Isis, Oh Isis, You Mystical Child

Adarsha Benjamin is trying to figure out what shape a long lost hat used to be as she try's in numerous attempts to fit it to her head while looking in the mirror.  A suitcase is open with the paraphernalia of her life strewn all over the floor: old negatives, photographs, glass plates, Haribo gummy worms, a book on the composer Franz Liszt, magazines, notebooks, receipts and the golden idols of her existence – her cameras.  She is currently packing for a trip to New York for a photoshoot, then to Venice, Italy to produce a showing of James Franco's forebodingly grandiose art films entitled Rebel - a modern, abstract reinterpretation of Nicholas Ray's classic film Rebel Without A Cause starring James Dean - then off to Paris, then to Los Angeles to do it all again. Adarsha's photography is only a sprocket in the electrical daisy land of her artistic life. Her photographs are visual evidence of a life lived in only the way Adarsha can live. There is no real style attributed to her photography, except that her style be might its absence. Sometimes she shows glimpses in color and sometimes in black and white - images from the street to artists and actors -  like remembrances from a phantasmagorical dream her photography raises the quandary: isn't this all a dream anyways? As Adarsha hurriedly packs for a very early morning departure I got to ask her a few important questions - to which the replies were nothing short of illuminating.

What was the first image you ever took? There are a few 'first photos.' One of the first photos that I still have that I took was of Brad Renfro on the beach.  The next photographs I took were at Coachella - where I learned how to use a Canon or Nikon F7. I never remember the names of cameras. The first roll of film I took was of the Pharmacy in Brooklyn jumping around. Thats when I started coming up with ideas. Our magazine [Audio, Video, Disco] was when I decided to take pictures. I was also really obsessed with Lee Miller and I was really emulating her. I really loved shooting on film, because it was a film camera that someone gave me. It wasn't like I was that hardcore about film.

Number one inspiration? Love, duh. Heartbreak. Heartbreak more than love. Paul McCartney.

Why heartbreak? When your heart is broken there is an immeasurable depth. The same with in love - there is an immeasurable height. It makes you feel like your falling in either direction. The pain of heartbreak is so deeply inspiring because if you want find something to live for you need a way out it.

"When all the world is away on holiday

I always have myself."

Why Paul McCartney? Falling in love in that Beatles way that made me understand their music. I always thought of things as an early Beatles romance. I fell in love listening to Paul McCartney's solo album Ram. Then I discovered a lot of his other albums.

You travel at lot? How does traveling inspire you? [points to her suitcase] Do you like my house? I think I just really need to feel like things aren't always the same.  I have this part of me that wonders what happens when you deepen the connection with a place or person.  You always have yourself. When all the world is away on holiday I always have myself.

You have an incredible wanderlust…I want to know alot and I want to feel a lot. I'm not satisfied.  I'd like to be satisfied in one place, but that won't be for a long time.

What do you want people to see when they see your photographs? When people see my photographs I want them to see truth. I want them to see magic. I want them to see something they understand. Something that they are compelled by. I also don't want people to necessarily feel comfortable.

Do you consider yourself an artist or a photographer?I don't really know if I'm a photographer - its just a part of my expression. That word [photographer] is so boring.

So what do you say you are? Photographer is so overused. Words are so overused. Its easy to be called an artist. I'm trying to come up with a new word. I'm not defined by a single word. I don't want to be in the spiral of choosing one thing. Its when I'm not busy choosing that I'm doing the best things in my life. I'm an allist.  I'm a cosmic master of visual feasting.

"I'm a cosmic master of visual feasting."

What are you working on right now?  Are you joking?

No….Is that a joke?

No I'm a just an interviewer and I don't know you that well…I'm working on a few different series. A lot of my work I'm focusing on is on interpersonal femininity.  Sort of fractured moments of existence that I want to build into greater pieces. Instead of it being obvious. And continue taking portraits of people who have the light. Also my life and whatever it means - its all I have.

When you are looking though a viewfinder how is the world different? When I'm looking through the viewfinder its when I connect. Its when I realize the physical property of things and at the same time things not visible to the eye. Its when you see what works.

Where were you born? I was born in Seattle, Washington. Grew  up on Vashon Island [off the Puget Sound], Hawaii, New Orleans, Bay Area, Paris, and finally Brooklyn, New York and Summers in London.

What stands out the most about your childhood? My connection to it now. How the things I felt and saw and learned then I still carry with me today. Im not still a child, but it was just an intense process being a kid and it resonates today.  I knew from a very young age I wanted to do very big things and I was attracted to powerful people, not in the sense of power, but in the sense of creation.

Whats your earliest memory? The cobblestone streets of New Orleans. Cockroaches. Paris. My dad explaining to me that I couldn't put hot cocoa in my dinosaur thermos as I was walking through Mill Valley.

Were you surrounded by art as a kid? Yeah. I don't know how purposeful it was. There was a lot of creativity. My dad was always filming. My life was always on camera. The camera has been on me since I can remember thanks to my dad. Quite well composed photos too. You've seen some of them.

"Once you have one magic moment everything becomes an obsession."

How has it changed after you got into photography a few years ago? I always have thought in the realm of vision. I just technically didn't know how to use a camera. I would always use shitty disposable cameras. I always had big visions. I always wanted to pick up the camera and make those visions come to life. I had a 20 minute lesson once and then learned on my own. Once you have one magic moment everything becomes an obsession. With film I can go anywhere in the world and document it and not see it until I get home. Its a beautiful way to live.

When did you make the grand images come to life? What changed? Did the camera change? I just became obsessed with the magic. To me its an extension of things I want to create.

Spirituality plays a big part in your artistic life. Can you talk about that? Spirituality plays a big part in existence. Art is a replication of nature told through our different forms of human expression. Nature expresses art. To me spirituality is fundamental. It doesn't' rule my life – it just is. I've always thought outside the physical realm. And its in the physical realm that I have to learn more of.

Did you have a spiritual upbringing? I was born into a commune of spiritual folk who had a guru. I was raised chanting with pictures of Osho and Buddha and Shakti. I was always taught that that is what we should rely on. That that is how we make our dreams come true

Your name? My name is Adarsha Isis Ainsley Benjamin. My name was given to me through my parents guru Osho. Isis by mother - Isis the goddess and the Bob Dylan song. And Adarsha means 'first light of the moon.' Ainsley is my father's mother's maiden name - its Scottish. Benjamin is my mother's maiden name.

What was it like in the commune? It wasn't really a commune - more of a ranch. I grew up everywhere. With 90s beatniks in Brooklyn. My dads European friends. Then there was this avant garde artist in the art world by the name of Suzanne. Suzanne was the founding mother of my artistic upbringing. She was one of my biggest inspirations and in great parts the reason why I am who I am today. Suzanne was the person who made me realize it could all be real.

Can you tell me about Suzanne? She was an artist. She was a connector.  She brought me to Los Angeles for the first time. She was the person who introduced me to a director. She paraded me around as a little kid.

"Now its just sort of like I am my own character."

She really shaped you? Completely. She was one of the most important parts of life. My mother and father gave me life, but Suzanne believed in me - since I was seven on. She also introduced me to my first manager. The first photographer when I was modeling. My first boyfriend. All these people came through Suzanne.

What brought you to Los Angles? Acting? Yes. And I loved LA – I fell in Love with LA at a young age –  thanks to the Chili Peppers and Charles Bukowski. And I wouldn't have known who Bukowsi was if it wasn't for the Chili Peppers.

Moving to LA was a massive chapter? It was the chapter. It was me becoming me. I chose LA. I didn't have anyone here. I very bravely decided to move to a city where I knew only 3 people with an aspiration of being an actress. It didn't feel common, because I don't pay attention to those things. And by default I work with Hollywood.

It was deeper and more poetic than just becoming an actress? Acting is just so emotional. It was the only outlet for someone so emotional. For someone that wanted to tell stories.  I wanted to play parts that tell a story. That side of me has never been fully realized. Now its just sort of like I am my own character. Acting definitely set me free.

Your friends definitely grew after just those three people you met - what changed? [laughter] I have always been a part of groups of people. I was a loner as a teenager. I spent a lot of time alone.  I started working full time at 15. Im still living out my 14 year old dreams forever.

Whats next? Everything.

Visit Adarsha's photographic diary Analog Dreamscape

Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre