For this month’s #JoieMuseSeries, the camera is turned on Anna-Alexia Basile, a photographer we have loved working with over the years and admire for her colorful, vivacious approach to life and eye for detail. Anna-Alexia opens her home (full of some seriously impressive DIY projects she and her boyfriend tackled themselves!) and gets personal about her journey to becoming a photographer, family, and lifelong love of fashion.
Follow this story on our Instagram, @joie, for the chance to attend one of Anna-Alexia’s upcoming Phone Photography courses!
On your career...
HELLO, HELLO ANNA-ALEXIA! WE ARE SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU AS PART OF OUR MUSE SERIES AFTER ENJOYING WORKING SO CLOSELY TOGETHER WITH YOU FOR YEARS NOW. YOU BRING US "JOIE" WITH YOUR ENERGY AND ART. WILL YOU PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER AND GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
The pleas-Joie is all mine! Becoming a photographer is something that happened serendipitously. My background is in women’s studies and gender research, Italian studies, teaching English as a second language and I have an MFA in Fashion Merchandising. You would think that all of these things would be disjointed and have nothing to do with photography, but they’ve all really influenced how I approach my creative work and move through the world.
While I was in grad school a friend connected me with an intern who was working with Refinery29, a fashion web publication I had spent YEARS obsessing over. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was interviewing with the senior west coast editor. I had pretty much zero photographic experience at that point, other than pretending to be a journalist so I could get into art conventions and cool events. But the editor and I hit it off and she said “I like you and want to hire you. You can either write for us or take photos.” I said, “I’ll do anything!” and she replied “…I think you’d be a good photographer.” And the rest is history.
I was really fortunate to work with an amazing team at Refinery that constantly pushed me to grow, and I was also surrounded by other creatives outside of work that truly helped me find my photographic flow. An ex (who is also a photographer) used to joke at parties and say “yeah, Anna’s a photographer now” and then one day he said, “oh my god, you actually are a photographer.” Haha, and here we are 9 years later!
YOU HAVE A UNIQUE EYE AND ABILITY TO CAPTURE BEAUTY IN THE DETAILS. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE AND APPROACH?
As a Virgo, I CERTAINLY pay attention to the details. And for good reason-- it’s often the small, quiet moments that have a big impact on how we connect and experience life around us. I am constantly on the lookout for patches of reflecting light, crisp shadows, and colorful corners. These elements are so special because they are temporary...a reflecting light or a rainbow from a crystal in your window can last 15 minutes or 15 seconds. I find that when we notice the momentary details and unique elements around us, we have the ability to move through the world in a more connective way. I approach my work intentionally but also always save space for serendipity and surprise.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Exploring new ways of seeing the world and collaborating with others! I’m an ambivert-- meaning I love being around people and socializing, but I also recharge my proverbial batteries by being quiet and alone. Photography allows me to truly have the best of both worlds. There’s meaningful human interaction and collaboration while on set, and then when I go home, I get to edit the images in my own world and reset for the next project.
Also...the clothes, haha! I’ve loved fashion/getting dressed up ever since I was little. When I was a kid, if I was bad my mom would take away my dresses because that was truly the “worst imaginable punishment”. Today, I feel really lucky to work with talented designers and visionary brands that make the act of getting dressed such a creative joy. Creating an outfit each morning feels a lot like painting a blank canvas, and I love the process of choosing my own colors and vibe for the day. The process of crafting imagery that connects people to the tools (the clothes!) has always been a big source of happiness.
HOW DID YOU BEGIN TEACHING COURSES IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHAT CAN PEOPLE EXPECT TO LEARN FROM YOU IN THESE SESSIONS?
Once the pandemic hit, my freelance work pretty much completely stopped. As many can relate, it’s a devastating experience to have your work (and a big part of your identity) completely disappear overnight. Apple had asked me to give an in-person talk for them pre-pandemic on my work and process but that got cancelled due to COVID. I’d spent so much effort creating this presentation that I decided to turn it into a class, in the hope that it would help people who still needed photographic content but had limitations around finances and/or working collaboratively IRL during a pandemic. The Phone Photography class was designed to empower people to continue being creative and produce work in a time that was/is very isolating and dark. My hope is that this class helps small business owners as well as light the artistic spark for anyone searching to create.
YOU HAVE A KNACK FOR BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN PEOPLE AND MAKING SUBJECTS FEEL AT EASE IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA (WE'VE SEEN THIS FIRST HAND!)... ANY TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND, FOR THOSE OF US WHO MIGHT FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE WHILE HAVING THEIR PHOTOS TAKEN?
I love this question because I think many of us struggle with feeling like the best version of ourselves in front of the camera! My number one tip, as silly as it may sound, is to practice in front of the mirror. Put on the outfit/do your hair the way it will appear in the photo and just spend a couple minutes in front of the mirror moving your body and finding the angles that accentuate all your best features and bring life into what you’re wearing! I like to think of posing in front of the camera as dancing-- it’s a fluid motion that moves you through a variety of shapes and moments, ultimately allowing you to fully self-express and come to life.
IF YOU COULD SHOOT ANYONE IN THE WORLD, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
My dad. We were really close and sadly he died when I was a teenager. I love remembering his voice and mannerisms and wish I had more photos of him.
On style, travel, and life at home...
WHAT IS YOUR STYLE MANTRA?
Honey, I'm home.
WHAT MUST YOU ALWAYS HAVE PACKED IN YOUR SUITCASE, ON ANY TRIP?
Absolutely! My 7th birthday party was a little girl dress up party where one of my mom’s friends came over with a bunch of fancy tiny dresses and my friends and I all got dressed up and had our makeup done. There was definitely a period where I was awkward and wearing clothes that were way too big for me because I “just needed to grow into them” (thanks, mom), but eventually my parents started giving me more agency over what I wore.
I distinctly remember turning 16 and getting my driver’s license first thing that morning. The best part of being able to drive solo was being able to go to the thrift stores around town to try on funky outfits for hours. I have this really sweet memory of being 16 and finding like 8 vintage dresses at a thrift store and asking my dad to come back with me to help me decide which one to buy. My father was Italian and pretty much wore exclusively white t-shirts and sneakers...or a Dior tracksuit...so I trusted his fashion sense. When we got to the store he bought all 8 dresses for me. The dresses were probably only $8 each, but I remember feeling like it was a really big deal. We went home and when my mom saw us walking in with a full bag of clothes she yelled “fashion show!!!!” and plopped down on the couch for a full runway experience (which you *know* I absolutely delivered on). I tell this story because embracing fashion/funky clothing/buying the outfit before having an occasion and having fun getting dressed was always celebrated in my family and I think it’s a really big part of why I am who I am, today.
ANY FAVORITE PIECES FROM OUR SHOOT?
Wow, Joie has so many amazing new pieces available for fall right now! I felt really like myself in the Benison Long Sleeve Top. The smocked bodice is form fitting but also allows me to eat a whole bag of chips and still breathe, which is a huge win! Plus, the voluminous sleeve? Yes, please. I also really loved the Sharianna Top in Warm Spice. It’s the perfect fall color, has beautiful buttons that you can open or close for desired level of sexiness, and it’s 100% silk.
YOU GREW UP SPLITTING TIME BETWEEN ITALY AND FLORIDA. WHAT WAS THIS LIKE, AND HOW DID IT INFLUENCE YOU CREATIVELY?
I am so lucky to have a father who was a first-generation Italian immigrant. Everyone on my father’s side of the family is Italian and many doesn’t really speak English, so my father only spoke to me in only Italian. To learn a second language in this way is the most beautiful gift and has allowed me to be a bigger participant in and feel especially connected to Italian culture. From preschool until 5th grade, I would spend a couple months of school in Florida and then a couple in Italy traveling with my father. After that, I exclusively went to school in the US, but we would always go back to Italy to ski the Dolomites in winter and spend summers in Sicily, always with family.
I didn’t have the appreciation for this as a child because I thought it was normal, but I can now recognize how being an active participant in another culture really expanded my vision for what is possible. Speaking another language fluently really affects the way I think and feel. There are certain words in Italian and certain phrases that just don’t exist eloquently or at all in English, and I really appreciate being able to experience the meaning and feelings of those ideas.
Creatively, I feel influenced by the heat, warm bodies of water, color and magic of both Florida and Italy. Even though they are two culturally different looking and sounding places, there are a lot of similarities in how I feel when I am in both locations. And I try to sprinkle them and their dreaminess into my work every day.
YOUR HOME IS A WONDERFUL REFLECTION OF YOUR CREATIVE AND VIBRANT STYLE, WITH MUCH OF THE DECOR RESULTING FROM SOME INTRICATE DIY PROJECTS YOU COMPLETED YOURSELF. WHICH OF THESE BRING YOU THE MOST "JOIE" AND WHAT INTERESTING UPDATES ARE YOU LOOKING TO TACKLE NEXT?
I’m so glad you enjoy it! My boyfriend and I have had a blast ideating and bringing to life our ideas as a team. We love living in and enjoying the space, but the best part is the process of creating something meaningful together.
I’m most impacted on a day-to-day basis by the “closet.” This space used to be a lifeless, weird, in-between room in our home with cold grey tiles. Now, it’s a colorful room filled with a 20’ custom closet, 12’ high chartreuse linen curtains that I sewed, funky furniture, pink carpet, and mirrors galore. It makes getting dressed fun, comfortable, and beautiful...and also houses my mountains of clothes and shoes!
Our next project is designing and building a table for our breakfast nook. We don’t have a ton of space in our kitchen so we’re working with the concept of a table that looks beautiful and catches light in an interesting way while functioning as a table, but that can also be folded down against the wall and still look like art when it’s not in use. Our home is a constant work in progress, and as two creatives who love working with our hands, I have no doubt each space will continue to grow and evolve.