Pin It
Brandy Eve Ciao LA 14
My sister wearing fangs and a shirt I bought for her… She’s also one of my first major subjectsPhotography by Brandy Eve Allen

Ciao, LA!

Swapping the star quality of LA for the historical streets of Turin, this photographer lays bare the lovers, the loved and the lost moments of her life

Believe it or not, there was a time before social media took over; when we kept intimate moments to ourselves and the friends we shared them with. When self-advertisement existed in face-form only – usually reserved for job interviews – and moments came and went without making their way onto our Facebook feeds. What feels so close and yet so far, that 'time' was less than a decade ago, when photographer Brandy Eve Allen was in her twenties and fed up with her hometown ("LA was sucking the life out of me"). Allen put out the call for a job "anywhere but here" and landed in Turin, Italy where she spent the next three years – mind the cliche, but – finding herself, capturing those that surrounded her; herself, friends, lovers. A personal memoir of a time spent amongst the most vulnerable of years, the pictures are steeped in noughties nostalgia and a brutal intimacy. "It wasn’t about anyone being beautiful, it was more about people being themselves, being honest.  I’ve always been sensitive to aesthetics – beauty with a hard edge is how I would describe what I’m attracted to," says the photographer. Below we look back on the formative years that produced what is now known as her book Ciao LA.

Why did you want to escape LA for Italy? What do you think you were looking for?

Brandy Eve Allen: LA was sucking the life out of me. I remember working three jobs, busting my ass and not getting anywhere. I put the word out that I wanted a job anywhere but here and within a week Italy called me up and I was on a plane. When I landed in Turin, I felt at home like I never had. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until it finds you, and Italy gave me a chance to experience beauty, culture, love.

These images were shot over a decade ago, can you tell me what your mindset or headspace was like back then? The pages are often scrawled with diary-like entries and musings…

Brandy Eve Allen: I was super creative, wild, open - an innocent adventurer ready for anything to happen. I never judged anyone and always looked people in the eyes, you knew I was paying attention to you and if I didn’t want to be near you, you could feel that as well. This is something that helped me form some really special bonds and avoid some dangerous ones. My headspace was and is always around the same two things, people and art. The only difference between now and then is how I approach the two. I used to be really attached to people, in a beautiful way, where now I’m more isolated – something I want to change.

Do you keep in contact with the people from the pictures?

Brandy Eve Allen: I go in and out still with being in contact with the people I’ve photographed. Most of the people in Italy I don’t speak to anymore but if I ever visit, I’ll see them and, regardless, it feels like family. In America, it’s different because these are people I’ve known throughout years and years. I guess shit goes deeper and we take others and ourselves way too seriously at times. People fall out or fade away, it’s the same story that everyone’s got. I once did a series called MISSING PERSONS where I put up posters around the city of friends, ex-lovers, family members who I had photographed and stopped talking to.

When we initially spoke about the project, you said it was a documentation of the intimacy shared between you and the people around you, was there not an issue there by immortalising it on film and publishing it in a book?

Brandy Eve Allen: That’s what art is; most songs, paintings, sculptures are the artist’s references to deep experiences shared between them and another, or something that moved them. For myself, intimacy is what I was drawn to and felt like the most authentic thing for me to share through my art. I think people trust me and relinquish themselves to the moment enough to where the final product isn’t them anymore; it’s something anonymous that we all can relate to.

You’ve previously mentioned that the raw spontaneity of your life dissolved as you got older, why do you think that is?

Brandy Eve Allen: When we were younger I think there was less self-awareness and therefore less inhibitions. As women get older, I notice how sensitive most of them become to how they are portrayed, and this limits the self-abandonment that goes into that spontaneity. It’s also circumstantial, you know, maybe where I’m at just isn’t allowing for the experiences I once had living abroad, and so I’m the one missing that raw spontaneity…  

Do you feel that social media, selfies and Instagram have destroyed the transparency of image taking by instilling in it a hyper self-awareness?

Brandy Eve Allen: Anytime we set out on profiling ourselves into these venues of self-advertisement, a lot of truth gets lost. If anything, these social mechanisms are an interesting contextual construct within our society that will mark what I consider a strange moment within our communal interaction.

Are you nostalgic when you look at these images?

Brandy Eve Allen: I miss the dying art forms of the world, film, vinyl, letter writing. Sometimes I miss myself. The person I was, how receptive and free I could be, the work was so outward, where as now it’s very internal. Sometimes it’s harder for me to be nostalgic about my older photos, they’re such intimate moments, it’s not that easy to put myself in a space where I can open up to them. Just as much as I like to relive an image, sometimes I want to forget. When I look back at CIAO LA as a whole, I’m just so grateful that I took advantage of the world and the deeper perspective it’s given me. I still think there are many more adventures to come.

Ciao LA is available now, for more information, visit Allen’s personal website, click here for more information