Amanda Marsalis Lets Angel Olsen Be Her Truest Self
Most of the time photographers are hired to help fulfill a vision, using the command of their artistry to tell stories. But sometimes they’re more than that. Sometimes a photographer is an advocate, a safe space for other artists to do their work in. When Amanda Marsalis was commissioned to photograph Angel Olsen by Bust magazine she found someone that she thought was very special, and someone she could connect with. “I photographed her and we really got along. She’s not a person who loves being photographed or was very comfortable being photographed, but she liked me and I liked her,” says Amanda. They created a relationship quickly, one that Olsen tapped into again.
“She was coming back to LA, I think it might have been a year later and she asked me if I would come photograph her and that’s basically how our relationship started,” Amanda explains. Olsen was in the middle of recording an album, and Amanda suggested that she act as a fly on the wall during that process. Camera in hand, Amanda hung around and photographed moments that she found. They never went into the process with expectations, but when creativity is bouncing off itself good things happen. “That’s actually when I shot her record cover,” says Amanda. “We didn’t even mean to shoot it.” A photograph that Amanda took was so captivating to Olsen and her team that they decided to use the image, unmarred by type or filtered processes, to speak Olsen’s message. The message was strong enough that Stephen Colbert held it in his hands introducing Olsen on The Late Show, and in the pages of The New York Times on August 31.
“It meant a lot to me as a photographer that the record cover doesn’t even have any type on it, it’s just my photograph,” says Amanda. “They just gave me so much respect by doing that and it just means a lot to me.” Amanda never forced anything out of Olsen, just sat with her, observed her, experienced her, and it was just enough of a window for this other artist to find trust and a safe space to be herself, her truest, most expressive self in the face of uncertainty.