Eva O'Leary's Latest Work

Eva O’Leary photographed millennials at Beautycon for the September 25, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. The images reflect O’Leary’s keen ability to photograph young women (and, in this case, also young men) with an empathetic but critical eye. Through photographing individuals, she is able to create discourse around issues in our culture that are often overlooked and accepted as the norm. The glittery, colorful nature of these photographs deepen the sense that O’Leary has a keen understanding of the hypnotic spells of beauty product marketing.

She also has had a string of exhibits this year. The first was at Crush Curatorial in Chelsea, NYC, then a major solo exhibit in Switzerland after winning the Vontobel Prize. Most recently, she had a solo show at Meyohas Gallery in Long Island City, New York. Images from her show at Vontobel and Meyohas are below.

Eva O'Leary's poster was published earlier this year using an image from her personal work. Proceeds of her poster go to Planned Parenthood. Lindley Warren, who wrote the review of her New York piece at the top of this article, interviewed her for her poster. Here's what they discussed:

LW There was a photograph that you posted on your Instagram in mid-November of a young woman in bright red lipstick and profoundly blue eyes. For some reason, I assume that this portrait was taken while you took a trip across America. I love this image and I am curious if there are others that (if my assumption is correct) you took during that trip? If so, are incorporating them into your work or was that trip more of an experience of research?

EO I made hundreds of photographs on that trip, I’m only satisfied with (maybe) one of them. I’m honestly not sure if the rest will ever see the light of day.... Although this way of working is somewhat familiar, a lot of my past work required an insane amount of leg work but only resulted in a single image. I think this trip was important for a few reasons, aside from producing physical work.  I graduated from Yale a month before and was going through some major life changes. A lot of things were up in the air, my practice, my personal life, where I wanted the work to go. I wasn’t sure what to do next but I knew I wanted to start a new body of work. The hours I spent driving and observing middle america really let me think through my process and unpack a lot of what I had done in school. A lot of the ideas and issues I struggled with on that trip, internal conversations and arguments I had with myself, they led to what I’m making now.  I’m actually contemplating making that drive a yearly ritual because it was a hugely productive time, more in process and planning than actually making images.

LW You’ve been posting videos online of your editing process, which show the incredible detail you’re able to get with an 8x10 camera. When I watch the videos I think of the complexities of being inside a female body. It appears as if you are examining these young women so closely. Perhaps by being able to zoom in so microscopically you might be able to gain a deeper understanding about what it means for yourself to be in female skin. Are you consciously thinking about these concepts?

EO For a few aspects of the project I had a fully formed conceptual idea going in, but other parts (like the kind of camera and film), made sense logically in relation to the larger ideas behind the work. The importance of the extreme detail was initially a gut instinct. But I think you’re right, it’s the opposite of high gloss commercial images, and the heavily filtered ones we see on social media. I think it relates back to the intense scrutiny we give ourselves and our ‘flaws,’ perhaps how they often seem amplified. I also wanted to light the subjects in a way where the pictures are beautiful and seductive, including the things they may consider flaws as deemed by society. I didn’t want to contribute to a sea of images that validate our urges to try to cover up and hide these things.