talked to Anna about the Internet as an artistic platform, confession, and the blog she ran at thirteen.

THE LE SIGH: Let’s start off by virtually shaking hands. Introduce yourself! 

Anna Ladd: Hi! I am Anna and I’m legally a grownup but not very good at it yet. I’m an aspiring photographer/filmmaker and I like burritos and dogs of all sizes.

TLS: You study photography and film in Philadelphia. How do you think the art school environment effected the way you work as an artist?

AL: The art school environment is awesome because I’m always surrounded by other creative people and I’ve never had to explain myself because everyone gets why I’m here! It’s definitely pushed me to experiment a lot and it’s a good combination between collaborative and competitive.

TLS: What came first – your passion for short film or your passion for photography? 

AL: Photo came first! The first time I ever tried video was in college and I took the class because I was obsessed with Breaking Bad. But I started taking photos early in high school, and worked in a darkroom for the first time my senior year.

TLS: Can you tell us about some influences that drive your work aesthetically? 

AL: I really love any sort of mixed media work that uses photo as its starting point but pushes the medium beyond just a straight print, especially things where the whole process and all the choices leading up to the final product, like paper and materials, reference the overall meaning of the piece.

TLS: A lot of your work draws back to personal experience and raw honesty – particularly your spoken word releases on Bandcamp. A lot of these tracks felt like an exact recount of really specific moments in time; it felt like I was right there with you. What are your influences as a writer? Is spoken word as a medium something you’re looking to dig deeper into anytime soon? 

AL: I’m super inspired by the spoken word performances I’ve been to because they were so incredibly raw and powerful. Clementine von Radics and Andrea Gibson are two big ones for me. My writing is different from my visual work in that it’s very specific to me, I don’t like to make things more vague and identifiable when I write. I actually just started writing a full length spoken word record! I’m reteaching myself guitar for it and I might sing but also probably not because I’m pretty bad. I think it’s going to be a fun process though because I’ve never recorded anything very in depth before!

TLS: Your spoken word releases were the first I have come across at all, ever. I feel like spoken word as a medium is quite under-utilized, but resurfacing because of the Internet, along with a lot of other art forms that are being brought back from the dead. What do you think the Internet’s interaction with creative projects has done for the art world?

AL: The Internet definitely has its own culture and aesthetic and it definitely supports younger creative people and DIY, which I think is awesome. It’s a whole new platform for people to share their work without having to navigate any sort of “art world.” People definitely make art for an online audience, my first spoken word recordings were made specifically with the purpose of posting them online rather than performing them. I think that “internet art” and the fine art world are pretty separate right now though.

TLS: Your photo series ‘Things I Told the Internet, But Didn’t Tell My Mom’touched on ideas of disclosure in your own presence on the Internet. What first inspired you to build on this idea? What was your creative process behind this series?

AL: I was looking for the first blog that I ever made back when I was 13 because I wanted to see what I had written about and it occurred to me that I have this huge daily record of my life of the last 6-7 years, and a lot of it is about stuff that I’ve never really talked about. I started to go through all the stuff I’ve posted in the last few years and pull out phrases from things I said online but didn’t ever discuss with anyone. I chose phrases that weren’t super specific because I wanted them to be applicable to a wide range of situations and feelings, rather than just my own. The banners are all direct quotes from my junior year of high school through last fall, and I hung them outside as a super literal representation of inside/outside and public/private. They’re really colorful and playful and almost funny and I think that keeps the viewer at sort of an emotional distance, the same way I do with people.

TLS: How much do you think your work would be affected if its personal qualities were extracted? Do you think an artist’s personality beyond the surface of their work is essential for any content creator to create quality, honest art? 

AL: I guess it kind of depends on what sort of work the person is making, but a lot of things that I do are essentially self portraits, even if they are just examinations of parts of me through other people. But sometimes the personality of the subject is more important than the personality of the artist and photography is different in that you can kind of manipulate anything that exists in the world and make it mean whatever you want it to mean. My work needs me and my experiences in it, but I wouldn’t say that it’s essential to making something honest.

TLS: What is the overarching intention and purpose behind your art? What reaction do you hope to find among your audiences?

AL: I’m really not sure yet! I really like the idea of building communities through art and helping people understand each other. I’m still experimenting and learning new processes and trying to find the best way to communicate and figure out what kind of work that I want to make when I graduate.

TLS: What’s up next for Anna Ladd these upcoming months? Any secret projects headed our way? (Don’t worry, keep in mind that we are the Internet, not your Mom). 

AL: I’ve got a series about sports and personal identity in the works, and a tiny documentary of my moving out process that I shot on a camera I found at a flea market the weekend I was packing everything up! In the next year I’m learning how to print on all kinds of things that aren’t paper and also hopefully make my own paper so I think a lot of handmade books are going to happen too.

See more of Anna's work here.

Madalyn Trewin, a scrawny Australian teenager, who is feeding her obsession with dogs, David Lynch and Daniel Johnston twenty-four hours a day. If not that, she's writing about things she likes and saturating her friends in glitter so she can take photos of them to post onto her blog.