I have always been in this passionate love-hate relationship with the colors I wear. Married till death to black, flirting with orange, secretly dating pink, and rejecting yellow (poor guy…). But it is a completely different story when I look to the works of London-based (but Lithuanian origin!) photographer and director Aleksandra Kingo. Her signature esthetics based on bold colors, as well as quirky, playful style is like the sweetest visual candies to my eyes. And although wrapped in ‘pink’, their filling can be dark and absurdity-spiced. Therefore, I invite you to meet Aleksandra and explore her unique visual horizons.
First comes first, you are an artist representing visual arts. How have you become one, and what are your visual art horizons? I believe it is not just photography, there seems to be so much behind it…
My initial creative exploration has started as an attempt to escape from my boring environment in my early teenage years. When living in what was probably the least creative faraway suburb, I found lots of joy in fantasy worlds, and being connected to the Internet from the age of 11 made that quite easy. There was so much inspiration from all over the world, and you could be whoever you wanted to be. So, I ended up being inspired by movies like The Dreamers or Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep and morphed into a quirky teenager who ran around forests with a film camera, shooting her friends and pretending she is the new Ryan McGinley.
Jumping to nowadays, having sort of ‘nailed’ the photography part, I also became very intrigued by film directing – as it’s a whole new and exciting way of storytelling for me. It also happened naturally as I am often acting as a ‘director’ of my photographs and even start all of my ideas in a written, script-like way. Still, it’s quite a lot to grasp and lots of exciting things to come.
Your signature esthetics is extremely outstanding – quirky, playful style, like walking the razor’s edge between discomfort and sexiness. How have you developed it?
Through a series of errors and experiments, really. At one point, after finishing my studies, I realized I had to stop and consciously think about what I liked doing and where I’d like to end up with my work. Being critical, focused, and most importantly, self-reflective. Sometimes, it meant saying ‘no’ to projects that didn’t fit my esthetic, even if they paid well.
And eventually, it all came into the right place. My work is very true to me and very personal. My humor is a mix of my home country’s dark humor layered over British sarcasm and puns. I am very self-ironic and always able to laugh at myself. A lot of early projects were informed by it – for example, I had a shoot about people being clumsy where I was noting my own clumsy moments and turned them.
You are embracing art and the world, of course, through this intensively candy-colored lens. Does this mean you always need to have positive thoughts and emotions to make the world pink in your photographs? I mean, is a happy artist = happy creative works?
No, not at all! In fact, I don’t think my work is always that sweet if you dig deeper, really. In my work, I try talking about the things that are important or annoying to me through humor and by bringing them to the point of absurdity. All presented in a candy-colored packaging but it could be quite dark or vulnerable, when unwrapped. It’s sometimes a defense reaction. Have you noticed the amount of covid-themed memes as the pandemic hit? People often joke about something they are worried about. Same with me – for instance, How to date in times of social distancing was born out of fear that I will not be able to hang out with my friends like I was before.
The fashion component seems to be very important in your works and you do nourish it as a real form of art there. Can you elaborate on this – fashion as art?
In a way, the fashion element is leftover from my Fashion Photography studies – at this point, it feels natural for me to use fashion as a storytelling tool. Aside from being a compositional and color element, fashion (along with set design and beauty) is always a powerful way to add to the story and tell more about the character through just a few elements and the connotations they bear. Is my character a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown or someone who has their life sorted? What’s their background?
Having said that, my work is never fashion or brand-driven, and I would never use a piece of clothing only because it has the right label. It needs to make sense for the story and the look. And if it’s Prada as well – great.
Tell us a little bit about your personal style (which, by the way, I love very much!). Can you trace any synergies between your outfits and your photographs? How do they interact with/ influence each other?
My work and I have been morphing into each other for a while now and my own fashion style became more colorful along with the images – it’s the chicken or egg question, really. I love dressing up and building outfits! For me, it’s a process very similar to image building – finding the right accessories and the colors to create something harmonious and tell a story. Just like in my work, I have periods of obsessions with particular colors or combinations – these days it’s green.
It also works well with the clients when I turn up to shoot looking like one of their characters or wearing a dress of the same color as the background that day. So it’s a dress to impress principle taking to the next level – and with lots of joy!
What are the most common objects/ components you choose to add to your photographs? Have you noticed if such a tendency exists at all in your creative process?
Ha, I never thought about it but it’s a funny exercise! Red lipstick, butts, curtain backgrounds, buttoned-up collars, and manicured hands. None of that was on purpose. I guess, I just like all these things! :-)))
Tell us a bit behind the scenes – how do your photographs come into being? Are there any inspirational muses you tend to rely on?
As mentioned above, it all starts with a written idea. For example, ‘woman pouring vodka into her soup, smiling at the camera’. I write those little notes all the time, sometimes noticing something around me or when reading or watching something – this particular one came to life as my friend made a ‘Bloody Mary soup’ for a laugh once.
Then sometimes I end up either developing one of them and adding more ideas on the theme, or just group several of them into one shoot. I then sketch them out – usually coming to set with everything storyboarded and knowing exactly what I will be getting out of the day.
Most of my inspiration comes from everyday life stories and the wonders of the Internet. I love memes, as they are the global human response to current issues – once again, people laugh about things they worry about. I love TikTok, I love Reddit and all the human stories on it, and I love bad puns. I also love Google Image Search, where the worst stock imagery comes up and brings references that are the most relatable to the viewer – because of its algorithm Google is the reflection of the human perception of the world. The good, the bad, the ugly.
It would be really interesting to know a little bit about your corporate clients. Are they all coming from the pink world?
Yes and no. I think, having strongly established my style these days, I only get clients who like my vision and aim to imply that on their brands. Very often, they might be very serious ones trying to become more inclusive, contemporary and, I guess, more millennial. This happened with Virgin Atlantic, for example, who put a lot of trust in my vision and went with it. And it worked out beautifully.