by Abigail Best
Annabel Louise, a Los Angeles-based model-turned-photographer, is in the process of creating a new artistic brand centered on natural beauty and nostalgia. For her, this is the culmination of a lifetime of personal photographic inquiry and more recent experience in the modeling industry. After a long day at a modeling gig, I talked with the laid-back, pajama-clad artist via video chat about working in the industry, body image, and her efforts to create a more personal dialog with her followers, all of which have led her to launch her own brand: Yours Truly, Annabel.
The brand focuses on showcasing the photographic dialog that Louise has been building with her fans via her Instagram account, which, until now, was her main creative outlet. She uses the hashtag #YoursTruly as a sign-off that’s meant to frame her work as a personal love letter to her audience, with the goal of creating an intimate connection between her fans and her work. “The overall goal is to create something unforgettable and timeless,” she said. As the brand develops ,it will expand to include one-of-a-kind art objects that she will collaborate on with other artists, which is part of a new venture that will also be launching this summer. These collaborations are meant to last, she explained, “in the same way as those pieces that your parents hold onto from your grandparents, and they held onto the generation before that. The goal is to create something that only grows in value and is not something that is not just immediate gratification and then fades.”
Though she is now based in Los Angeles, Louise hails from Santa Fe, NM, which helped refine her artistic sensibility. “It’s just a very, very artistic city,” she told me. “Everyone there is very unique. There is really no pressure to jump on any bus or follow any trend.” According to Louise, a large community of retired artists and hippies influence the scene there. This is something she misses in LA, where there is a revolving door of young people, many of whom are in very similar places in their lives, who all have very similar perspectives. “It’s very tempting to just copy what everybody else is doing [in Los Angeles] because it’s comfortable,” Louise said.
That is not to say that the culture in LA has not impacted Louise’s work at all: “As a model that became a little bit of a struggle for me, because I felt that there was a focus on things like over-sexualization—I mean, there’s nothing wrong with [sensuality]—but I do think that a lot of the time I was put in positions that I felt were a bit derogatory and I felt a little demeaned,” she explained. “Especially in my role as a woman I didn’t feel very empowered, and there were many times at certain shoots that I felt that if I were behind the lens it would have come out much differently.” This feeling of a lack of agency in her modeling work is part of what pushed her to put things into her own hands and take her photography more seriously. Louise’s new focus is to show more of what she feels is naturally beautiful about her subjects.
Louise started out by working in self-portraiture as an exploration of how to photograph her body in a way that felt less like objectification and highlighted the things she liked about herself. “I was [taking self-portraits] because I was receiving a lot of feedback that, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful, but…’ your jaw is too big, or you're not skinny enough, or you have skin flaws,” she said. “Things that I felt I was looking at myself and saying, well, I think that I’m beautiful and that’s all that really matters... I would never want to turn around and show my younger cousins or siblings or family members that it’s a positive thing to deprive yourself of health in order to fulfill somebody else’s ideals of what’s beautiful.” These self-portrait studies explored techniques she would continue to use as the scope of her work broadened to include other subjects and more ambitious projects, like Yours Truly.
Rather than critiquing the industry from the outside, Louise often works with models and other subjects from inside the industry, photographing them in ways that highlight their beauty without huge crews, sets, makeup teams, or Photoshop. An important part of this process is shooting all of her work on 35mm film. “I really, really love the look [of film]” she said, “I know that a lot of people say that you can edit to get the same look as film, but for me film is more of an experience as a whole, it’s not just the end result.” 35mm in particular makes Louise nostalgic for her childhood, and using it acts as a further move towards timelessness and permanence in her work. This is an integral part of Yours Truly, Annabel and something that Louise aims to maintain as the project grows.
“I’m still at the beginning of my creative process right now, so my thoughts are still floating around a bit,” Louise laughed. As Yours truly grows to reach a wider audience, she wants to maintain her personal connection to the brand. She never wants it to become something that is too commercialized or preoccupied with being perfect, rather than getting her audience to see the beauty she finds in the imperfect and everyday.
To learn more about Annabel and her new brand, you can check out #YoursTruly online or follow her on Instagram: @annabelloue.