8 Questions With Talk to Me Always Poet Alexi Lubomirski
The most unexpected art is often the most beautiful. Fashion photographer and writer Alexi Lubomirski challenges expectations and binary ideas about art in his new collection Talk to Me Always, out from Andrews McMeel Universal Oct. 27.
Though Lubomirski is most well-known for his iconic celebrity fashion photography—featuring figures like Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Beyonce, and Natalie Portman—he’s written poetry for more than a decade. In Talk To Me Always, he combines these two art forms, showcasing how striking imagery, powerful emotion, and universal themes transcend mediums. Read Poetry spoke with Lubomirski about the connection between his poems and his photos, as well as what readers can learn from the genre-bending, deeply resonant collection.
Kara Lewis: This book is unique because it intersperses poetry with photography. In your opinion, how do the two art forms intersect and inform one another?
Alexi Lubomirski: Interestingly, it took me a while to accept the idea of photography and poetry together. We all carry so many visual references in our head, so when we see a photograph, it can immediately trigger certain emotions based on what we see—whether it is a look in the eye of the subject, a certain color palette, or a particular lighting. Each of these will make us feel something. At first, this seemed to be a problem, because I believed that the imagery and the emotion that the photo created would pollute the emotion that the poem would create. However, I gradually realized that instead of “taking” from each other, they could—if chosen correctly—elevate each other.
KL: Similarly, how did you take on the process of putting this book together? Did you write a poem based on each specific photo, or pair existing photos and poems based on themes and other overlapping elements?
AL: It depended on the image. Sometimes, I wrote poems based on an emotion that I felt in an instant and then found an old photo that could sit beside it. Other times, I looked at photos that I had taken previously, which I could then use to find a poem within. Both images and poems have informed each other in different ways.
KL: As a celebrity fashion photographer, your career has a large, long-standing following. How does that impact your writing and your connection with your readers?
AL: My followers are a mixed bag. I have followers that love fashion photography, followers that love veganism, followers that love Harry and Meghan, followers that love celebrities, followers that love humanitarian and environmental causes and, finally, followers that love poetry. This is a blessing because I am able to speak to a wide, varied audience. If I looked at a central theme that goes through all of my creative work, there is a theme of positivity, love, and hope, no matter the medium.
KL: This is your third book with Andrews McMeel Publishing, but your first poetry collection. When did you start writing poetry, and when did you develop the idea to publish a collection?
AL: I started writing poetry about 15 years ago. It was always for romantic reasons and was something that I kept quite hidden. When I first started dating my wife, I wrote her a poem after about three months of knowing each other. She read the first line and started crying, and I knew she was the one for me! After getting married, I started writing my wife one poem per month. I never dreamt of publishing my poetry, simply because it was not in my job description. I was a fashion photographer and thought that you could not change lanes. This ended up restricting my creativity. I decided at one point to allow my creative inspiration to manifest into whatever medium suited it best.
KL: In addition to poetry and photography, the book also incorporates prose. What do you think writing in these two genres adds to the collection?
AL: The prose sections come from my fashion photography. When I was shooting a fashion story, I would come up with a storyline behind who this girl was in the pictures and what her motivations were. Sometimes, I would explain the story to the models so that they could get into character. When I started collecting the imagery in his book, I found these old images and was able to excavate the stories that I had written in my head for each of these characters. Sometimes, they would become poems, other times paragraphs from a supposed larger story. Writing prose is simply another method of telling a story behind an image.
KL: This book aims to reflect on big, universal themes, like love, grief, and fatherhood. How do you consider such monumental themes in short poems, and how are they present throughout the collection?
AL: When I photographed Bruce Springsteen, I asked him whether he was able to force himself to write songs or whether they came organically. He explained to me that you can force yourself to write something only sometimes. Other times, you unwittingly tap into something and it gushes out of you. Creative people are the conduits for what comes out of the creative ether. I don’t believe that my poems are meant to entirely explain or understand these universal themes. They are simply my translation of them and how they affect me, and hopefully people who read it will be able to relate to them or find some solace. Unfortunately, a lot of us drown out our thoughts with a constant din of imagery and sound. We never allow ourselves to stop, think, and ponder larger questions. Hopefully, this book gives people a chance to delve into these subjects.
KL: All of your profits from the book will go to Concern Worldwide US, an organization dedicated to poverty prevention and humanitarian aid. What makes this mission so important to you?
AL: When hope and change are in desperate need, we are all called to ask ourselves how we can be of service. Within every movement, there are fighters and diplomats, foot soldiers and storytellers, each using their particular skill set to shift the narrative, inspire transformation, and create a brighter future. My skill set involves being a creative, using photography and poetry to inspire people.
I believe strongly in the flow of blessings, and I have been incredibly fortunate and blessed in my career as a photographer. So with this book of poetry and photography, I hope to spread a little light, by touching and inspiring its readers with my words of hope, love, family and change, while at the same time raising money for the amazing humanitarian charity, Concern Worldwide, through the sales of this book, thereby help those who need it most.
KL: What’s next for you creatively?
AL: I have another children’s book in the process of being published, which will come out in 2022. Aside from that, I’m working on a book of my celebrity portraiture throughout my career. I also have a collaboration with Movado watches that has just launched for the iconic Artist Series Collection. I have co-designed a line of watches with them, and this will be the first time they’re using vegan straps. In short, I’m a typical Virgo who needs to have at least three projects going on at the same time!
Order Talk To Me Always here.