Hello and welcome to The Llama Post. Today I am very excited to be chatting with Austin Young, seminal portraiture photographer based in Los Angeles.
Austin has photographed the who’s who of the sub, trans and queer community in New York, LA, and San Francisco. His work has been shown in major gallery exhibitions and has graced the pages of major publications worldwide.
Austin’s portraits blend a subtle pastel colour palette with beautifully simple compositions to create incredibly perceptive images, often commenting on current queer culture.
Austin also has a thriving YouTube channel where he showcases his unique video art and has co-founded Fallen Fruit, which makes art using fruit as the common denominator, in order to change the way we see the world. Fallen Fruit has been exhibited across the US, Mexico, Colombia, and Europe.
We sit down with Austin and ask him about his work, influences and what it is like to work with the hottest drag queens on the planet.
We absolutely love your portraits. What would you say are your greatest influences in your work?
Growing up a small town had a huge influence on my work. I was kinda bullied so I began to identify with punk, new wave, glam rock, John Waters, anything that sat outside the mainstream. Subculture was the only place I fit in.
The Internet has really changed the experience of culture and of sub-culture: it has all become more mainstream. Facebook and other social media platforms have had an influence on my work: I think they allow an immediate conversation with an audience. We are constantly barraged by amazing artwork. We are desensitized. My work is subtle. I think to really get it, you need to pause for a moment and see how it makes you feel.
You have worked with some amazing people including many of the Queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, and cultural icons such as Margaret Cho and Leigh Bowery. Can you tell us do you have any favourites you have photographed?
I love doing portraits of anyone. I especially love creating an iconic image of a performer. I have mad respect for Jackie Beat who styles herself from Head to Toe. I’ve made eight videos with Jackie Beat. She is an icon: a cultural treasure and a comedic genius.
I’ve had an artistic relationship with Margaret Cho for 15 years- she’s been in a few of my short videos and I sing a duet with her in my upcoming story telling musical feature documentary: TBD, The Musical.
I feel lucky to have worked with some of incredible culture makers including Diamanda Galas, Elvira, Nadya Ginsburg, Deven Green, Amy Pohler, Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry, Leigh Bowery, etc.
Who would be your dream to photograph?
Dolly Parton. Cher.
Can you tell us a little more about your project, Fallen Fruit and what you hope to achieve with it?
I’ve been working on Fallen Fruit, an art activist collaboration for 11 years now. It was originally conceived in 2004 by David Burns, Matias Viegener and myself and since 2013, David and I have continued the collaborative work.
We created a new movement about planting and mapping fruit in public space in urban neighbourhoods. We have created public fruit parks in Los Angeles, we have made fruit wallpaper and have large exhibitions at contemporary art spaces where we collaborate with the public.
Our newest project is called ‘Endless Orchard’ it will be the largest public art piece in the world. We are inviting everyone to plant fruit trees in front of there home or business along the sidewalks of cities and neighbourhoods everywhere. We also want to map where they plant on our ‘Endless Orchard’ app. This small action will change the world and create a community of sharing. Check out the project at fallenfruit.org.
What advice would you give to young aspiring photographers?
I’d say don’t go into photography for the money if you want to make art. If you choose to go into photography, follow your heart. Photograph what you love and get better at it. Never give up. Don’t stop. Perseverance is the tried and true pathway to success. Show your work to everyone. Ask for what you want. I find this quote inspiring: “Let us, then, be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labour and to wait.” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
And finally, how would you like to see your work developing in the coming years?
I see myself continuing to create art in a more fantastic way! Exploring my work with performance, music, gender, and Identity. I’m working on my second feature length film and want to make another. I want to expand my portraiture. I plan to do a portrait project in Cuba this year. I want to make work that impacts culture and makes the world a better place.