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THE FEMALE GAZE: “Alexandra DeFurio: Trusting the Process”, by Diana Nicholette Jeon

Alexandra DeFurio is a Los Angeles-based commercial and fine art photographer. Her work is inspired by feminine, home, and architectural themes. Her process includes self-portraiture, double exposures, cyanotype printing, medium format, and 35mm film. 

Her work has been exhibited in Italy at the MIA Fair, The Curated Fridge, the Pop Art Photo Show, The Hive Gallery, the stARTup Art Fair, and the Los Angeles Center of Photography. Her photos have been published in Shots Magazine, Lenscratch, A Photo Editor, and What Will You Remember? 

DeFurio is the creator of the immersive photo experience entitled Embodying The Feminine. She uses the camera as a healing modality, combining embodiment coaching with a unique style of portraiture, empowering women to fully embody their authentic expression, facilitating the healing of past wounds, re-identification, the claiming of one’s own beauty, and transforming the way a woman relates to herself and lives in the world. 


Untitled No. 7, 2019, from the series Fault Lines

Last September, I was invited to be a reviewer at LACP’s Exposure Review event. Defurio was one of the photographers who signed up for a review with me. I wrote about some of her images alongside other women whose work I reviewed in my September edition of The Female Gaze. But during that initial review meeting, I also told her I wanted to interview her for February 2024. Now we have arrived, it’s February. 

I was unfamiliar with DeFurio or any of her work before viewing her portfolio. I looked at everyone’s portfolio well before each meeting, and DeFurio’s resonated deeply with me. The emotions of Fault Lines and January practically shouted my name in my ear. I frequently do this kind of work, beginning from a negative personal experience and working through it in photo form. I process life way. That’s why I reacted so strongly to DeFurio’s work. Much of it was work I longingly wished I had made. Both of those series brought tears to my eyes. As any regular reader of this column knows, emotional work derived from real life is my favorite kind of photography. I am thrilled to have met DeFurio and seen her work that weekend. 

DeFurio aptly guides the viewer to what she wants us to feel: that sense of grief, loss, and the struggle to get to the other side, but the images are not dark. She envelops them in bright colors and subtle pastel tones. She successfully uses beauty to draw the viewer close and then show them the ugly experiences no human can escape, and that is a tricky balancing act that she makes look easy. 


Untitled No. 8, 2019, from the series Fault Lines

DNJ: Tell us a bit about your childhood.

AD: I was born in Racine, Wisconsin, where my parents built a home in the suburbs on an unpaved road. I was the oldest child; I had two siblings and five half-siblings. I spent my early childhood following my imagination through the fields and farms lining the property. My father left when I was young, introducing me to heartache and longing at an early age. 

Like many adult women in the 1970s, my mother veered away from more traditional societal expectations and embraced feminist ideals. My ensuing life with my mother and two siblings was a series of colorful experiences and constant changes. Looking back, I gained self-reliance because the situations I faced as a child and teen demanded it. 


Untitled No. 5, 2019, from the series Fault Lines

Twice, our mother drove the unpaved Alaskan Highway with us in tow; we spent two summers living in the Alaskan wilderness with a homesteading family. When I was in junior high, we moved to a ski resort in the mountains of Colorado. There, I formed a bond with nature that still shows today in my work and processes. 


Untitled No. 2, 2019, from the series Fault Lines

Paradoxically, the art my mother hung at home portrayed more traditional, sensual visions of womanhood. Images by Alfonse Mucha and Maxfield Parish graced the walls while the bathroom was wallpapered in sketches of nude women.

Ultimately, my mother’s pioneer spirit, curious mind, and eye for detail shaped me into who I would become as a person and artist. 


Untitled No. 1, 2019, from the series Fault Lines

DNJ: What brought you to photography?

AD: I spent ten years in front of the camera as a commercial actor, but it was a pivotal moment in my late 20s when I picked up a vintage camera and knew I had found my calling! It was a grounding experience to step behind the lens, yield to its power, and create personal narratives. Looking through the viewfinder was meditative; the hyperfocus of reducing the world to a single rectangle brought my full attention to the present moment. 


March 13, 2020, from the series Safer at Home

March 26, 2020, from the series Safer at Home

DNJ: Do you consider photography your career or do it for personal enjoyment?

AD: Photography has been my career for the past 17 years. With hustle and drive, I created my own opportunities. That required being willing to be terrified and to mentally battle the negative voices that told me I wasn’t qualified. Early in my journey, I shot 11 covers of teen celebrities for a small publication, Dream Magazine. I was a one-woman production team, making it up as I went. During a photo shoot with Ariana Grande, security escorted me off the Santa Monica Pier because I didn’t have a permit. Through persistence and dedication, I built and enjoyed a successful career in portraits, food photography, and lifestyle work. 

Samois-Sur-Seine, France and Hollywood Hills, 2016, from the series Diaphanous 
Beachwood Canyon and Nichols Canyon, 2016, from the series Diaphanous 

DNJ: When did you figure out art was your career path, and how did that happen?

AD: Six years ago, I began using the camera as an instrument for my voice by doing personal work. Initially, I wanted to live a creative life that would allow me to be present with my daughters. Somewhat recently, I created Embodying The Feminine, an immersive photo experience.

Here, she uses the camera as a healing modality, combining embodiment coaching with a unique style of portraiture, empowering women to fully embody their authentic expression, facilitating the healing of past wounds, re-identification, the claiming of one’s own beauty, and transforming the way a woman relates to herself and lives in the world. 

357 N. Gardner Street, 2018, from the series Bougainvillea 

DNJ: I believe the Bougainvillea plant is indelibly associated with southern California. Although equally ubiquitous here in HI, I first saw Bougainvillea many years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. What was your impetus to start documenting its presence in LA?

AD: One afternoon, I turned off Hollywood Boulevard onto Nichols Canyon and encountered a cascade of Bougainvillea. Its color was so vibrant and saturated in the California sun that it was a momentary cathartic experience. That experience inspired me to research its history. I learned that Bougainvillea was discovered by botanists on a voyage to Brazil in the 18th century and named after the ship’s captain, Louis Bougainvillea. I then spent several years creating a photographic study of the Bougainvillea that was so ever-present here in Los Angeles. It was a lesson in following my curiosity and perseverance. 

Self Portrait in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, 2017
Los Feliz and Palm Desert, 2016

DNJ: What is the intent behind the Diaphanous series? How did you make it? Did you use in-camera double exposures or create it via layered composite images?

AD: “Diaphanous” was my first series. I made thirty images and thought I was finished. At that time, my partner was an artist. He told me, “Now make one hundred, and you’ll have thirty good ones.” That experience taught me to create large volumes of work and distill them into a strong series. As a series, “Diaphanous” uses a process to speak of our memories and the delicate and ethereal layering of how we construct them. 

Maybe Yes, Maybe No, 2022, from the series Women on Top
Women on Top, 2022, from the series Women on Top 

DNJ: When I saw January and Fault Lines, I immediately felt loss and heartache jump off the page! The work made sense to me instantaneously because I use such events from my own life as the basis of my work. Those works just resonated with me very deeply. Why did you turn to photography as a means of processing loss?

AD: Creativity can serve as a healing act of self-love. Photography, specifically self-portraiture, was like throwing myself into a life raft while maneuvering through dark waters of loss and heartache. Facing the lens was an emotional experience and allowed me to witness my own emotional state, providing a safe space to fall apart, reconstruct my identity, and renew my life.

Author Jamie Anderson said, “Grief is love with no place to go.” Engaging with my grief via creativity transformed the negative energy of “love with no place to go” into something visual and tangible during a time when I felt like a walking ghost. 

“Januarywas conceived when I was alone at home on New Year’s Eve. I was bereft and heartbroken that year. That evening, I gave myself an assignment to wake each morning in January and construct a self-portrait. I put additional constraints of only using the wall space between my bed and an adjacent window and interacting with a personal object of significance in each session.

“Fault Lines” was my next project; with it, I continued my exploration of self-portraiture. I utilized the lens as a healing modality. There was an abandoned house around the block from where I lived, and I began exploring its overgrown yard and found a way inside. I started photographing myself there, and soon after, I found my way into other abandoned spaces. Looking back, I’m stunned I had no fear in these potentially dangerous spaces. I had been catapulted into an alternate reality due to my grief. 

Proposal, 2023, from the series Women on Top

DNJ: Tell us a bit about the evolution of the other personal series you have made.

AD: “Safer At Home” had me venturing into a world gripped by fear due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The day we were ordered to shelter in place, I called my neighbor and asked her to meet me in her window so I could photograph her. She was in her robe; her expression disclosed the shock and fear everyone was feeling at that moment. That was the initial image. After that, I documented fellow Angelenos standing outside their homes while they posed through their windows. Later on, I conducted phone interviews with each sitter about what life during lockdown was like for them.

“Women on Top” is my current working series. It explores women’s roles and place in society during the 1960s. I’m working with found imagery to create large cyanotypes that comment on that era. 

Day 18, 2019, from the series January

DNJ: Can you share your approach to creating and editing your work?

AD: Creativity is a partnership with a magical force within me. It’s connected to a source greater than myself. I work intuitively; I trust the unfolding and revealing that happens. I am a perfectionist. To create, I must let go of that tendency and work through the process. I have faith in my working process.

My creativity flourishes under self-imposed constraints. I seek to create beauty in everything I make. It’s essential to our well-being and connects me to a deeper place of spirit. I am willing to be vulnerable, take risks, and be “seen.” I am open to and curious about all aspects of life and, most importantly, myself. I don’t wait for inspiration to make work.

Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” I agree. I also abide by Sister Corita Kent’s rule #7: “The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something.” 

Day 27, 2019, from the series January

DNJ: What message do you intend to send to the world with your work?

AD: When I am creating, I don’t think about the viewer. My creative process is an intimacy with my own interior spaces. However, I want to create evocative, meaningful, vulnerable, and honest work. I often explore themes relating to female identity, loss, and memory. 

Day 5, 2019, from the series January

DNJ: Do you have any advice for other photographers?

AD: I would tell them, “To compare is to despair.” I am a self-taught artist. I’ve learned by doing, making work, making mistakes, and taking every opportunity that comes my way. Your work will not speak to everyone, so make work for yourself first. Make work that sets you on fire, seeks to ask or answer questions, pushes your boundaries, and/or simply gives you pleasure. Create constraints for yourself in working with your creative process. Confidence is elusive and not indicative of your actual talent or skill level. There are many ways to live a creative life as an artist and design a life that feels authentic to you. It’s okay if it’s already been done; do it your way; no one can make what you make or tell your story. Honor the creative gifts you were given by creating work and sharing it. Think bigger. You are enough. 

Day 7, 2019, from the series January

DNJ: What’s on the horizon for you?

AD: I’m very excited to co-facilitate a creative photography and writing workshop in Venice, Italy, with Sarah Hadley, the author of the photo book “Lost Venice.” Enrollment will open this week, and the event will occur in May 2024.

For the past few years, I’ve been focused on making cyanotypes, a historic photographic process using UV light-sensitive chemistry. I’ve sold many of these prints in the last few years and will continue making more for the series “Women on Top” and additional cyanotype botanical studies.

I am a certified coach; I mentor both artists and non-artists, coaching women to live their authentic expression and create a fulfilling life experience. 

I hope readers have enjoyed learning about Alexandra and her work. Thank you ever so much for your time and thoughts, Alex. I look forward to seeing where your processes lead you next! 

Cyanotype Peonies, 2022

ALEXANDRA DEFURIO

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Every year we release four quarterly printed editions of FRAMES Magazine. Each issue contains 112 pages printed on the highest quality 140g uncoated paper. You receive the magazine delivered straight to your doorstep. We feature both established and emerging photographers of different genres. We pay very close attention to new, visually striking, thought-provoking imagery, while respecting the long-lasting tradition of photography in its purest incarnation. Learn more >>>


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