Aline Smithson

fine art photographer
Location: Los Angeles, California.

All images are copyrighted and strictly for educational and viewing purposes.



How did you become a photographer?

I came to photography through the back door. My father and uncle were photographers and my career was centered around it, but it wasn’t until I found my uncle’s twin lens Rolleiflex that I embraced photography fully as my own. Seeing the world through my own photographic vision has become a wonderful obsession.

After graduating from college, I moved to New York City to make my living as a painter, and although I continued to paint, my career moved into the fashion world. I worked for many years as the Fashion Editor for Vogue Patterns Magazine in New York City, and then continued on in Los Angeles as a freelance photo stylist. As a fashion editor, I had the privilege of working with many exceptional fashion photographers, including HorstMario TestinoPatrick DemarchelierArthur Elgort, and Bert Stern. They turned out to be incredible teachers.

Where are you from originally?

Silverlake (Los Angeles), California, then many years in NYC.

Who were your main influences growing up?

Throughout my career as a fashion editor, an artist, a photographer, a person engaged in the world, I have looked at thousands upon thousands of images. I can still remember album covers, ad campaigns, editorial images that sparked something inside me. Discovering Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, then Diane Arbus and Ralph Meatyard and Matt Mahurin and Keith Carter were wondrous revelations into how we see. For me, it’s finding simplicity in the complex. It’s telling a story but not giving away the ending. Creating a memory that never happened. It’s a little bit of magic combined with poignancy. It’s giving something dignity or a second glance. Making the mundane mysterious. It’s celebrating life in a split second.

And I have to give a shout out to my Uncle, Alysworth Kleihauer, who exposed me to EamesNeutraGeorge Nelson, and the world of good design when I was still in diapers.

Did you go to art school/college for design or are you self-taught?

Though I was schooled as a painter, I have felt like a complete sham in every profession I have been a part of – never had any fashion background and became a fashion editor, took a few photography classes and became a photographer – I’m always waiting to be found out, and boy, do I learn from my mistakes…life is a continual learning curve!

Any advice or tips to novice photographers?

This is what I’ve figured out: Title your work. Edit. Then edit again. Know your world. You don’t have to leave the house to find inspiration – it’s all in your imagination. Don’t over complicate things. Learn to use the darkroom – it’s the truly creative part of photography. Make friends with other photographers – they are a remarkable group of people. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be happy if you get one good shot per contact sheet. Remove the lens cap, especially on toy cameras.

What has been the most rewarding and challenging project you have worked on?

Definitely the series: Arrangement in Green and Black, Portrait of the Photographer’s Mother. I was able to combine all the things I love – my mother, thrift store shopping, styling, humor, and photography, and then hand painting. The whole experience was a joy and I never expected it to end up in magazines in Poland and Paris and be hanging on people’s walls all over the country. My mother, who died before it was completed, would be totally amazed.

What is your favorite portfolio piece? Why?

The image of my mother in front of the Last Supper – I just loved setting up a TV tray in front of a paint-by-number Last Supper. This series is hand painted and so I became very intimate with the images.

What American artist inspires you most?

I love John Baldessari’s work – he’s brilliant, simple, funny, thoughtful. And I am devoted to James McNeill Whistler – something in his work resonates so completely with me.