‘El Lay’ with Laura Alfonsi Castelli

“I like my analog camera; its imperfection and its grainy film quality. When I click, I don’t know what the outcome will be. And that’s why I’m not always trying to capture the ‘perfect’ image.”

For decades Los Angeles has led movements in modern art, photography and culture. Home to an industry in global entertainment, the city becomes, perhaps, contained in the imagination of the visitor, the observer, the artist. Sweet, sunny LA; the LA of commercial art, the city of film and television, the vibrant step-sibling to New York’s sombre artistic strides. What, then, are ten days with the Angels? Laura Alfonsi Castelli tells us in photographs of a city she experiences through stimuli and spontaneity.

“My instincts and desires guide me before I am able to label or categorise what I am doing. These instincts lead me to engage in photography: when an external stimuli captures my attention, an immediate, reactive sensation arises, almost forcing me to capture what I see. I don’t actively look for imagery to photograph, the process works the other way around. Being an avid observer that gets lost in colours, textures, layers and details, I get fascinated by how these work together in harmony,” Castelli remarks.

“People cut themselves off from their ties of the old life when they come to Los Angeles. They are looking for a place where they can be free, where they can do things they couldn’t do anywhere else.” -Tom Bradley

In a series of analog, unedited photographs, Castelli brings to us LA, the site of  her artistic spontaneity and her academic curiosity. In this journey along the landscapes of the city, Castelli walks one through an almost immediately identifiable theme: the  relationship between ‘urban-ity’ and nature. Walking in and out of themes of continuity and rupture, Castelli weaves a story of material interactions with nature. Where does man end and nature begin? Does photography align with an artist’s sense of perfection? What would that mean for art’s imitation of life? As she describes her work to be organic, inspired by stimuli, one is almost compelled to buy into her vision. Her sociological questions are  intriguing: do man and nature exist in a paradox or is man still able to remain an extension of nature? Does material reality inform the individual’s relationship with how human presence continues alongside, around, and inside of natural elements? At times, her expression of art goes beyond photography. “Most recently I began making jewellery to externalise my inner world in a more physical manner, as the mediated process of photography doesn’t always get me where I want to be. Inspired by a loved one, the concept “tempo fermo” (‘static time’ in Italian) allowed me to create a mother pearl necklace which transforms a more ‘non-physical’ notion into a tangible reality. It gave me a refreshing satisfaction that some other forms of expression, like poetry, could not.”

“I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.” -Andy Warhol.


“For me, it’s a race through a cotton pickin’ maze.” A lyric by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

In this photo series she ventures into what defines an aesthetic, what normalises the material and the natural within each other, what forms the sociological imaginary of such a harmony. With gritty and unmodified honesty she urges one to absorb the asymmetry captured across photos. 

“Los Angeles is like a beauty parlor at the end of the universe.” -Emily Mortimer.


“So I live in Los Angeles, and it’s kind of a goofy place. They have an airport named after John Wayne. That ought to explain it. It has a charming kind of superstitious innocence.” -George Carlin.


“I love Los Angeles. It reinvents itself every two days.”-Billy Connolly

“I like my analog camera; its imperfection and its grainy film quality. When I click, I don’t know what the outcome will be. And that’s why I’m not always trying to capture the ‘perfect’ image. That’s also why I don’t retouch the images later either, no cropping, colour correction or edits. I never thought about defining myself as an artist or defining my creative forms of expression as art. Whenever I create, I don’t consciously acknowledge that I am engaging in artistic work. Creation is simply a vessel through which my spontaneity flows,” she says. 

All photos clicked by Laura Alfonsi Castelli. Explore more of her work here.

Don’t forget to check out ‘Disptach 2022’, a cityscape themed creative writing competition, held annually by ALMA MAGAZINE.

ALMA Staff
ALMA Staff

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