We sat down with photographer Olivia Locher to chat For Art's Sake, the women of today and breaking a seemingly pointless law in America's 50 states for her photographic series: I Fought The Law (and how this doubled as commentary on American society at large). Read on to discover more about one of New York's most interesting and down-to-earth creatives.
First we need to know: What is it that you love about FAS sunglasses – how do they make you feel?
FAS sunglasses elevate me to be the cool girl I aspire to be! When I wear my FAS sunglasses I feel like a much hipper version of myself than I am without them. I also really hate applying makeup and my sunglasses allow me to run around without anything on but still look like I have everything together. The design of them is also incredibly unique and generates an unreal number of compliments.
How did I Fought the Law come about?
I Fought the Law came about in possibly the most random way possible. I was photographing my friend, Derek for my SVA thesis project and out of nowhere he said: “It’s illegal to have an ice-cream cone in your back pocket.” Our conversation quickly moved elsewhere but his allegation stuck with me. After a few months went by with this reoccurring thought, I decided I needed to research it deeper… and then I had a new project!
Which was your favourite law to break?
They were all fun and unique to shoot in their own way. A lot of the photo's productions came with their very own adventures. For example, in South Dakota it’s illegal to generate static. For this photo I knew I wanted to work with a Van Der Graaf Generator. My only knowledge of this device was seeing it as a child in school. It seemed simple enough; you turn it on, touch it, and your hair stands up. Crazily you can order a version of this machine on Amazon. My friend Alex came over and we were ready and excited to see some hair standing up. Neither of us knew about the intense power these machines possessed. His hair did indeed stand up, but when he removed his hand this wild pulse of electricity zapped him. We created a mini lightning storm. He fell over but claimed he was OK. I was worried about him for the longest time! Later that evening I discovered the storm we created also blew out my air conditioner. Long story short, for anyone reading… I don’t recommend having an at home Van Der Graaf generator.
Can you talk us through your commentary on lawmaking and civil disobedience in America on a larger scale?
I hope I Fought the Law allows people to question where they stand and how any of these laws may affect their own lives. In his foreword in my book, Kenneth Goldsmith, makes an interesting point about how the force of law works on the ground, which may have nothing to do with how it appears in law books: “In Minnesota a cracked tail light on your car is punishable by death. Sounds absurd? Philando Castile ended up with four bullets in him for that exact reason.”. I think especially now with fake news on everyone’s mind, and major lies coming from the White House on a weekly basis we need to get our facts straight. A law that may seem silly or dated can really become a burden if the wrong hands want to enforce it against someone.
The weirdest moment while shooting IFTL?
Some of these images were shot under highly unusual circumstances, often because of the unique concepts. On a few occasions I was forced to create an on-the-go studio. As a result, some of the images ended up having a large uninvited audience. The Alabama photograph was a good example of this. I went to the local ice-cream stand in my hometown, Johnstown armed with a backdrop, my mother + brother as assistants, and one of my close friends, Jackie to model. I set up a tiny makeshift studio in the parking lot and we shot. The customers of the ice-cream stand were very confused and became vocal, “Miss, did you sit on your cone?” etc. After about twenty photos we knew we had it and treated ourselves to fresh cones.
Walk us through a day in your life?
Coffee is my mantra! I wake up and the first thing I do is make a pot of coffee and while it’s brewing, I do my first round of Transcendental Meditation for twenty minutes. When I’m done meditating, I enjoy a huge cup of coffee while answering emails and laying the groundwork for the day ahead. Since I am a freelancer each day can look drastically different, but those morning rituals are always in place. Normally I try to shoot something every day even if it’s something no one else will ever see. I have an open door for all my friends to pop into my studio anytime they need photographs, I enjoy it very much when they take me up on that offer. I’m a pretty major homebody so I spend most of my days looking for adventures around my studio, it seems as though there is always something to dive into or work on.
Who inspired you growing up?
I was lucky to spend a lot of time at The Warhol Museum. Warhol was always and remains a key figure for inspiration in my life. As a young girl, I was exposed to the wonderful women from Warhol's scene. I admired and modelled my style from women like Edie Sedgwick and Nico.
What inspires you about the women of our generation?
Women are gutsy and powerful! People are no longer afraid to hire a young woman to do what was traditionally considered a man's job, because honestly, a lot of the time women can do the job more efficiently. There is an incredibly strong sisterhood between girls! Being a female artist who represents other women throughout my work makes that bond even stronger. The women who I end up photographing always end up feeling like an extension of my family. Women need to continue to encourage one another and raise each other up.
When you’re feeling insecure or unmotivated, how do you pick yourself back up?
Staying consistent with my meditation practice is very important to try to ease these things, but I think insecurity and lack of motivation often goes hand in hand with being creative. During those times, forcing myself to create even if I strongly dislike the results is important. It can be as simple as having a friend over and shooting some portraits of them. That practice can lead to bigger ideas to pull yourself out of that slump.
The advice you were given that’s stayed with you?
That it’s perfectly fine to mess up. I’ve learnt the most from situations that didn’t go well.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on my next book! It’s a spinoff of a long-term project I’ve been working on called, “How To”. How To, is a collection of photographs that chronicles misguided attempts at human achievement. Inspired by how directions could be easily lost in translation, I started staging mundane activities in my studio. Each situation is created out of a misinterpretation of cultural language or actions resulting in a new form to achieve success or failure. In a way I assume the mindset of a child learning to tackle one obstacle after the next with subjects like, “How to Dream”, “How to Walk”, “How To Get an Idea”, etc. The project is driven by the never-ending pursuit of enhancing our daily lives. This branch of the project will focus exclusively on beauty and wellness. I want to put a project into the world that encourages and inspires young girls and women of all ages to be themselves. Along with the photographs, a huge part of this project will be interviews conducted by myself with a wide variety of women and girls sharing what makes them feel confident and some of their secrets.
And finally, how many ice creams were harmed in the making of that famous shot?
Only one! I’m also happy to report the stains were washed away from the white denim shorts!