Photographer Jelena Aleksich, creator of The Confetti Project, has been dousing her subjects in confetti for years. Why, might you ask? All in the name of celebration. Armed with sparkly bits of paper, her trusty camera and one profound and often overlooked question: “What do you celebrate?” Aleksich’s portraits manage to bridge the gap between playful and powerful, bringing to light the importance of celebration in our everyday lives. Read on to discover more about what Aleksich has learned through her work with The Confetti Project, as well as why she believes celebration is critical for both personal and professional long-term happiness.
What have you learned through your work with The Confetti Project?
“It's hard to pinpoint one thing as this project has changed my life. It taught me to finally finish something for the first time which is very empowering and a step toward into never living your life in fear, really being limitless with taking anything on. I've learned the obvious things: navigating a camera more efficiently, honing the process that allows a subject to feel comfortable being vulnerable and seeing that there's something to be said for putting in the hours and creating a big body of work.
I learn through experience and this experience, specifically the first year as my father was simultaneously battling cancer, taught me to always see the silver lining in everything. You don't need to be in a pile of sparkle to be grateful for every moment of your life. Yes, it helps but you have that power within yourself to celebrate everyday, even if it's uncomfortable and filled with challenge. I call this my baseline blessings, where I always remind myself that it is a privilege to be alive and healthy and that everything can be taken away from you at any moment. It sounds dark but it's become the most liberating thing for me, where even with the death of my father I can find gratitude amidst grief.”
Where do you find your creative inspirations?
“I think I'm always trying to find the beauty and meaning in everything from a moment that I see when I'm out in the world to words and phrases that I write in the back of whatever book I'm reading. I have an extensive notepad in my phone that I add on to when thoughts come up. I probably listen to music 8-10 hours a day which either fuels my creativity or is the perfect soundtrack to my life.
I'm supremely visual so the first step in my creative process as a designer/photographer/curator is going through visual archives - whether it's on Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram or my personal archives - I need to be surrounded by aesthetics to then create my own interpretations of what inspiration they give me. I'm also on a lifelong Oscar challenge where I'm watching every single Oscar nominated movie since the beginning in 1929 so that's 3,000+ films that are each a separate world in the craft of visual storytelling.”
Can you talk about how celebration is critical for long-term professional and personal performance?
“For me, having daily celebration means cultivating gratitude for being alive. We live in a supremely fast-paced, future-oriented world where it's easy to become obsessed with results and hitting benchmarks in achievement. We're pretty good at delaying our happiness with a myriad of excuses: I can be happy when I have a certain amount in my bank account, when I am a certain number of pounds or when whatever X,Y, Z happens then I can really start living. But what about right now? This moment counts too.
The awareness that we're not going to be around forever and that none of us are getting out of this alive can really give you a newfound perspective on what's important so even when we see ourselves going deep into the trivial day-to-day, we can still have the understanding that in the grand scheme of things everything is fleeting, even pain and suffering. The first moment that anyone throws confetti this transformation happens. They leave their lives - the stress, responsibilities, anxieties - at the door and become completely transfixed in the present moment of play.
I think if we can all feel like that even for a moment on every given day then we can really define what our purpose is, what we want to fight for, what we want to devote our time/energy to and let our intuition/appreciation for existing guide us. If right now was your last moment, would you look back at your life and be happy how you navigated it? I have that degree of awareness in my moments and every time I photograph someone.”
What’s on the horizon for The Confetti Project?
“It's a really exciting time for us right now as things are filled with momentum and new lanes forming within the brand. We're moving into a new, 523 sq. ft. studio space which will allow us to host AirBnB Experiences and group workshops. It'll basically be like walking into the world of The Confetti Project: part photo studio, part production house, part creative shop, part gallery exhibit. I'm really excited about that. We're hosting monthly Open Studios where anyone can have a quick, fun confetti shoot. We typically do a public pop-up partnering with a brand every season, where we're beginning to work with big beauty/fashion brands as an activation that spreads joy amidst a retail experience.
I'm finishing the first draft of my story: Cancer&Confetti, which chronicles the first year of dousing 100 people with confetti as I was losing my father to cancer. We also internationally debuted in Dubai in January and have a longterm partnership there so really, the sky is the limit. I think the biggest notion about all of these things being manifested and developed is that it all started with an idea that wasn't given up on. So it's a win for all dreamers and doers who have an idea and want to make the world a better place because if I can capitalize on the concept of sparkle then anything really is possible.”
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