music

A tucked away space of Songwriter Alex Wisner, Franklin Village LA by Anna Azarov

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to and photograph Alex Wisner; an author, singer songwriter, and Founder of Treehouse LA (an intimate pop-up event featuring artists from all over Los Angeles). I came by to Alex’s house in Franklin Village, we walked over through the main house to the back garden, where a separate detached house stood. Inside, painted in her distinct color palette of pale coral-pink and powder blue was her creative sanctuary.

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With a cup of tea in hand, Alex shared that often she spends hours being in the space before ideas start to emerge. She’ll wake up around 6am, close the door and lock herself inside for hours. She’ll reread lyrical notes or listen to previously recorded ideas on repeat, sometimes stopping to straighten up or move something around just to get the creative process flowing.

Alex has always had a fascination with words. She has more lyrical ideas than she knows what to do with. As with many, her first instrument was the piano, which she started playing at young age. She went on to study music theory for 8 years , which both opened her mind up to the possibilities while also paralyzing her from composing on a piano because she felt she was constantly making mistakes. So she picked up the guitar and found a sense of freedom in the unknown and unpracticed.

When I asked Alex what types of themes she finds herself writing about, she answered unwaveringly “Betrayal.” The emotion has been a focus of her writing for a number of years. She grew up in a happy and supportive family and was shielded from betrayal for a long time, so when she did experience it for the first time, the moment amplified and left a deep imprint on her life. The first time a friend betrayed her trust, she couldn’t understand how people can do this all the time.

In 2012, Alex became very ill due to Lyme disease that was left undiagnosed and untreated. Her body began falling apart, she found herself weighing 70lbs, barely able to get out of bed and move across her room. She couldn’t understand what was happening. Her body betrayed her. To top it off, despite running myriads of tests, her doctors insisted that it was all in her head. They thought she was doing this to herself. Her doctors betrayed her. She realized she had to get out of the hospital before she would be committed to an institution. She trusted her self. She took her life into her own hands and tried everything she could to heal her body. It worked.

She shared that the last time she was hospitalized, when she thought she was going to die, Alex wrote 38 goodbye letters to her closest friends and family members, letting them know what they meant to her and the value that they brought to her life. I asked her if she ever shared the letters with the intended recipients, and she said no with the exception of one.

I wondered what would happen if she did. It made me think about what I would say if I had to write letters to my closest friends and family. How do you truly summarize the value and meaning of those people on your life? Talking to Alex reminded me how little we think of death. How much we take for granted that our life will be ever present until a ripe old age. Perhaps we all need to write those letters now while we still have an opportunity to share our gratitude.

Check out Alex Wisner’s music and writing here.

Alex wrote a short piece about her experience and you can read it here.

Treehouse LA.

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Dmitry Wild in his Kew Gardens home studio by annaandthelens

This is how the series began…

On a cold winter night, sometime in early January, I photographed Dmitry Wild in his Kew Gardens basement studio. He lives in the apartment upstairs with his wife and son, but has access to this part of the house and thus has made it his private getaway from the bustle of family life. He comes here to write, or play music, or paint, and I wanted to photograph him in his element.

For those that don’t know, Dmitry is my brother. I have grown up listening to him write songs and play guitar. It was with him that I witnessed the process of a song being written and I got accustomed to the fixated stare he would get when an idea would come and he needed to work it out on his guitar. It always fascinated me to see the song in process, only to hear the final version later.

The truth is when I first started this project, it developed very organically. I did not have a set idea of what I was looking for besides wanting to photograph musicians in their creative spaces. I did not prepare a set of questions to ask or really thought much about how I wanted to portray the musicians. I just wanted to be in their space and talk to the musicians and let inspiration do the rest.

When I asked Dmitry about his process, he told me about how ideas come to him. Sometimes its a line or combination of words that gets stuck in his head and he starts singing them to himself until the lyrics emerge. Sometimes its a riff or a melody that he finds while picking on the guitar. Most of the time, he’s writing about his own life experiences, with the hope that someone listening has had a shared experience and will relate.

Aside from publishing a memoir and a book of poetry, Dmitry is currently working on a project helping to compose the music for a Hamlet-inspired Rock Opera called Mouth Trap. He also has his main Dmitry Wild project, an electro-rock project called WoW. You can check out his music below:

Explore Dmitry Wild's music: Website: Dmitry Wild IG: @dmitrywild MouthTrap project