Aline Smithson

After a career as a New York Fashion Editor and working along side the greats of fashion photography, Aline Smithson ( discovered the family Rolleiflex and never looked back. Now represented by galleries in the U.S. and Europe and published throughout the world, Aline continues to create her award-winning photography with humor, compassion, and a 50-year-old camera.

She has exhibited widely including solo shows at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, the Lishui Festival in China, the Tagomago Gallery in Barcelona and Paris, and the Wallspace Gallery in Seattle and Santa Barbara. In addition, her work is held in a number of public collections. Her photographs have been featured in publications including PDN (cover), thePDN Photo Annual, Communication Arts Photo Annual, Eyemazing, Soura, Visura, Fraction, Artworks, Lenswork Extended, Shots, Pozytyw, and Silvershotz magazines.

In 2012, Aline received the Rising Star Award through the Griffin Museum of Photography for her contributions to the photographic community. Aline founded and writes the blogzine, Lenscratch (​), that celebrates a different contemporary photographer each day and offers opportunity for exhibition. She has been the Gallery Editor for Light Leaks Magazine, is a contributing writer for Diffusion, Don’t Take Pictures, Lucida, and F Stop Magazines, has written book reviews for photoeye, and has provided the forwards for artist’s books by Tom Chambers, Flash Forward 12, Robert Rutoed, Nancy Baron amongst others.

Aline has curated and juried exhibitions for a number of galleries, organizations, and on-line magazines. She was an overall juror in 2012 for Review Santa Fe, a juror for Critical Mass from 2009-2013, a juror for Flash Forward in 2012 and 2013, and is a reviewer at many photo festivals across the United States. Though she was nominated for The Excellence in Photographic Teaching Award from 2008-2012 and forThe Santa Fe Prize in Photography in 2009 by Center, she considers her children her greatest achievement. She is a founding member of the Six Shooters Collective and is currently teaching and curating for the Los Angeles Center of Photography in Los Angeles. The Magenta Foundation has recently published a retrospective monograph of her work: Self & Others: Portrait as Autobiography.

Aline Smithson Instructor Portfolio

Julia Dean Interviews Aline Smithson

LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Aline Smithson ten questions about her background, career in and beliefs about photography …

Julia Dean: What kind of photographer are you?

Aline Smithson: I am an enthusiastic photographer, working in analog and focusing on fine art. Much of my work is done as a conceptual response to the world around me.  I “create” photographs rather than “take” photographs.  There is a lot of thought that goes into my work before I snap the shutter and I shoot very few frames per image.  I like the slowed down nature of using film, as it allows me time to shoot with intention and focus.

JD: How long have you been shooting?

AS: I have been photographing for almost 20 years — first I was a painter, then a fashion editor working with amazing fashion photographers, and then came to photography with a rich visual history of my previous interests.

JD: Where did you get your training?

AS: With the exception of a few classes at the beginning, I am self taught.  I spent years learning my craft in the wet darkroom, learning how to see — I also spend tons of time looking at photography for my blog, Lenscratch, where I feature the work of a different photographer each day.  I am still very much a student and always curious about the intention behind someone’s photographs.

JD: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

AS: Shortly after I unearthed my uncle’s twin lens Rolleiflex in my parent’s garage, I fell in love with medium format, and discovered that photography is a language that allows me to have a visual voice.

JD: Did you ever come close to giving up?

AS: No … one learns the most from their mistakes …

JD: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

AS: Definitely!  I wouldn’t say that making photographs has been a sacrifice but all the surrounds it — my teaching, my blog, my writing, working as a reviewer and juror, tutoring — all take away from the time I have to make my own work.

JD: What have you gained by being a photographer?

AS: First of all, I have gained an incredible community of friends and allies that have enriched this journey so much.  Photography has provided opportunities to travel the world, connect with others in a deep way, and also think about my life — the past and future, with a focus and curiosity that makes waking up each day a joy.

JD: What classes do you teach at LACP?

AS: All of my classes are fine art based — I teach an intensive workshop for those who know the bells and whistles of their cameras, but don’t know what to shoot — it’s called “Shooting With Intention”.  The workshop gives them tools and ideas for making work.

I also teach a three part series titled “The Next Step” (Next Step One, Two, and Three).  In “The Next Step One”, I teach photographers how to place their projects into the fine art market, complete with a bios and statements, the knowledge of how to approach the movers and shakers in the photo world, and demystify editioning and pricing and much more.  In “The Next Step Two”, students put what they have learned into practice and the workshop results in an exhibition.  “The Next Step Three” is an on going class that allow for feedback on projects they are producing.

I also teach a 9 month class called “The Personal Project” that allows students to work on a project over an extended period of time.  That class results in an exhibition and an book.  And finally, sometimes I teach “The Toy Camera”.

JD: What do you love most about teaching?

AS: I love seeing the light blub go off in a photographer’s mind, having that “ah ha” moment when they realize that the work needs to say something and be shot with intention.  Students have explored very personal projects that makes them more self aware and understanding of not only themselves, but the world in general.  I love seeing students succeed and grow as artists as their work garners attention. When people ask me what I teach, I say that I teach how to use the brain, not how to use the camera.

JD: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

AS: Make a lot of mistakes.  Try everything — portraiture, still life, landscape, street, conceptual — and learn what resonates.  Be humble.  Be supportive and make lots of photographer friends.  Be curious.  Be determined.  Learn to live with doubt and fear and uncertainty.  And get up each morning, ready to begin again.