Today we’d like to introduce you to Alandra Chavarria.
Alandra, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born creative. I remember being a passionate, firecracker of a girl. I was always drawing, painting, playing imagination, throwing myself in front of the camera every chance I had, singing, dancing, “designing” costumes, writing fictional stories, lyrics, and poetry, and creating tiny figurines out of the wax I was supposed to be using on my braces to keep them from cutting my mouth – (pre-teen mouth cuts are worth it for the sake of art, don’t ya think?)
When I turned 10, I fell in love with dance. I thought it was my calling and I loved it with every fiber of my being. But then my sweet, beautiful best friend Eric, whom I was sharing an incredible relationship with on the dance floor, passed away suddenly, right after my freshman year of high school. Dancing without him tore me to shreds, and my depression came on hard and strong. Broken hearted and traumatized, I looked to another outlet and picked up my first film camera. I started to really love it and felt so connected to it.
My photography teacher, who taught me everything I know, believed in me more than anybody, and he was blunt to let me know. I’ll still never forget this moment that sort of ended up being a weird for-seeing of my future – Mr. Gilwee, my film photography teacher, picked up one of my black and white photographs, and carefully took another off the bulletin board he had hanging in his office.
It was that kind of photograph that was cut out of an old magazine, shot in the 1920’s, an era I always believed I should’ve been born in. He held the photographs up to each other, side by side, looked intently at me, eyes wide with joy, and said, “You are good. You will do this. This is who you are.” He handed both of the photographs to me and I instantly had chills. But I was 15, emotional, teary-eyed, a tortured soul. I thought nothing of it, and walked away thinking, “that’s cool I guess.” Three years later, after suffering a devastating loss and countless ankle injuries, I let go of dancing. I was broken, lost, and sinking. But there I was, a naive college student, totally immersing myself into a culture of partying, self-discovery, and carelessness.
Alcohol became a crutch, and it was easier to forget reality and “celebrate life,” than it was to face it. Three terms in, and I was failing out of school. I was THIS close to getting kicked out of college, and I had to be quick on my feet. Still feeling broken, a little confused, and a lot lost, I decided to commit to being an art major – the only thing I knew how to be – an artist.
I picked up drawing, printmaking, conceptual photography, art history and philosophy in relation to art; I incorporated my experiences with grief and femininity into my work for the next three years. I graduated (thank goodness) with an art degree, and moved back to San Diego with my family where I worked as a look book photographer and floral design intern.
That post-grad summer, I fell hard for my boyfriend, Josh – whom I actually met in my high school film photography class…yes, the same class where my future was practically put in the palm of my hands. I landed an internship after lying about where I was living and made the move to Long Beach so I could pursue a creative life in LA while living life with Josh by my side.
I dedicated myself to photography and writing for about a year, dabbled in a couple internships, and ended up getting hired at Lauren Conrad’s nonprofit company, The Little Market, June of 2017 where I worked as their first Photographer & Digital Content Manager. At the same time, I was using my time away from work to explore writing and fashion blogging. I was pretty much working two jobs and the stress of it all caused my body to come crashing down. I was absolutely swallowed by the retail industry, the workload I had, and the LA life. My love of photography quickly dwindled, and my identity as an artist was immediately questioned.
I just wanted to make art again, express myself, and tell a story. I wanted to create work that pushed people to feel something deeper, work that created conversation, or inspired feelings of peace and hope, because I believe wholeheartedly that we could all use a little more peace, and a little more hope.
So I took a break. I explored Costa Rica, the parts of the country my father’s family is from, and my perspective shifted dramatically. I came home inspired, re-branded myself and my work, and launched my new brand, Alandra Michelle Creative, June of 2018, where I now focus on producing authentic, intentional, artistic work – whether it be in photography, styling, florals, writing, or art direction.
Has it been a smooth road?
Oh, definitely not! Haha, I wish it was a smooth road! I was blindly taken advantage of and worked for free for about a year before I got hired by LC. Even after landing a stable job, it still wasn’t a smooth road! It was a great job, and I learned so much. I loved my coworkers, and I left with deeper friendships (hey Danielle) than I ever imagined having. But leaving that job to pursue my own endeavors was the most difficult decision I could’ve made, financially and emotionally. I don’t think it’s ever easy abandoning stability and normalcy.
Aside from the financial struggles, I think there is a lot of soul-searching that happens. I’ve always been driven by purpose, and when it comes to my work within AM Creative, I think purpose has been the biggest, heart-wrenching challenge. As creatives, I think we put a lot of our worth in our work, and we struggle with understanding and accepting that what we produce isn’t the ONLY thing that makes us worth something.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Alandra Michelle Creative has been a labor of love. Honestly, it sort of cultivated itself because I started falling in love with the combination of storytelling, color, and mixed media. I specialize in fine art product photography, where I put my heart and soul into the art direction and styling behind the story of the product. I’m not a point and shoot photographer, I’m a get your hands dirty, knees on the floor, artistic photographer.
Because I’ve taken up florals, I love incorporating a lot of floral work into my art direction, dried and fresh. So I’ll style with florals and other props for most of my shoots.
I think my passion to be multi-faceted and get my hands into different forms of art sets me apart. I offer photography services, art direction and styling services, floral design services, and I connect it all to my writing, where I open up about mental and physical health.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
This is such a tough topic because every location has different offerings. I have a love-hate relationship with San Diego, because of all of the grief and trauma I went through. It still stings a little every time I’m in the area. But honestly, creativity wise, as a photographer & fine artist, I never felt very creatively stimulated in San Diego, until I entered the floral design and styling community.
There are so many insanely talented, beautiful creative souls in the florals & styling community. I think the community is what you make it, and you have to put a lot of energy into making connections happen for yourself.
Although I love San Diego, and my new home in Newport, I’m very inspired by both natural elements and urban environments, so I need access to both. Ideally, I would love to be in Portland or Seattle, where I can be surrounded by trees, rain, mystic light, fresh air, architecture, an incredible coffee culture, and a unique art scene.
- Website: www.alandramichellecreative.com
- Email: email@example.com
Aesop flatlay photo: Lauryn Alvarez
Collage photo: Britt Cohen