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Alex + Aleia

words Zarah Cheng
All images are from Alex Wallbaum and Aleia Murawski's portfolio.

A collaboration between photographer Alex Wallbaum and art director Aleia Murawski, the two create bizarrely mesmerizing diptychs that transform everyday objects into something slightly beyond the ordinary. Taking banal objects from our daily lives, Alex + Aleia flip them entirely on their heads to create a series of quirky snapshots.  

Where are you guys from?

Alex: We are both from Illinois. I was born in Champaign, and Aleia was born in Oak Park. We both live in Chicago now! 


How did you both meet?

Both of us went to the University of Illinois, but didn’t meet until after we graduated. We both work at a cycling apparel company called Tenspeed Hero. There are only 4 of us that work here full time, so we became close very quickly. 


Can you describe your creative process, in terms of how the two of you work together on an image?

Alex: Our process is really fluid. Since we are co-workers, we are responding to our work environment, as well as just our day-to-day time together. We’re constantly bouncing ideas off of each other. We have been working on making diptychs because it gives us both control of what we individually publish, but it still allows us to build off of each other’s concepts. 

 Aleia: Definitely, and I think that’s slowly developing into something more systematic.  Since we do use our studio at work, we are able to have this controlled platform that we can return to every day. But our process is still very spontaneous and playful. There is no agenda in any photograph; we are just expanding on certain ideas that we both are interested in, like color, deconstructed images, or… boob balloons. :)



I love the ephemeral quality of your photos, as if you’re capturing a fleeting moment in time.  Is this a theme that is part of an overall narrative in your work, or is it more for aesthetic reasons?  

A lot of what we do is about every day objects and how we can push them slightly out of the ordinary. As we keep working within the parameters we’ve established, certain themes have become more dominant. Many projects we work on are focused around this fleeting yet constructed moment. With that being said, our main concern is still always to take these objects and situations that we are so accustomed to, and flip them on their heads. But we want the final product to be seductive… you know? 



Which monochromatic set was the most difficult to prepare for (in terms of finding objects, getting hues right, etc.)?

Alex: Oh man, the green pineapple and the white asparagus images… We physically suspended each element that was “in motion,” instead of relying on post-production. Our goal for that set was to build the composition from the ground up, and to be able to see the final shot floating in front of us.



What do you do to get inspired?

We have a constant conversation going on, and a lot of sending each other inspiration. We are always talking about our next project, so when it comes time to shoot we go into it with lots of broad ideas. That provides us a foundation to start. The studio space provides us with the creative flexibility to change and tweak our concepts until we’re both happy.  Being surrounded by artists that we are inspired by is also a huge contributor. Everyone that we work with is a practicing artist and our friends are incredibly talented –  that is huge in our creative process.



A lot of your images are very dream-like.  What is the weirdest dream you remembering having?

Aleia: I like this one dream where everyone I was with was able to take a free puff-shaped dog from a pile of white puffs. But the one I picked up morphed into something weird like a burnt marshmallow-y embryonic alien. 

 Alex: One that stands out in my mind: I was getting a tour of an old house because apparently I was looking to buy a mansion, but the tour guide was a troll/elf thing (like Dobby in Harry Potter, but meaner). He showed me this beautiful Victorian house, and everything was pristine white. All the furniture, walls, forks, everything was white. We ended the tour in the attic, and he did some crazy voodoo hand motions – making the whole house technicolor. Then he became really violent and chased me through the house, eventually catching me and killing me. 


What’s next for Alex + Aleia?

We are working on a book of our favorite diptychs. It’s helping us organize our ideas and find that common thread we were talking about earlier… We’re also getting ready for an upcoming exhibition in London called Pink Pistols.


RL Stine or Stephen King?

Aleia: I've got a big soft spot for RL Stine! He got me into reading books. I was obsessed with the Fear Street Young Adult series. They turned my adolescent brain upside down. 

Alex: Definitely Stephen King! My mom loves him, so I must get that from her. And The Shining is one of my favorite movies, although I heard King hated the film.



What are you guys listening to right now?

We have been listening to SSION, Shura, Rhye (on repeat) and lots and lots of Prince & Michael Jackson.  


What creeps you out the most?

Alex: Eyeballs touching other eyeballs. And getting paper cuts in between my fingers. 

 Aleia: I have a weird thing with plant growths… My roommate in college had a cactus that grew these long white heads from each stem and it was gross. We actually gave it away because it was too much of a sore spot haha. I love plants, but if I see little growths or spores, I have to look away – it makes no sense.



Follow Alex Wallbaum and Aleia Murawski on Instagram.

Posted on May 11, 2015.