Stella Stone is a NYC based photographer, collage artist, and model. She spent an art-filled childhood in Italy until she landed in the NYC cultural scene at the tender age of sixteen. Since then, her work has taken its inspiration from the city’s fast paced society and its ADHD culture. Her photos span the spectrum of NYC neighborhoods' gritty residents to collages of multicultural visual art to illustrations of an A.I. apocalypse; Stone's images illustrate an overstimulated society, which she relishes as therapy for her own mind.
Female Hercules: What is your background? How were you introduced to NYC art and culture?
Stella Stone: I was born in Milan, Italy. Growing up was wild and very artistic. Being a youth in Italy is a mixture of pure traditionalism, anti establishment rebellion, and wanting to coexist. My household was pretty unique, because of my parents background, it was like growing up in New York, LA and London, but in the heart of Milan. They both lived for periods in those cities. I only studied at art and design high schools, I went to three; all stimulated my creativity. At 16 I moved to NYC and finished high school at Beacon. Went to Parsons for two years for Fine Art, then I slowly started modeling seriously, making collages, collecting imagery and objects, and shooting film/digital. Currently I work at a clothing store and a jewelry showroom part time, both in SoHo; I’ve been helping with U.P.W.W and lots of modeling.
Why do you choose to shoot in black and white?
I love both color and black & white. B&W is very nostalgic and dramatic.
I adore a good high contrast. I think it makes an image bold and strong. It’s less distracting than color; in black and white I can see the image for what it is. It may make an image seem more important, or intense than what it actually is. And I like that, there’s something so pure about it. It takes it down to the very essence of it, allowing you to focus on the technicalities of the image like the structure and the tones.
How do you choose your subjects?
I shoot what I like: friends, captivating people, or something memorable. I don’t really choose subjects, I give myself the freedom to shoot whatever I want to. I generally just shoot the everyday. I don’t go searching for subjects or make a big plan. It’s truly what is around me, and the images I make tend to go towards making a composition, one of my collages. So I may think of shooting multiple frames of a scene, just so I can visually imagine what it’s going to look like, or give myself extra material to play with.
Tell me about your photo collages. Why mix stories like that?
I’ve always liked to collect objects, tools, images, and make mood boards. I like laying it all out; it helps me make sense of it. My mother and father have both spent their lives traveling the world and so they collect a lot of memorabilia. And I love that they always come back with a particle of somewhere, and it’s become this merged lifetime archive of literally anything. I do that too! I have to collect; it immortalizes a place for me.
We are not hoarders though. My mum makes the most extraordinary mood boards, she taught me how to. I go through waves, depending on what my life is like, it determines every detail of my art. By waves I mean that I have become very conscious of my mental health while working on something. So for example, looking back on specific pieces, I can analyze the moment, the people in my life, the circumstances, how much love or hate was around me, and all of it contributed to why it turned out like that.
How do your digital photo collages differ from your handmade collages?
The photo collages and the handmade ones have nothing in common because they’re just two completely different modes of making and expressing something. Collaging is blowing off steam, like finding everything I feel in that moment in images. I use that to lay it out, make the story and close it. It’s information overload.
The photo collages are perhaps more serious. I have to make the images and then say something with them; I want those to be cleaner, they need more space to breathe, to sink in properly.
Your illustrations and drawings seem to differ from the style of both your collages and photos. Why are the people being stretched and twisted in your illustrations?
Yeah, I think human life is full of contradictions and so is everything we make. Photo is a way to document my world, drawing is how I make sense of it, and collaging is an homage to our ADHD culture. It’s a ton of material overload. Our attention is all over the fucking place. My collages reflect that feeling.
The people in my illustrations are suffering in a dark world dominated by A.I. and radiations. Humans have morphed and they are living in an in-between space; not sure what or where it is. I’ve always been interested in a post apocalyptic world, and what people physically and mentally are like. The effects of detrimental technology on our bodies is so fascinating to me. I was unhappy and very pessimistic when I was making those. All good now haha. But making those was sort of like therapy; creating something is definitely a way to understand what is going on with you. My mood has everything to do with how the artwork turns out.
Tell me about your favorite piece of artwork you’ve ever made.
I don’t have an all time favorite. But I like looking at my collages; they’re just exuberant and fun. I always notice something new. Lately, I look at this one a lot. I think this is one of my most successful ones; I just love the colors, the images, the violence and the humor. There’s a lot going on and I remember making this and thinking: “I want all of it to coexist, even if it it’s so extra”. This one is very “me.”
How does modeling tie in with your love for mixed media?
Modeling is fun! I meet so many innovative people. I love the energy that people have on set, it can feel like a big family. You get to play with creative directors, stylists, make up artists, photographers; it’s cultivating. But it has nothing to do with my art. Modeling is a natural extension of who I am, it’s work, you are selling a product. My art is me, no one is telling me to make something like this or that so it sells. It’s not about that.
My parents are actually my biggest inspiration; my father’s filmmaking and my mother’s lifetime career in fashion; they’ve both always been on a mission and have encouraged my siblings and I to go after our own. They’re pursuit of wisdom and experience have shaped me. They’re the coolest people I know!
ALL IMAGES AND PHOTOS BY STELLA STONE