You guys, Molly Gottschalk is living the dream. While studying at Savannah College of Art and Design, working toward her photography degree, she was chosen out of god knows how many photographers to work as an assistant for the legendary David LaChapelle. As if that weren’t incredible enough, her position turned into a two year stint as LaChapelle’s muse, where she not only honed her craft, but found her way into creative direction and professional styling.
Since then she’s worked with incredible bands, been all over the globe, featured in Dazed, Whitewall, BlackBook, and The South Magazine, Teen Vogue, not to mention a ton of blogs. Her work as a photographer and as a stylist is deeply intriguing– her artistic voice runs somewhere along the lines of “dark innocence,” but I hate boiling anyone’s work down to two words, so you should read Molly in her own words and check out her work yourself!
I found Molly by way of my ongoing obsession with Sleigh Bells’ Infinity Guitars video– Molly was the stylist– and struck up an internet conversation with her about life after David LaChapelle, her motivations as an artist, life in LA.
MvB: What did you want to be when you were 12? It would be amazing if you said David LaChapelle‘s muse.
MG: At twelve I wanted to be an actress. It wasn’t until high school when I started taking photography classes and collecting art books that I discovered LaChapelle and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I longed to find myself in one of his images.
MvB: You lived out a sort of modern day artistic fairy tale when photographer David LaChapelle took you on as his muse. How did working with David influence your own art? Was there any one thing he said that you really took to heart and would like to share…some great LaChapelle wisdom?
MG: He once shared a scenario regarding a stylist he had worked with who brought a pair of gloves to a shoot. Wanting to cover all bases, she suggested they shoot some with the gloves and then some without. David strongly disagreed. His philosophy was that your actions should be performed with certainty; there shouldn’t be a question as to whether or not the gloves should be in the shot because the artist’s vision should be abundantly clear.
MvB: You work across media really well– photography, styling, makeup, costume design– and your artistic voice is consistent, often haunting, and reflects a great deal of depth of consideration. Can you talk a little bit about what drives your aesthetic interests and whether they differ personally and professionally?
MG: My aesthetic choices easily translate between personal and professional choices. Every action is intentional and, as you said, reflects a lot of consideration. This comes from the part of me that wants to hand-select my surroundings. For example, I just moved into a new apartment and find myself deliberating over every single element– I don’t just need to like it, I need to love it! That mentality applies to taking pictures, dressing a set, or fitting a model. If the whole outcome was assembled with conscious attention to every last detail, I feel confident that the work is complete to the very best of my ability. Otherwise, why bother and why compromise my name.
MvB: I have to talk about the Sleigh Bells video, Infinity Guitars, for which you were the stylist and with which I am mildly obsessed. Bad-ass Catholic schoolgirl uniform?? Perfect! How did you get involved in the project and how did you manage to make a Catholic schoolgirl uniform look like an actual fashion choice? Was it fun to work on a set with pyrotechnics?
MG: I got involved with the Sleigh Bells video through my good friend and director Ryan Dickie. He was the DP on the Sleigh Bells project. I actually can’t take credit for Alexis’s schoolgirl costume, which she chose, although I agree with you, she wore it really well and was able to elevate the look far beyond a basic uniform! The letter jacket was helpful, but most importantly, she looked directly into the camera with a threatening self-assurance, commanding respect. With that level of confidence, you can get away with wearing whatever you want! Alexis is a perfect testament to this fact.
I have to admit, I’m always on edge when there are pyrotechnics on set. No matter how many times we use them, or the army of professionals (three firetrucks!) we enlist to oversee them, I find I can never be far enough from the explosion. I stood behind the craft service tent and darted back and forth to adjust safety-pins between takes!
MvB: On your blog you named an upcoming music video as your favorite artistic triumph of 2010. I’m super jazzed about the glowing head piece, but what got YOU super jazzed about working on
MG: I’m surrounded by a network of talented friends and artists, all whose work I follow carefully and enthusiastically. This network began in Savannah, GA, where most of us went to college, but over the years has expanded to New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The director I’ll be working with is a close friend who I lived with three years ago in Savannah, just prior to moving to LA. Since then, I have kept up with her closely and watched her grow into the exceptionally talented artist that she is today, but prior to this project geographical distance prevented us from working together. When I moved back to LA, we didn’t waste a single moment before we jumped into this project! We cast my best friend Lili as the lead and will fill the crew with other friends in our circle; that’s what makes the project so close to me. In my mind, it will initiate me back into the world of Los Angeles.
MvB: Do you find that “place” influences your artistic/sylistic process?
MG: When it comes to preparing for a shoot, I feel like Los Angeles is SO much more accessible. New York has everything to offer but the system for obtaining what it has to offer is really difficult to navigate. I like how in LA I can get in my car and drive all over town collecting the items that I need, or taking a few odd turns on a whim to scout an unknown location. In New York, everything is so far apart and has to be physically carried from place to place, not just thrown into the trunk of a car. In that sense, I feel like it’s easier to fulfill every whim in Los Angeles and the long list of constraints that NY presents is absent.
MvB: You have a really classic personal style and many of your projects reflect a sort of “classic Hollywood” elegance. What’s your stance on modern elegance and how to achieve it when you’re just out in the world?
MG: I always aim for timeless elegance! I like clean, tailored lines and rich fabrics, and no matter the trends that go in and out, I always find myself with buttons, collars, and tucked in blouses. Some of my favorite pieces are vintage Chanel suits, worn as separates, or anything from the 1980s Mondi collection. As a general rule, I see every occasion worthy of being well put together- it makes me feel productive and suited for the day.
MvB: Have you noticed anything exciting coming down the pike in women’s fashion for 2011? People keep saying it’s going to be the year of pink, which is disappointing for me since pink makes me look like death warmed over.
MG: I’m not crazy about the color pink, either, especially if someone is telling me I should be wearing it! It’s never good to invest too much into trends, because like I said, it is only a short time before the color is everywhere and no one can stand the sight of it anymore. Bad news if your favorite color is pink, but great news for you!
I really enjoy Prada’s reference to the 1960s, although at the same time, I cringe when a favorite look comes into mainstream style. Soon enough it becomes last season and people forget that their sale racks are littered with a history extending far beyond short-lived trends.
MvB: Your most prized possession?
A small, heart-shaped gold locket containing tiny pictures of my parents on their wedding day.
MvB: And finally, the requisite question that I end every interview with: Who or what is your biggest personal style influence?
My grandmother, without question. She’s always coordinated from head to toe, from the moment she emerges from her bedroom in a matching robe, slippers, and silk pajamas very early in the morning. To this day she
looks just like a movie star with bright red, perfectly styled hair and the most impeccable sense of fashion I have yet to encounter. I cherish every item she passes down to me. Her gifts are the most stylish in all of my collection!