It was late Septemember when I gushed to a friend about the artist I had just had lunch with. Brilliant, beautiful, passionate. It was the passion I was hung up on. I had been emailing back and forth for weeks with a young Calgary-based photographer; the owner of the gallery that had just signed her made the introductions. He thought she’d make a great article, and that impression/expression would be the right vessel.
It was a typically grey Vancouver day when I met Alicia Hoogveld in a little Coal Harbour cafe for lunch. She had the Thai wrap, I had the lentil soup. She was in town exploring, trying on the city for size. We shared stories of childhood (exuberant families and an inability to connect to the prescribed religiosity) and impressions of Vancouver (so full of beauty, only half the people walking around with cameras are tourists) and the questions that follow most 20-somethings around well into their 30’s (where am I going, how do I know it’s right?) and after not long, a few things became obvious.
The first was a thing that struck me from the first moment: Alicia is both disarming and stunning. It comes as no surprise that there would be so many comfortable enough to wear their souls on the oustide of their clothes when in front her lens. Looking into her eyes I had the sense of peering deep into a well with a flashlight, the dark water reluctantly but unignorably shining.
The second thing was her brilliance. She is a woman full of questions, full of an intense desire to understand the world, and more recently full of an intense desire to understand herself. Her creative drive doesn’t start and end with photography, in fact it became fully realized through her music first. Earnestly and without pretense she explained how her days take her around and around questions of definition. Not willing to accept contrivances, she reads the cards everyday to see what’s next.
She is an incredibly likeable and intelligent woman standing at the door to a great career – no matter which genre she chooses. Busy both day and night with both of her passions, she is less a woman torn than a woman doubled.
Read on for more of my interview with photographer Alicia Hoogveld.
MR: I understand that in addition to being a photographer you’re also a musician. Tell me about the projects you’re working on right now.
“I see music as one of my limbs.”
AH: Currently with my photography I am working on a body of work that is focused on self portraits and femininity. There is something about turning the camera on yourself that helps you to acknowledge and understand yourself better. When I envision myself, a lot of times I see the people in my life and their needs instead of seeing who I am and what I need. Self portraits are a way for me to express and validate myself and my emotional state of mind.
Musically I am working on an acoustic project called “White Sun”. My friend Eric Elhenati and I started the project a few months back after recording a duet he had written called “Next to You”. It went so well that we decided to continue to write songs together and we have just begun to play gigs around town. Both of our musical backgrounds have been embedded in rock and roll, so this has been a very relaxing and harmonious project for us to work on. (Eric is the drummer for “Worship Warship”, “I Kill You” and “The Wicked”, and I played guitar/vocals for “Soreal”, “Written in Red”, and “Creature Republic”.)
MR: Does one occupation have a stronger hold on you than the other?
AH: Music will always be my first love. I had to sacrifice a lot of music playing to finish my degree at the art college, and it was very hard for me to not have the immediate physical outlet of playing in a rock band. The two are so completely different though, and I don’t ever feel that one ever takes over more than the other. My photography takes up much more of my time, as it is more of a career focus. But it will never replace my passion for music. I see music as one of my limbs. It is just a part of me that will always be there. It is in my veins. Photography is separate from me, a completely different world in fact, but is just as important to my creative life. I love both, and I need both.
MR: What is one of your earliest defining moments in terms of your path towards fine art?
“I shoot with a Canon 20D…I play a red Jackson King V”
AH: The first time I shot with a SLR I was in grade eight. Part of our shop class was to learn how to shoot with an SLR and develop our black and white photos in the dark room. I had the camera in my hands for 20 minutes max. I had such a good time in those 20 minutes that 5 years later it was the only other thing other than music that I would even consider going to school for. The experience just stuck with me. My teacher really liked the photos I took, and so did my Father who is also a musician and artist, so it meant a lot.
MR: What is the feeling you want a viewer to have when they stand in a gallery full of your photographs? What do you want them to walk away with?
AH: I want my viewers to feel invited into my life. I want them to feel that I am open and honest about who I am, and that they are free to do the same. I want them to feel connected to my work, and walk away with a feeling of appreciation for their own unique life.
MR: What is your favorite piece of your own work? Can you give me some context and send me an image?
AH: My favorite piece so far is from my newest work. It’s titled “Surrender Your Heart to Me, 116”. It’s a self portrait panel about my experiences in a passionate relationship. The kind where you have to just be in the moment and see where it takes you. You face all your doubts and fears and just leap into the unknown. There are no guarantees, but the connection is undeniable. This series that I am currently working on is probably my most personal, and although it can be daunting to be in front of the camera, it has been an important step in my development as an artist.
You face all your doubts and fears and just leap into the unknown. There are no guarantees, but the connection is undeniable.
MR: Weapons of choice?
AH: I shoot with a Canon 20D, but I always carry around one or two film or digital point and shoots just in case. When I ‘m rocking I play a red Jackson King V, with a Mesa single rectifier and two ten inch speakers.
MR: Who does the rocker roll with?
AH: I roll with a lot of creative types, mostly musicians though. I’m not sure I would consider myself in the art scene. I have always thought of moving away from Calgary because I have been here all my life. If there is an art scene here, I’ve been here too long to notice it. I have thought about Vancouver, New York, and even Halifax as destinations to call home. I think forcing yourself out of your comfort zone is a good way to focus on your art. It remains up in the air, but I think one day I will leave Calgary behind.
Want more Alicia? Visit Galerie St George on Staten Island if you’re in the NY area. Or visit her online at: