We had the good fortune of connecting with Alissa Wyle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alissa, what’s the end goal, career-wise?
What I like about this question is that it is not how I approach my career or life and I’d like to speak on that. When I was a kid I pined for notoriety, wanted to achieve an elusive “success” by being in the spotlight. I saw things much more starkly thinking if I did not achieve fame, I would be a failure. Nowadays, after feeling crippled by self doubt because of this mindset and attaching myself unknowingly to the narrative that I was a failure for not reaching destinations (and some helpful therapy), I realize that the only destination I will ever reach is death. A dark statement perhaps, but to me it is a reminder that every moment I am alive is a practice. So my goal is not at the end but in every moment along the way, I hope to be ever more present, ever more compassionate, and continually flexible to changing tides within me and around me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
There’s a lot of juicy questions packed into this one section — I’ll do my best to touch on everything. Throughout my career so far as a photographer a few strengths have emerged. One is my directing. Part of what drew me into portraiture was the awareness that being in front of a camera often feels unnatural and uncomfortable and a drive to ease those feelings. Using my background in performing arts and yoga training, I direct my subjects with compassion and attention, helping to create a safe space to collaborative explore ideas as well as giving subjects prompts to go off of so as to keep the experience engaging and keep subjects in the moment rather than in their heads. Another strength I’ve learned is lighting. I have a spiritual appreciation for light. I find it absolutely captivating and inspiring and as such think the way I approach it is distinctive.
You know, I wouldn’t say the path has been easy, because it has been financially, emotionally, mentally, and at times physically challenging. I would, though, say it feels like a path of least resistance in my life. Mostly because as I began taking photos of people, I realized it was a path to creating a daily life that I wanted to live. I have had other dreams but this was the first passion that really allowed me to live a moment to moment life that felt fulfilling, invigorating, and worth pushing for. Some days I might have a different answer as working with people is as complex as every individual is. Sometimes it is not without resistance, but on the whole I have felt an inner calmness through it all which has made me feel that it must be the right path.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m still fairly new to Los Angeles but I have collected some favorite spots especially in North Hollywood where I live. I would likely start the day off with brunch at Republic of Pie, a really cute coffee shop with GREAT quiche. Then I’d take a trip to the beach. I’ve been going often to Malibu but recently someone recommended the beaches in Oxnard. We’d likely pack some snacks and maybe a guitar and have a nice picnic enjoying the sun and the sand. Then, I’d love to take the mystery guest to a concert now that live music is coming back (hallelujah!). After the show, I’d recommend a late night visit to the NoHo diner open 24 hours.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am so grateful for many people along the way but the one that is lingering in my mind now is my Grandpa Charley. He was honest to at times a fault, incredibly hard working, driven by a deep moral compass, and enacted meaningful change through his actions. He took risks, he was bold, in my eyes he acted often out of love rather than fear even in situations almost unimaginable. He escaped Nazi Germany, emigrated to America, returned to Germany as a US soldier and among other things liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Holy Smoke Photography is named after him as his family’s name Weihrauch literally translates to Holy Smoke. He is a hero in my eyes and has inspired me daily and more and more as I’ve become an adult and a business owner.
In frame: Sadiya Ramos, Hannah Felise, Olivia Gatwood, Sierra Cornell, Neia Jane, Sammy Singleton Photos by Holy Smoke Photography