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Conversation with Alvina Wang

MFA in Photography, 2012

Conversation with Alvina Wang

After a successful opening reception at AAU’s 625 Sutter Gallery, we had the opportunity to sit down and ask Alvina a few questions about her life growing up outside of the U.S., her work, and any advice she would give to new photographers.

What was it like growing up in Taipei?

Growing up in Taipei is like growing up in New York combined with San Francisco…but with a slower pace.  I’d go out with my friends almost every week.  We’d go out to shows and galleries, we were updated a lot. I think it’s a very artistic city.

Do you come from a family of artists?

Not exactly.  Both of my parents are teachers.  My dad is a PE teacher, but he used to be a professional Judo [athlete].  My mom is a mathematics teacher. My mom and my grandpa like photography.  When I was young, my grandfather had a darkroom…which I don’t really remember much…but I think some of [my inspiration] comes from that.

What was it like transitioning into Western culture?  Are those experiences captured in your work?

I had been living in Taipei for 24 years… almost all of my student life.  One of [my] strongest experience was when I first moved [to San Francisco] in 2006.  For the first year I was living here I would joke that it felt like living in the ocean.  I can’t get along here, and I didn’t know what to do here, but I couldn’t go back.  I sometimes didn’t feel like an adult, that I had to rely on other people. Not knowing how to do things [here] was frustrating.  It was a struggle.  I had a very bad period of time where I was depressed, and I wanted to show that in the way I was shooting.

Alibi L. is a series of long exposures with a woman— you, existing in and dematerializing out of a single space simultaneously.  Can you explain a little bit about your process?

For developing Alibi L., I started shooting with another series.  It has a similar concept, but it is a totally different approach.  The old pictures were self-portraiture, clear figured but partial…like hands or feet or my back.  After I dealt with that series I’m thinking…what I can do to change it?  How can I present more of a dreamy look?  How can I show it more emotionally?  Back then it was very literal.  It was very dark.

Alibi L. is not as literal as my last show.  I see back to where I was, and I can see my growth…and it’s really cool.  It was very funny; the first concept image came out when I was in class!  All of a sudden I was like, “I want to do this!”  The first shot is the one in the window [of me] holding the jar.  That’s how the whole thing started.

On average, long does it take to complete an image?

It takes about three days to finish a shot.

What advice would you give to someone just starting to love photography?

Pay attention to each moment.  See the details in your life and find out what you treasure.

Alibi L. will be on exhibit through December 1st at 625 Sutter Gallery.