We are thrilled to announce this month's VIF (that's very important friend), Aly Kula. We chatted with Aly about her photography, her life as a student, her goals, and our mutual love for Destiny's Child #RIP. Read on to find out what Aly's doing to promote artist's rights (credit where credit's due, y'all) and why she chose Artist's Striving To End Poverty as her non-profit benefactor. Shop Aly's Top 20 here ♥️ and use code ALYVIF for 20% off and don't forget 5% of sales will go to ASTEP!
Currently living: I am currently living in Boston finishing my degree in graphic design, but primarily doing my commercial and fashion photography in NYC. However I am also living under the fantasy that I am still in Australia where I lived pre-pandemic, and intend to move back to post pandemic. So, maybe you could say all over the place.
Pronouns: My preferred pronouns are she/her/hers!
I am a(n): Most people would like to say I am a student primarily and a photographer on the side, but I prefer to say I am a photographer and student on the side :). I intend to immerse myself completely in my own freelance work and art after my graduation in May. I’ve always had crazy ideas and a crazy drive for travel and literal rocky roads unknown, I just never have had the time or have driven spontaneous or unrealistic adventures into my schedule for the sake of keeping my inspiration alive. My goal as a postgraduate and full time photographer is to create a life for myself where time runs on my own clock, and most importantly where I block things from my life that inhibit time and care towards my creative energy and flow. I am more than excited for this up and coming shift in routine where I create my own schedule for my own creative wealth, despite all that university has taught and given to me.
Go to self care when you’re feeling that lingering 2020 anxiety: Self care to me is blowing off my responsibilities for a few well deserved hours to scroll through my favorited TikToks (in my room that has way too many mismatching posters and hangings), taking a walk on the DUMBO or Charles River esplanade, or going on a very long drive with a friend down random roads to explore new scenery within my favorite states!
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? 100% tacos or hashbrowns (but they absolutely have to be the crispiest of hashbrowns). My two go to’s that I never ever get sick of and probably would accept a food baby for! Taco Dumbo is my favorite Brooklyn stop for a taco fix and guac with pomegranate seeds.
Next vacation destination ASAP (post pandemic ofc): Back to the other side of the world to the Gold Coast of Australia where the 14 hour time change allowed me to be bothered by absolutely ~no one~. Missing everything about it including the people, the inland rainforest swims, major ozone hole sunburns, and of course the beach margaritas. With the pandemic cancelling 8 shoots I was really looking forward to out there, I feel that a part of me needs to be resolved by going back and finishing out those creative endeavors.
Fashion trend I’m crushing on rn: Oooof everything! Something I pride myself the most on is my wavering style. It's skater girl one day (although my weak ankles and fear of concrete could never physically live up to the real skater hype) or full blown boss pumps, leather jacket, and pants another. Brown and sage green and brown and blue combinations, or just leather in general always make the cut. I’m always in for a good matching monochromatic fit, or cool textures! My goal for this year is to get better at colored eyeliner styles as well which I’ve always felt are the best elevating accessory and to continue to fuel my sneaker addiction although the prices do not make my wallet happy.
Who is an influential female muse/or major inspo in your life? Amber Asaly, a fashion photographer who rose from the ground up. She is based in Los Angeles & has cultivated the popular style that we see across many up and coming photographers today with her film photographs. She has forged it with quality and a unique creative eye that supports her constant day to day productivity and grind. I aspire to create on the level of quality that she does week to week. I admire her for the fact that she creates on her own schedule which shows through her work. I feel as though social media today has underlyingly pushed the agenda to create constantly and 24/7 at the expense of creating quality work to stay relevant, and this is exactly what I do not see across her work. She reminds me that it is okay to post a breadth of content and to strive towards your own unique vision, even after we have all been introduced to the fact that trends are now influencing a lot about the type of visual work that is being put out. Amber is clearly a trendsetter whose work stands apart from others. Not to mention that her Downtown LA studio emanates everything about the style of pieces that Friends carry, and so does her fashion!
3 essentials you can’t live without: My film camera, my Alohas split tone heels, and my self confidence I’ve worked hard on building over the past few years >:)
Just finished binging [TV series, Podcast, Book series?!]: Pen15 (a TV series that almost feels too realistic and gave me one too many middle school flashbacks) and The Defining Decade - a book that made me more stressed about my 20s (yet less stressed all at the same time) l. It touches on work, love, relationships, and much more.
Favorite Girl Group of All Time: Big RIP to Destiny’s Child.
Last instagram account you followed? @josefinehj and @robinfrancescawilliams. Josefine’s feed gives us that dark yet minimalistic vibe everyone is seeking out right now, but doing it with the cleanest of color palettes and fits! Robin’s artwork as a painter encapsulates some of the most unique yet playful shading techniques and forms I’ve seen in a very long time!
Stressed when: University eats up all of my creative time and I cannot see my creative long distance best friends :(... or simply when I lose the backs to my favorite Friends earrings!
Impressed when: My creative friends produce wonderful eye catching work and land brand collaborations with incredible respected brands! Proud to say that my own friends are my biggest and best inspirations.
Anything new you’ve been working on or excited to see come to life in 2021 you wanna share? I am currently creating a mock campaign that highlights artist’s work being stolen due to new media. Stealing art is not a new concept however with the introduction of new media the overhead ownership of digital creativity by social media corporations or brands have created a habit of recycling artist’s work without credit. The stereotype that artist’s productions are just a mere hobby enforces this new epidemic of ignoring real compensation or recognition for artists.
Nowadays a tag on Instagram is considered etiquette of respect for credit and exposure, a simple thing that others can’t seem to get down just yet. In our new age of advertising and media, brands now have full outlined practices for how they design their brand, how they outsource freelancers, and how they run the advertisements and creative assets that is the main drive for their profit. However brands also love to assume that their monetary compensation or mere “exposure” for the artist is enough for them to sweep the ownership of commissioned artworks under their arms. I want my campaign to recognize the artists who have been ripped off and gain their recognition back instead of only calling out the brands that copy or steal work.
Creating a more encouraging and supportive tone for artists who have experienced artist fraud rather than berating the brands and people who facilitated these situations in the first place is what I want. Focusing in on these artworks and stories will help emphasize why credit is a win for everybody and everybody’s work and not something to be pushed under the table for one side’s benefit or laziness.
What drew you into photography? It wasn’t necessarily anything specific, unless we want to count the fact that yes, I was that cringey 6th grader that dragged friends to the local park after school to shoot iPhone photos of us jumping off of swings and making cringey hearts with our converse and flowers. I am grateful to say that I’ve never had an ounce of embarrassment in my body, so continuing to share these god awful photos since I was 13 is probably what allowed me to be at the point I’m at today. Practice makes perfect, and like every artist, I go through major mood swings towards my work where I love it one day and hate it the next. I am grateful for my own self hatred which sounds odd, but it is the push that never leaves that makes me know I can and will create better work and will never stop learning and improving.
Most memorable shoot to date? Oof definitely a tough one. My favorite shoot to date is most likely one I did with Gabrielle Loughlin in a rain room studio. She is most likely the only friend/model that would’ve been that willing to get so incredibly soaked for a shoot, but the effort she put in shows in the photos. We used a huge industrial fan to dry her off at the end of the shoot! My second favorite shoot had to be Brandon Woelfel and I’s shoot for Profoto’s September 2019 campaign, where their team flew from Sweden to help us create content for their new product while I helped with behind the scenes content. Working alongside my creative best friends is the greatest blessing about my job. You know it’s your lifelong passion when work never feels like work!
How has photography impacted your personal content creating? Being a part of the creative community on Instagram and other social media platforms for 7 years has caused me to become inundated with opinions about my own personal content creating. Photography has allowed me to make more connections, friendships, and brand collaborations through a screen than any LinkedIn profile or classroom could ever bring to me. Photography has opened doors for me to collaborate with artists, singers, models, other photographers and many more, and it would be hard to say that their outlooks, styles, and opinions haven’t rubbed off on the way I style or curate my content, but in the best of ways. I believe every content creator should create their own style by being open to learning from others and open to teaching others. I dropped my photography minor due to the fact that those I have surrounded myself with in the creative community have been ever so generous in offering tips and tricks and advice. I hope that the creative community on social media stays supportive rather than competitive in the future. Photography has allowed me to make content that makes me feel beautiful, my friends feel cool, and to showcase things and other art that deserve the hype.
If you had to choose...Boston or NYC?? Easy...NYC. No shade to Boston’s walkability, baseball, wonderful student population, and Tatte lattes, but NYC has had my heart for it’s fashion, culture, and respect for a true grit and grind since I was born. NYC’s creative community is ever persisting and it’s where I intend to stay! Living in proximity to NYC has been the reason why I have so many amazing, creative, and driven people that make my life as happy as it is today.
Tell us why you picked Artists Striving to End Poverty as your non-profit? I chose ASTEP, Artists Striving to End Poverty for my continuous passion to continue to push arts education in every single community and at every age. ASTEP is meant to transform the lives of youth using their very own art. ASTEP connects performing and visual artists with youth from underserved communities in the U.S. and around the world foster their imaginations, critical thinking, and most importantly to help them break the cycle of poverty. Expressing yourself, like artists do, gives children more power and the tools that are seen on the surface of art such as better communication skills, better confidence in participating, thinking outside the box, social and emotional skills and transparency, and problem solving. Art education and non profits like ASTEP enforce the incentivization of education that makes every child aware of the fact that their voice and expression is important. They continuously craft models that fit the needs of students within existing structures to help populations such as the homeless, gun-violence targeted, HIV/AIDS victims, the systematically impoverished, and those under the caste system to become the best version of themselves.
More info at ASTEP.
Where can we find you on the internet and beyond? My favorite place to create on right now is Tiktok for my absolute struggle to choose a niche: @alykula. My main Instagram account for my photography: @al.y & my personal Instagram account where you can find me, behind the scenes, and more: @alykula