Melody Melamed

May 23rd, 2017

Melody Melamed

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Born and raised in Santa Monica,Ca. Melody Melamed received her BFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2008, with a concentration in Design|Media Arts, followed by her MFA in Photography/Video and Related Media in 2013, at the School of Visual Arts, New York City. As a photographer, Melamed has dedicated her time exploring the perception of gender identity; specifically, the female form and what the body cannot tell about the expression of gender and gender identity.

Tell us about the images that we’re featuring?

Primarily, my work focuses on Gender-identity and self-identity. Over the years I’ve developed this carnal, inward aesthetic that I would consider to have a sentimentality and intimacy to it. This sensibility comes both from my natural inclinations as well as a developed style from many years of making pictures in different ways–therefore, I wanted to feature images from multiple projects. Although the subject matter may be different theoretically, in actuality these stories are told with the same voice and they are about the same things: Self-reflection|awareness, Transformation and Rebirth.

How does social media affect you and your art?

Social Media is the answer to many prayers! It is the way I communicate my pictures to the world. I remember a time when I was totally opposed to using social media; now, I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be to engage people with my work if I wasn’t able to use platforms like Instagram. For me, Instagram is more than just Social Media- it’s a platform that allows me to get a sense of people’s reactions to my work. Do they like what they see? What kinds of imagery do people respond to more frequently? It’s incredible how it has totally changed the way people can see imagery from anyone, everywhere, and I love it.

What are you working on right now?

Currently I am working on a couple of projects. One is a story about Abby Stein, an Ex-Hassidic Jew from Williamsburg, BK who came out as a Trans-Woman over a year ago. I have been documenting her transformation–both physical and emotional. This is an ongoing project, although many pieces have been published about her as well as the work I am doing with her.

What does the future hold for your work?

I have an agent who I work with quite closely; together we are really trying to figure out the exact direction I want to head into next. It’s a tough world out there, and the push can be taxing, but I’m grateful. I’ve also been asked to be a part of the 2017 program at the ICP museum this coming April, where I will be giving an artist talk about my project “Work in Progress”. Totally stunned, excited and nervous, but I’m crossing my fingers that I can add the experience to my small pile of successes. As for everything else, only time will tell…I always hope for the best!

Do your parents like your work?

My parents are definitely an interesting duo. I basically come from a very conservative Jewish-Iranian background, so I’ve had to fight for most of the decisions I’ve made regarding my work. I remember being in college and doing a series of nude women, and I think my parents thought I had a lot of things wrong with me (ha!). Also, photography would not have been their first choice for me, as a career. But over these many, many years, they have come a very long way and today they are very supportive of what I do, and probably a little proud too, so I feel blessed.

What other forms of art inform your work?

I would say, without a doubt, architecture absolutely informs my work, both directly and indirectly. I never truly realized it until not too long ago, but I am totally affected by the lines, symmetry and the angularity of architecture. Love it.

What was the worst reaction you have had to your work?

It was graduate school, my thesis year and I was in a critique with my thesis advisor as well as 10 other peers. I was working on a series of self-portraits where I would dress up as other people- sort of like a character index- but I was still in the stages of experimenting with what kind of aesthetic I was going for. I remember my teacher (whom I admire very much) looking straight at me and telling me that I just wasn’t a good photographer and that I shouldn’t be doing this. At the time I was still trying to figure out my voice, and I was on the glossy/fashion-y aesthetic streak, while in a Fine Art program, and I admit, it wasn’t my best work, but in that moment she basically killed my soul. Shortly after, I recovered, but I don’t think my advisor ever came round to liking that work. yet, C’est la vie!