Annabel Mehran is a portrait, lifestyle, and fashion photographer based in New York City and Los Angeles. Her photos capture the essence of being a free spirit—she has photographed creative people of all stripes, and in every image she offers a clear sense of that person's individuality and charm. The same goes for her fashion imagery, which is aspirational in the best way: You want to feel like the people in her photos. Her work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Vice, Harper's Bazaar, Paper, Interview, and Bullett, among others. Below, Annabel in 10 questions...
Describe your photographic style.
I love intimacy. I'm always searching for that moment when someone looks into my lens like they're looking at someone they feel safe with, or even someone they love. I want everyone to be stoked on the final images, and to feel like themselves—or even their super-selves.
Describe your personal style.
I would describe my style as being a mixture of my two grandmothers (one a clotheshorse WASP, the other a floral-obsessed Persian), my mother (a free spirit with early Saint Laurent leanings), and my dad (there is no man who looks weirder in jeans—he was built to dress up, and he always smells wonderful). I throw it all in the mix, pair it with some ballet flats, and call it me.
You're an editor at large for fashion & culture magazine Purple. What are your responsibilities there?
Working with Purple is such a pleasure. Olivier Zahm, the editor, is a delight—whip-smart, occasionally goofy, indelibly chic, and hilarious. (He also gives the best love advice.) He has a hunger for new places and perspectives that feeds the magazine in such a great way. The magazine is biannual, so twice a year I'll fill up my notebook with interesting new people I've met, places I've been, and amazing projects people are working on that fit into the specific world of Purple. Having worked with them for so long, I know pretty well what Olivier is going to like, and it's great fun to hunt for it throughout the year. For certain projects, I do the interviews as well as the photos, which is super fun and brings another element to the pictures because I've gotten to know the subject that much more. I love being a part of the magazine because it's beautiful. The first person to show it to me was the coolest girl in high school, and the parties are off the chain. I still get excited every time I walk into the office.
Top three ways to spend a weekend.
1. On an adventure someplace new with people I love.
2. Lazing at home reading the papers, wandering to the farmer's market to find dinner, bringing it home, cooking too much, and inviting friends to come and share. And always, always, always washing every dish before I go to bed. (I can't stop myself.)
3. Doing some kind of project, whether it's making a Halloween costume, designing a terrarium, embroidering a blanket, or helping a friend figure out where to put her bed. Anything where when the day's over, it's done and you can see it—I love that.
Five favorite cities (or noncities) and why.
1. North Haven, Maine: the place where I spent every summer of my childhood, and where I am my favorite self. My days are spent busily preparing picnics, building rafts to race, swimming long distances in icy waters, catching up with my zillions of cousins, and teaching visiting city folks how to shuck an oyster.
2. New Orleans: the food, the music, the people, the pride. This town has grown so dear to my heart after many years of visiting. A perfect day: dancing at One Eyed Jacks in the Quarter till the wee hours; turning up at Jazz Fest the next day for some mind-blowing food and gospel music; drinking and conversing at the homes of some of the most generous strangers I've ever met; and then back to One Eyed Jacks for music, music, music!
3. Los Angeles: because that light never ceases to inspire me.
4. New York City: because it's where I dreamt of living from the time I was 8 years old. Sometimes it's too hot, sometimes it's too cold, sometimes it smells, and sometimes it's crowded—but it's where I've spent my entire adult life, and every time I think I can't take it anymore, she winks and laughs and skips off and I'm hooked again.
5. Fiji: because I've never been, and it seems like it would rule.
A life-changing moment.
When I finally got over myself and got my driver's license. I was so scared of getting it for so long, because I always looked out the window too much and got distracted. But then I got it, and I was actually able to PULL OVER at all those places I had only longingly looked at. It was so awesome, and it continues to be—although I still get distracted by anything minutely beautiful. (No one should ever ride with me in New England in the fall. I'm a hazard, but I'm working on it.)
One thing that inspires you.
Light. I dream about it. How it changes with the seasons, dances across walls, bathes us in warmth shifting to gold, and can sometimes be so beautiful there's nothing to do but sit in silence and watch with wonder.
Lone wolf or collaborator?
I think I was born a lone wolf (and maybe a little bit of a bossy-boots), but the more talented people with incredible ideas I get to work with, the more I love collaboration. I love photographing other artists, especially musicians, because they usually have great ideas about how they want to be presented. It's super fun for me to come up with a way to make something that's usually a drag for someone into something they feel like is fun and that they're a part of. I love working with stylists and set designers to invent a world and a story. And I love the family feeling on set—like, we're all in this together, so let's make it great. And if you're sleepy, let's dance!
A recent personal photo project.
A friend of mine was showing me some pictures on her phone, and I spied this gorgeous redhead. (I love a redhead.) Then she showed me the girl's artist sister, and then some of their paintings. These girls were really something special—Southern belles with artistic eccentricity. Before I knew it, I was on a plane, three bags full of my vintage dress collection in tow, and it was on. I made some of my favorite new photos with these girls—we played dress-up, and they shared their magical world with me. That shoot was the essence of what I love to do: a sort of curated playing, warmed by the voices of amazing creative women.
My dream is that when Jay-Z and Beyoncé have their next baby, they ask me to take the first photos. CALL ME, GUYS! Let’s make some memories!!!!