Amanda Merten makes you wonder what sorts of things you could cook up with the time you spend diving deep into the bowels of the internet in search of sacred, yet-undiscovered images of cats to turn into potential memes. From styling to modeling to photography– the skill she contributes to The Smartest Thing She’s Ever Said. Amanda seems to do it all and do it all pretty well. We talk to her here about being a do-it-all, the intriguing story she’s working out with her collaborator Alice Gregory, and the mythic lack of good Mexican food on the East Coast.
You seem like a veritable Renaissance woman. What were your usual answers as a kid to “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Oh man… more than anything I wanted to be a rock star. So many funny pictures of me putting on mini-shows for my parents and sister when I was a tiny tater-tot. My biggest regret in life will be not being in a traveling band. No time for that. I’m a busy girl. I’ll settle for lots of karaoke in the meantime.
Any tips for budding do-it-alls to stay on track without losing their minds?
Nope. If you wanna do it all you’re going to lose your mind. But there’s nothing wrong with that! I’m totally into it.
Despite your varied capabilities, you must have an excellent team of friends and associates that help you make things happen. Who are they and what’s special about what they bring to the table?
I am so lucky and have so many amazingly talented friends. My roommate of 6 years, Zan Goodman, is an incredible graphic designer and human being in general. She helps me in every way possible– anything from helping with graphic-related things to reminding me where I met someone or where I left something or where I’m supposed to be. I’d literally be lost without her. Another major player in my life is Emily Wroe who is also a photographer. We have been constantly inspiring each other and working on weird little projects together over the past 6 years. She reminds me that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and we all have to find more than one way to breathe. For the Art She Said project specifically I worked with 2 sweet babes who really pulled through for me since I was thrown into the mix at the last minute. Kristin Hilton did makeup for me. She’s not only the best at what she does but she also makes work feel like the furthest thing because she’s so fun and easy to be around. I also pulled in stylist Alexandra Andrade. She brings the best of my brain to the table and accentuates it at the same time. She’s down to work on whatever, go anywhere, do anything. I love that about her. She and I are starting a lingerie line called SLAUGHTER. We actually used some samples in the Art She Said project to get the ball rolling. In general she just rules.
What’s the story behind your most prized photo that you’ve taken?
This is a really tough question since I’m so good at hating what I make. The downfall of a perfectionist is that I can find something wrong in anything and everything I create. My favorite things visually are always a little messy and imperfect! I want my work to go more in that direction. My most prized photos are usually just simple and real. Nothing more.
How does the dynamic between you and Alice Gregory work, is she writing her prose based off of your photos?
She started the story and I just rolled with the few entries she had, then sent her more images to go off of. I love her story and am so glad we were paired together! I feel like it is a perfect combo.
Where did the initial sparkcome from, as far as deciding on the who/what/where/why of your photos for The Smartest Thing She’s Ever Said?
The story I got from Alice was that this girl was kinda losing her mind/coming down with surreal symptoms. I automatically thought of the movie Girl, Interrupted and one of my favorite documentaries- Grey Gardens (from 1967 by the Maysles, not the remake with Drew Barrymoore). Alex and I decided Coney Island would be a great place to shoot since it is so strange and desolate this time of year. It’s the kind of a place a girl could go to get weird, be alone, and wander her mind at the same time. I didn’t want color to take part in telling the story so I stayed with black and white. Also it was a way for me to mimic some of my favorite photographers like Joseph Szabo, Sally Mann and Bruce Davidson.
Your bio says you can sometimes be found stoop-dining on a burrito. Californians always talk smack about New York’s lack of “good” Mexican food, but you’re from Las Vegas: is there some sort of mythical Nevada-style burrito that the world should know about but doesn’t?
Haha it’s so true. New York– or rather, the East coast in general– really knows how to mess up good Mexican food. It’s so hard for me to understand! Something just isn’t the same. Luckily I have the advantage of being vegetarian so its not as easy to mess up a burrito, but you’d be surprised. As far as a Nevada burrito… same as California. Tex-Mex is way way different. I sure do love the avocado tacos from El Almacen, but if I find the best burrito spot I’ll be sure to let you know.