This is a weekly series where we feature our incredibly talented Adolescent members and their work! Sign up here to join the Adolescent Membership and be part of the @ family!
Happy 2020, Adolescent! To kick off the decade, we want to introduce you to Xia Cospito-Liu. Xia is a photographer, production designer, and prop stylist based in NYC. Their images often involve digital media, found media, and collage. This week, we talked to them about the importance of highlighting queer people, trans folk, and POC, working with Zolita, and the tragedy that is rent in New York.
Adolescent Content: Your work focuses on queer people, trans folk, and people of color. What’s the end goal of highlighting these communities?
Xia Cospito-Liu: Queer and trans folks and people of color constantly have to deal with their identity [and see] conflicting and often horrifying, painful images of themselves, if they see themselves at all. As a queer, non-binary Chinese-American, I grew up never seeing myself in the media, and it affected me deeply—and still does to this day. I just want to allow people to see themselves the way they want to be seen, in a way that feels natural and genuine to them.
Adolescent: Can you tell me about your shooting process, from coming up with a concept to editing the photos?
Xia: Usually my concepts stem from conversations I’m having in the real world about how I feel about myself, my existence in the world, and my relation to others. I’ll have a few images that I pair with a theme—belonging, identity, sexuality, gender. From there, I try to create worlds where my subject matter can exist fully, genuinely, and in its entirety. I shoot in sort of an eclectic way—I prefer to shoot with continuous lighting, with light bulbs I pick up in a lighting store downtown, with soft pink gels always. I’m playing music, always, and depending on the shoot, the model might DJ. I shoot hundreds of photos typically, and then I start selecting my favorites, usually asking my partner for their opinion. I go through several rounds of selects and edits [before I] end up with the final images.
Adolescent: How does being in New York affect your work? Is it overwhelming or motivating?
Xia: It’s both. Rent is wild, everyone is competitive as hell, and the city can feel so lonely at times. But it’s also a place full of passion and love and genuine care, and its accessibility to resources is like no other city I’ve been in.
Adolescent: I’m actually a huge fan of Zolita—I interviewed her a few years ago and just saw her live at the Grove last year! How did you get involved with her? What’s your collaboration like?
Xia: Zolita and I both attended NYU for film and television, and I found myself production-designing her music videos! It was a lot of fun—Zoe’s a great director and she has such a particular aesthetic. It was so much fun working with her. She’d send me a pitch and a moodboard, and then we’d collaborate to create a world for her videos to live in.
Adolescent: You work on set design, multimedia, production design, and photography. Do you have a favorite? Do you think these mediums feed into one another?
Xia: Photography/multimedia is probably my favorite, but all of these mediums are so intrinsically related to each other—I use set/production design to create worlds and to tell stories, and from there, I can capture it however I want. It’s all visual for me, and it’s helped me develop my aesthetic so vividly.