It’s hard not to notice Malia Moss. This Austin, Texas native has an amazing personality with a great smile, and an infectious laugh. Not to mention a hair cut that I’d kill for.
I’ve been following her somewhat over the years. We both graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia. I go to her website once in awhile to look at her work, and I browse through her Youtube videos that are informative and extremely funny.
When I asked Malia to sit down with me for Ticka Arts’ very first interview, she immediately said yes. At the time of our conversation she was preparing for her first solo show. We agreed to meet at Franks in downtown Austin.
Are you excited about your show? This is your first solo show, right?
Yes. I have had pieces in-group shows before. This is the first time it’s a complete body of work, and it’s just me. That’s just scary. I’m freaking out a little bit.
How long have you been working on the Multiplicity series?
Well, I started the series when I was in school about five years ago. I hit a lull for a year and a half or so. I wasn’t working very much. So then I went to France, and I came back. While I was there I kind of got rejuvenated. I guess that’s what Europe does for people.
While I was there I just forced myself to do stuff. That’s when I started getting into video really hardcore.
I love your videos. I was looking over them the other day, and I thought these are so great. I was thinking; how is she doing these? It takes a lot to shoot videos, and then to edit them.
I just taught myself really. When I was in France I couldn’t access Hulu. I couldn’t watch American TV. French television is awful. They dub all of the American television. Other countries won’t dub it they’ll just put sub-titles. They dub everything. I got really into watching Youtube, because it was easy, convenient, and entertaining. I fell in love with this guy name Ze Frank. He’s like one of the fathers of video blogging. He’s brilliant. He had done this series a few years prior. I just devoured everything he produced. So, I thought I need someone new. I went searching through everything.
I started making videos because I needed something to learn. I needed something to occupy my time. I was living in the suburb, and I couldn’t really see my friends on a regular basis. I started teaching myself how to edit by watching other videos, and looking at tutorials.
The leap from photo to video wasn’t that huge. They have the same principles.
Video transferred really easily in my mind. So, it was more about how to clearly edit things, and that was all about trail and error. That’s what I ended up doing the entire time I was in France. In doing that I kind of reestablished my photography work. I had my camera with me all the time. I didn’t want to constantly be shooting videos, so I would switch to photos.
You were actually using your camera to shoot the videos?
I actually bought a new body. I bought the Canon 60D, because it has video capability. The photos are really terrible. I have my 5D, which is my standard. It only has four points of focus, which is what I like. It decides pretty quickly on what it wants to focus on. I just know that camera pretty well, so I just get it right.
How did you get the show for the Multiplicity series?
When I came back to Austin a friend of mine who is a curator for Up Collective liked my work – the Multiplicity series especially. She asked me if I wanted to have a show there. I hadn’t really finished the Multiplicity series, but I said yes.
How many photographs did you have finished before the show offer?
I had done a few on and off while I was in Europe and New York. I did a couple just to make me do it. I decided that I had seven or eight from five years ago. I thought they were good, so I wanted them in the series. I wanted it to be between fifteen and twenty. So I settled on nineteen. I made eleven pieces within the last four months.
How long are they taking you to make?
The shoots are really quick. The longest shoot has been two hours. Usually they are less than an hour. I usually map out a concept before hand. The animals and the kids it’s usually not too conceptual. It’s mostly filling in the space. With the adults I try to get the adults to represent an archetype, as well as to represent something personal to me.
So, the shoots don’t take long at all. The eleven that I recently made for this series averaged about 20-30 hours in the postproduction of the images. Compared to the last time where I wasn’t as Photoshop savvy. I would spend an average of 30-50 hours. Basically 99% of the images are done in Photoshop.
What is the concept?
I have chronic anxiety. I started making these pieces at school as part of another idea. I know that this isn’t an original idea, but I like the way that the first image came out. I got the most positive feedback on the first one. Around the second or third critique I had about four or five of them. Someone in class said that the images made them feel really anxious. I wasn’t purposefully making images that way, but I think that’s just how they turned out. I realized that these sort of matched up with my mood when I was in these fits.
When I started it again I decided to make it conceptually whole. I wanted all the subjects to have some kind of meaning to me as far as it relates to my anxiety. I also wanted them to represent something that other people could relate to. I ended up with seven children, seven adults, and five animals. Nineteen. It’s a very odd number. It doesn’t make you feel right about it.
What are you using to shoot with?
I shot with whatever was there when I was in school. Everything is wide angle. The rest have been shot with my 5D with a 28-70 lens. It’s actually meant for a film camera. It’s an L series lens. It works. I get the images that I want, and they’re beautiful. The lighting is almost entirely natural light. If I use any external lighting it’s usually on camera-mounted flash with a dome pointed at the ceiling.
Did you have someone actually taking the shots that you were in?
No. I did everything myself. I do everything on timer. I don’t even have a shutter release. Even when I was at SCAD I had everything on a timer.
The timer seems to work better to me.
Yes it does. I want the photos to look as if someone came onto the scene with a point and shoot camera. I want it as natural as possible. Your expressions become more genuine with the timer.
How large are they?
Are you doing the framing yourself?
Yes. I’m using these metal strips, and drilling holes in them. I glue that to the border, and have the printed image just to that line. I end up hanging it directly to the wall. So there’s nothing behind, and nothing in front. So the images are right there. No glass. I don’t want anything to separate the person from the image.
What made you think of that way of framing? I’m always thinking of alternative ways to frame.
I talked to my curator one day. She suggested using wooden dowels. The whole series is based on anxiety, and wood is kind of like a relaxer for me. It just wouldn’t match for me. I thought metal would really work. So, I just went to Home Depot. They’ll essentially be hanging like tapestry.
Who’s helping you put the whole show together?
The gallery is helping me. We are splitting the responsibilities.
How long is the show up for?
What are you going to do afterwards? Are you going to continue shooting the series?
The series is done. I’ve been working on it essentially for five years. It started off as my senior project. In the last four months I’ve been shooting, and working with Photoshop constantly. So, it’s been crazy and intense. I kind of like that balance. I like the five years of work.
This is my first finished series. I like the symmetry of it. Conceptually, I don’t want it to be one of those bodies of work that just continues forever. I want it to be finished. I like it exactly how it is.
Interview by Sonseree´ V. Gibson