Alice Baxley is a music documentary and portrait photographer who’s worked with the likes of Ryan Adams, Jenny Lewis, Kate Nash, FIDLAR, and VICE. Although she was born in Japan and raised in Hawaii, she’s called Los Angeles home for the past 10 years. Hoping to tap into the collaborative potential of the city, she recently launched a studio space called Mind Palace where she dabbles in everything from screen printing to art direction, costume design, stage design, album art, and book-making.
We caught up with Alice to chat about her photography and the creative community she’s found in LA.
How did you first get into photography?
I started by just being obsessed with capturing everything because I have a terrible memory. I wanted to be able to go back and remember all of the moments that were important to me.
How long have you been taking photos, and how did you first enter the music scene?
I started taking photos when I was in high school, but it wasn’t until about seven years ago that I realized it could be a possible career for me. I wasn’t really trying to be a photographer; it was just a natural shift that happened as opportunities started to open up. People kept seeing the photos I would post of my brother’s band and would ask me to photograph their bands as well. I also interned for a music blog when I was first starting out because I wanted to keep learning while trying to get my photos out there. It just sort of snowballed after that. Eventually, I started getting paid to take photos.
What do you like about photographing musicians?
I love music and I used to play in bands in high school. I wasn’t any good, so now photography allows me to celebrate music in a different way. I love capturing the progress of a musician and telling a story through the photos. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t see, and I enjoy being the one to show that side. It gives people a better understanding of who the musician is.
How often do you go on tour for your work?
I don’t really tour that often anymore. I love it, but I also have to have a very special connection with the band for it to be enjoyable for me. I did an eight-week tour with a band a few years back, and that was the longest I had ever been away from home. It’s really fun though, but there’s typically a ton of driving involved — sometimes 12-hour drives. It makes for lots of random gas station stops and weird snacks for dinner. It’s not for everyone.
How do you keep your creative sanity while on the road?
Since my job is to capture and document the band, I’m always working. I have my camera with me at all times. It doesn’t feel like work because I enjoy it. I just try to remember why I’m there and what my role is. But you have to be flexible, respect people’s boundaries, and know when and when not to take photos.
Do you have any sort of creative “routine” you stick to when you’re at home?
I recently got a studio space, so physically going to a place every day, whether I have a big shoot or not, has helped a lot. It shifts me into work mode. I take a lot of online classes too and am always on YouTube or off experimenting with new things, so it’s nice to have a space to be able to do that.
How would you describe the creative scene in LA?
The music scene in LA is tight-knit. Everyone knows each other and respects and encourages each other. It’s really cool, and it’s the same when you’re in the photo pit with other photographers. There are more and more new faces, but we’re all there to take photos and celebrate the musician. Everyone’s just trying to do their thing. I try to be respectful of that, and they do the same.
Photography can often seem like an isolated art form; how do you collaborate with other creatives in the city?
With Mind Palace, I try to invite anyone who wants to make something and encourage them to come and use the space. I’m really about building a community and not about fostering competition. There are so many photographers out there, and I believe there is space for everyone because everyone has a unique voice. All I ever want to do is collaborate with my friends and make cool shit.
I share the space with my husband Ryan, who does video. He designs, films, directs, and edits a lot of music videos and I help his process in whatever way I can, and he does the same for me. We also share the space with Brandon from FIDLAR who makes stage props and set design. So, when I can, I pull both of them into shoots I’m working on to collaborate. Collaboration is key. It always challenges you and pushes you to be better at what you do.
Any last thoughts or bits of advice for budding photographers?
Don’t be too consumed with what people think about you. I know it’s hard with Instagram and people being really vocal on the Internet, but remember that you make things because you love them!