- Edition 2, Chapter 5-
Q&A: ALANNAH FARRELL
Alannah is an artist and photographer who is also experienced being in front of a camera. She was spotted as a teen with a buzz cut by a model scout, and was known for her androgynous look as she posed for photographers such as Ryan McGinley. She came to us with uncharacteristically long hair (she was between hairdressers) and felt that the length, unlike the color (she has always been a redhead) wasn’t really “her.” She is a New Wash fan and reports that her hair is shinier, frizz-free, and she has given up her conditioner habit entirely.
What was it like being a teenage model? Does it influence your portraiture today?
I was definitely an atypical model. I came to the East Village as a teenager with buzzed red hair, chunky combat boots, convinced that I had attributes like intelligence, creativity, and a sense of humor, but I was convinced that I was an "ugly" girl. It was surprising when I got stopped by casting agents asking if I was already with an agency. Finally I let one of those people, Alan Foreman, a talented photographer, become my agent and I signed with T Model Management (owned by Donald Trump, yikes!). My look was niche: they always cast me as the punk girl, the androgynous one, even an alien for more fantasy-based editorials.
I thought the fashion industry was wacky, but I found photography inspiring. At the time I was studying painting at Cooper Union, but after six months of modeling I switched nearly all my classes to photography. Modeling continues to influence my work to a degree. I love working with people and seeing beauty, pain, darkness and lightness. I'm not interested in the commercial glossiness of fashion, but I do like that the fashion industry is slowly getting more egalitarian; seeing more black models, trans models, androgynous models, and models of varying body types and ages makes me happy.
Describe being a lifelong redhead. Has it been an asset? A liability? A character influence?
Hah! Well I think being a redheaded girl/woman might be slightly easier than being a redheaded boy. Growing up with red hair definitely becomes a part of your identity, as there's an orange flag framing your face and calling attention, whether you want it or not. As a kid I was fairly shy, and any emotion could make me blush tomato-red, only making me more visible. As an adult I embrace the red, it is a positive signifier of my fiery self. It helps that I'm no longer shy, although I still sometimes blush a bright scarlet.
I recently shot an editorial of fellow ginger women – natural or adopted as their signature. I was curious to find if it indicated a type of woman – fierce, amazonian, enchantress, or if they sported it simply because they like the color. There are so many beautiful redheads in NYC and we always recognize each other in a crowd.
You’ve had short hair, long hair and short hair again… how do you feel about both lengths?
For me personally, short hair is it. I think it frames my face shape best; it's easy, and looks pretty good as bed-head (my go-to style).
GROWING UP WITH RED HAIR DEFINITELY BECOMES A PART OF YOUR IDENTITY, AS THERE'S AN ORANGE FLAG FRAMING YOUR FACE AND CALLING ATTENTION, WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT.
Amelia Earhart was cited as a reference for your new look. Do you identify with her in other ways?
I love that Amelia Earhart was the reference. Beyond being a pilot, she was a writer, politically involved, and a teacher to student career-women. She was an incredibly strong woman and someone I strive to be like.
Which qualities do you look for in a portrait subject? Do those qualities influence you when you are modeling?
I love women and men that are shameless. Don't get me wrong, I think empathy and sensitivity are highly important qualities socially and individually, but I have real respect for people who unapologetically express their passion, quirkiness and individuality. I am probably a bit more reserved as a model and in person, but when I'm behind the camera or creating work with others, I look for transparency, honesty, and shamelessness.
How do you feel about your own Hairstory portraits?
I can't thank you enough for relieving me of that crazy matted mop I grew over the winter. I also love that Michael shoots film – the pictures are great.
How has your hairstory changed since your visit?
Since visiting Hairstory studio, I've kept my hair relatively the same, and went a bit shorter for the warmer months. I am keeping my hair short – forever! This winter I think I'll invest in warmer hats rather than attempting to grow one from my head. Thanks to the Hairstory team for getting my head back on track.
To see Alannah’s work like her self-portrait below, go to alannahfarrell.com.