The young artist is changing the face of fashion photography.
“I was in Paris with my friend, Jordan [Barrett], and there was this Daily Mail article and they called me a “racy artist” in it,” says Alana O’Herlihy. “I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve heard in my life….”
She was quick to adopt the witty description as her own, and the rest is history.
The artist and photographer has been amassing an impressive following with her unfiltered, behind-closed-doors portraits of fashion’s biggest faces and her stunning editorial work for heavy-hitting publications like V Magazine and Vogue, hinting at the idea that, in some cases, hard work and experience mean more than a degree.
22-year old O’Herily took a leave of absence from college a couple semesters ago and hasn’t been back since.
But she seems to be doing just fine.
“I basically started working a lot,” said O’Herlihy as she reflected on the policy at Parsons School of Design that stated if a student misses more than three classes then she fails, “So I was…between a rock and hard place. Because, obviously, I’m not going to spend all this money to fail classes and then, for me, my job is a priority, so I had to choose one.”
So what was the job she chose over one of the most reputable art schools in the country? Photographing some of fashion’s brightest stars like the Hadid sisters, Jordan Barrett and more.
But Alana’s work is nothing like your average page out of a fashion glossy. “It only inspires me when it’s a person in front of the lens,” Alana O’Herlihy said, “because I can feel the emotion and…other things don’t really excite me at all. Humans are interesting. Humans are complicated; and I like capturing that.” There’s a deep emotional interest in the way she captures her subjects—with an acute sensitivity to the nuances of human nature. Her style is in your face, yet still subtle; touching on the fact that a photograph is so much more than just an image.
Photography isn’t just her job; it’s her life. A glance around her Manhattan apartment, and it’s obvious that O’Herily’s knack for observation comes second nature. It’s filled wall-to-wall with old polaroids, vintage beaded dresses, poppy-bright sunglasses and jewelry, and stacks of books open to pages where she left off.
“It’s actually crazy because I’ve been taking photos—you can ask any of the friends I’ve grown up with—since I was, like, 10 honestly,” said O’Herlihy, who grew up in Los Angeles, California but relocated to New York City four years ago. “I’ve always had a camera. And then when I got into high school, I had a camera everywhere with me… all the time.”
Alana’s skill for capturing the rawness of her subjects has garnered the attention of megabrands like Tommy Hilfiger and Maybelline, both of whom she shot behind-the-scenes gigs for this year. With her photography, she manages to extract a human realness from the one-dimensional, made-up images we’ve come to expect of fashion editorials. She’s unhinging the ideals of modern fashion photography, injecting a very welcome dose of authenticity.
All it takes is a quick scroll through her Instagram feed to understand who exactly Alana O’Herlihy is as an artist; she’s edgy, uninhibited, and really fucking talented.
When she isn’t out shooting photos for clients, she is in her apartment spending hours putting a personal spin on those same pictures and then uploading them to her website over the course of a day that usually starts off with a triple-shot espresso and typically includes a sting in her eyes from the bright computer screen.
“The photos that I turn into the client are basically a more [dumbed]-down version of what I do for myself,” she said.
Take her photo shoot with actress Ilana Glazer for V Magazine, for example. For the fashion mag, Alana captured Glazer in a cool series of photos that were polished off with a multi-color filter on top.
But, taking a note out of hip-hop producers’ playbooks, the artist chopped and screwed the Glazer photos for her website by layering the original images with cut-outs and filters. What results are some eye-popping pieces of art.
“My artistic process is less of a process and more of a string of thoughts that I write down in my notes in my phone,” said Alana. “Whenever I have a free moment, I am constantly looking at copious amounts of photos and films. I save them all and look at everything for inspiration. The more photos I look at the more I know what I like, and [what] I want to do.”
With photos from an intimate shoot between herself and Bella Hadid, the artist recasted Hadid as the ultimate femme fatale;(3) the model holds a butcher knife in front of her face with scarlet lipstick on her lips, a robe draped upon her body and splashes of blood red paint around her silhouette.
Though her influences are “ever changing,” the artist is currently inspired by the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Jack Nicholson, Nan Goldin, and Jimi Hendrix. But for Alana O’Herlihy, inspiration “comes from everywhere” and can be found in a conversation with a stranger, a movie, or a stroll down the streets of New York City—a place that has undoubtedly informed who she is as both an artist and a person.
“NEW YORK CITY IS MY FAVORITE PLACE ON THE PLANET,” she wrote in an email. “New York is the ONLY place to live for anyone who is an artist, wants to work in the arts, fashion, or anything of that world. There is no where like it. It’s a cluster fuck of the entire world, so many different brains, and EVERYONE is hungry for more.”
Everything about the city inspires her, and she questions whether or not she would be the artist she is today having stayed in Los Angeles. Thank god she didn’t.