Feb 15, 2016 3:00PM

Meet Jude Liana, A Photographer & Zine-Maker Making It In NYC


Jude Liana is a photographer, model and poet based in New York City, who makes raw art and writes about real life stuff. The young gun takes candid film images of friends, landscapes and settings, drawing inspiration from the work of other female photographers like Nan Goldin.

Last year, Jude released her very own zine entitled 22 — a set of visuals and text that reflect her feelings as a young person trying to find her way in the world. We caught up with Jude to talk her about her style, her time in Cuba and the dopeness of not giving a f**k on the internet.

Ava Nirui: How did you get into photography?
Jude Liana: I started taking photos when I was eleven. It started as a hobby at first, but when I was 16 I got accepted into the International Center of Photography. That's when I learned film photography and developing in the lab. I was hooked. When I first started film photography, I knew it was what I wanted to focus on. I have done and still do some digital photography, but film feels like you're actually creating an image, especially if you are developing it yourself.

I took it even more seriously around 18, I could see myself doing it professionally. So, I kept pushing myself. I was supposed to go to art school and it didn't work out. Instead, I just dabbled in internships and made money how I could while keeping my dream alive. Even in the last two years, I really have seen myself pushing way more in terms of what I am shooting, and pinpointing my style.

How would you describe your style?
I've always been inspired by work that is way more raw and real. I do have a huge appreciation for fashion photography, but it has never really been my calling. I've always been more into documentative and narrative photography. I feel like that doesn't really exists as much anymore in the world of photography. It's way more polished now. You know an image is fucking ill if you feel something when you look at it. I want to do that with my photos.

How do you distinguish between shooting for a client and personal, and which do you prefer?
I prefer shooting my own shit. I always told myself I would only ever wanna work for myself, and I don't mean that in a cocky way, but I have so much faith in my vision and know that the work I do and continue to do will be really good. I only want to create special images. I have way more dedication to that than I would working for someone else. Like I said, it's important to experiment in photography and art.

How was it visiting Cuba from the perspective of a photographer?
I was only there for ten days, which didn't feel like enough time. It's always been a dream of mine to go there, especially Havana. Going there as a photographer was so inspiring — left and right there was something to shoot. The people there are so amazing and it made me that much more determined to go back. I'm trying to go back next month and work on this project. I've almost figured out what I want to do with my photos. I'm so satisfied with them, that I feel it's too soon to release them.

How has being raised and living in New York impacted your work?
When I first started taking photos, I started shooting my surrounding. I remember walking around and taking photos in my Lower East Side neighbourhood. New York City is my main inspiration — you can walk out your door and there's something to shoot. I feel like New York City has so much culture but at the same time is losing so much culture. The social aspect of New York is dark, but also my fuel for photography. With my photos, it's not just capturing the happy moments, but the raw and rugged. That's my driving force to continue.

What themes and ideas did you explore in your zine 22?
It was just kinda a recap of my year, last year, in terms of relationships and existential thoughts I was having as a young person. The style was very manic and collage style. There were clippings from my diary and photos of mine to summarise everything that was going through my head. I sold it at the New York Art Book Fair, and did a small run that sold out, which was amazing. I then took it to my site. People seemed really responsive, I got really nice emails from girls who went through similar shit and find comfort in knowing they are not alone. I wanted to make it a weird balance between being unsure of yourself and having an element of self love.

On Instagram, you're quite outspoken and share your values. Why do you think it's important to speak your mind on social media?
In terms of my Instagram, I curate it like a public diary — whether it's photos, thoughts or travel experience. I think that's whats cool about social media. Social media is so narcissistic in a way, but it's rad to use it as a platform to share yourself with other people. So, when I share things or express my values, it's mostly because I want to. It's as simple as that. Also, I am inspired when other women do that, whether it's Instagram or artwork, whatever form of expression. It's rad for people to not keep that to themselves.

Do you feel people are judgemental of you cause of your looks and age and have preconceived notions about you?
Yeah, people always have preconceived notions. It's inevitable at this point. It's so easy to look at someone and think you know them. I see it all the time. That's also why it's dope to see someone not give a fuck and put whatever they want on the internet and voice their opinion. I get judged all the time, I see it in comments and in person. People think they know you and they think they have you all figured out, but it's not really the case. It doesn't really phase me. For a while I used to dwell and be more sensitive, but over time, you become more confident with yourself and your work and that dwindles out. If it did matter, I wouldn't be doing what I am doing.

What's your longterm dream?
I just wanna keep making art. I want to be one of the greats. I know that sounds crazy, but I think I could do it if I fucking keep pushing myself. I don't wanna just be a photographer lost in the abyss. I knew since I was a kid that I would want to create images that are raw images that ignite something in someone. 

Photos & Text: Ava Nirui