Ciao LA: An Interview with Brandy Eve Allen

Brandy Eve Allen's Ciao LA is an amazing, intense photographic diary of her life during a self imposed expatriation in Italy. At the age of 21, tired of her life Los Angeles, Allen got on a plane bound for Torino, Italy (a place she'd never been before) and created a life for herself - photographing and documenting all along the way. At one point, as she describes in the below interview, Allen was is Paris and got a chance to photograph the poster for legendary director Bernardo Bertolucci's 2003 film The Dreamers starring Michael Pitt.  When she was 27 Allen moved back to LA and pieced everything together to create Ciao LA which she describes as “a memoir of a young girl on a journey through language, love, culture, art and the ways it fucks with the heart.” Allen's photographs in Ciao LA are raw and wrought with paroxysms of emotional ardor that are touching reminders of both life's beauty and fragility. Right now Allen is trying to get Ciao LA published and is having a solo show in Torino, Italy - she is also "trying to get the fuck out of LA again."

PAS UN AUTRE: You shot the poster for the great Italian director Berolucci's Dreamers - can you talk a little bit about that?

BRANDY EVE ALLEN: I'm was living in Italy and at 22 years old traveled to Paris and walked into the world of The Dreamers to photograph the actors for the poster. They were shooting the film at the time so I was fortunate to be on set and see how Bernardo Bertolucci creates an atmosphere. It fed me with inspiration and each actor brought their own essence for me to capture uninhibited. They're vulnerability made it that much easier for me to work with. Before beginning to photograph Michael Pitt, I felt like I needed to earn his trust and was up to the task. In doing so, I borrowed his guitar and started playing a little Pixies song I knew, from there he gave himself freely. Bernardo is so hyper aware of the youth around him and he engages you with only a glance. He did just that as I was sitting down, rolling a cigarette, he looks at me with an expression as if he knows, like I'm rolling a joint or something, but not this time, it was just tobacco. I remember laying on the bed to show each actor how to position they're bodies until we had this beautiful overlapping of figures and this ended up being the shot they chose for the poster. There was another photograph that they almost used that was my favorite which was taken really spontaneously when we were just hanging out between shots. (I attached that photo to this email)

AUTRE: You were in Italy for quite sometime and the moved back to LA - those experiences were a big influence for your new book - can you talk a little about Ciao LA?

ALLEN: CIAO L.A. is a photographic memoir of the three years I spent living in Italy and how it affected me both as a young woman and as an artist. I came to live in Italy after spending some years in LA, a city that I've always battled with, in search of something that would remind me of why I'm here on this earth. The beauty, the culture, the incredible people I came to know and love... and hate, how each of those experiences and the shit going on in my mind gave me so much to put down on paper and in a photograph. Even in a foreign country I could only get away for so long and then I ended up right back with myself. It not only was an honest account of my relationships during that time but also a dialogue about making art and trying to put it out there, the rejection, the recognition, the moments of pure satisfaction from creating something true and failing to do so. The coming of age challenges faced by young women in their late teens and twenties is relatively unexplored territory in modern literature, and I'm hoping to help fill that void with CIAO LA.

AUTRE: What specifically brought you to photography? Can you remember the first image you ever took? Major inspirations?

ALLEN: I've always been creative whether it was with music, painting, dance, video but it wasn't until I was 18 that I started to take photography seriously. I remember the exact time it really went down, my friend and muse, Samantha asked me to take some shots of her for a portfolio and I borrowed my friend's nikon and we took a couple rolls. I brought the film to Michel Karmen, a master printer and friend of mine who worked at A&I to develop the film. Once seeing the images, he encouraged me to continue and began letting me borrow books of great photographers to learn and be inspired by. Photographers such as Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann, Nan Goldin and Keith Carter. I felt like shooting what I knew best was a natural place to begin and turned the camera inside. I didn't want to show what things looked like, I wanted to show what they felt like. Just like the experiences are deep for me which each image, so is the process, so I use film. I need to use my hands and really get dirty with it, I like chemicals, I like playing with light and science. Photography is really intuitive for me.

AUTRE: Whats next?

ALLEN: Getting the fuck out of LA again....But seriously – I'm hoping to get CIAO LA published and about to have a solo show in Venice, Italy of my recent infrared series that I've been working on for the past couple years. Inspiration is never short and I'm continuing to finish and begin different photo projects that I'm really excited about. I'll be photographing at the end of the month to finish this one series called SONG OF SONGS, where I photograph nude women in different positions and then draw in what they're wearing and the different scenarios around them with pencil. A sample from that series was just featured in a show at Kana Manglapus Gallery in Venice, CA. But most importantly, what's next is me just trying to stay focused on what matters and not let my head get caught up in the bullshit.

See more from CIAO LA and check out more photography on Brandy Eve Allen's website. Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre.