Liana Schmidt is a photographer whose work you may recognize from WORN’s “This Shit Ain’t Free” make-up column in every issue. Liana is also one half of Arianna, an art-duo, and she published an ever-charming book called Paper Dolls in 2007. Liana is a member of Toronto’s Mercer Union, and is helping organize this year’s OMG SWAP, a clothing swap where you can pay a $5 entrance fee and walk away with all you can carry. Watch out for expert hoarders – they may be violent.
You’re a part of Mercer Union, which promotes the production of art of all kinds. How does fashion fit in?
In a sense, fashion fits into Mercer’s culture because a lot of artists in and around the gallery can get especially creative with their clothing. On a more general level, fashion and art seem to influence each other and tend to be visual references from which we can look back on to define a particular time.
Can you tell us about the OMG SWAP? Why do you think it’s important to share and recycle clothing?
The OMG SWAP, conceived by Xenia Anemia of the Mercer Union board, is a fund-raising opportunity for the gallery and a community initiative; it’s also a great opportunity to socialize, cleanse your closet and find new pieces for spring. For a $5 entrance fee you can pillage a great deal of clothing and all leftover clothing will be donated to Sistering, a woman’s agency serving homeless, marginalized and low-income women in Toronto. Recycling clothing is an obvious inclination if you have ever seen the warehouses that vintage buyers pick from. There is a lot of excess clothing kicking around out there.
Many of your photographs are surreal and disturbing. What inspires this connection between fashion and the supernatural or dream-like?
Fashion is often otherworldly. Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen (R.I.P.), for example, have produced garments that err on the side of Science Fiction. he majority of the imagery I have done for WORN has come from Arianna, my collaboration with Erin Fraser. Our work comes from short attention spans, an interest in film and a bad sense of humour.
Do you think there is a difference is between “fashion photography” and photographs of people with nice clothing?
There is a difference. Fashion photography mainly serves to promote, whereas the latter encompasses a lot and suggests a more candid and documentary style – if you are referring to sites like Facehunter.
Where did you get the idea for your Paper Dolls book? How did you decide on what characters and outfits to include?
I wanted to put together a book project with the creative people around me and paper dolls seemed like a way to pay homage to my friends in a manner that perhaps only famous people are treated to. I asked subjects to bring a few outfits of their choice to my studio, where we sometimes improvised with materials lying around. I liked the idea that a stranger could have a lot of my friends cut out and lined up on their shelf. It’s weirdly intimate.
- Stephanie Fereiro