Amber Marie Maalouf’s portraiture seems to have something ineffable to it. It is raw, intimate and profoundly beautiful - as reflected in her latest zine, “Standing in the Shadows of the Spotlight”. Having been brought up in Orange County, she first moved to Los Angeles when she got her first job in the film industry shooting body doubles. She learnt early on that documentation is a part of life - both her mother and twin sister are photographers.
"This was a real moment in a seconds time that will last for all time."
Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into
My mother was a photographer, she had an at home business when we were
kids called “A Moment in Time”. I can remember couples walking into our home
with their dalmatian dogs and newspaper props and extra strands of pearls just in
case someone wasn’t fancy enough. We always had a studio in the house with a
fresh sheet of crushed muslin hanging just in case.
Where are you from and what brought you to Los Angeles?
I grew up in Orange County, I came to LA because I got my first real job working
in the film industry. I was a photographer shooting body doubles, it was a really
fun job now that I look back.
Most of your photographs are portraits of your friends and family. What makes
you so drawn to portraiture and in particular, shooting them on medium format?
I think I’m kind of just settling in with what feels right because it does feel right.
I’m a professional and personal photographer. I could have the longest day on
set and come home to shoot my husband in the bath and it never feels like a
chore, it’s like my own personal shot list, when it’s done I can rest, a sense of
fulfillment over comes me. Medium format is because size, bigger is better.
Camera’s are bigger, film is bigger. I’d much rather drive a lifted truck then a
What is most important to you when you photograph a subject? Could you share
your own techniques and habits when photographing a subject?
I think this is a constant state of change. Your camera gives to you what you give
to her, it’s a give and take relationship, you get what you put in. We’re living in
really strange times, anxiety isn’t a question of whether you have it or not it’s
when do you not have it. I’m not anxious shooting, I don’t know why but I’m not.
When I’m with a subject that feeling is contagious, so shooting is a very
What goes in your head before you click the shutter button?
“This is going to be the greatest shot ever”.
Who/What was your first photographed subject and how has your work evolved
The first photo I ever shot was of my twin sister Ash, I still have it to this day! We
lived on farm property and she was sitting on some brick steps in the back of our
yard wearing my moms wedding dress and a crown from Burger King, remember
those? It was with an old 35mm Canon. I don’t think I’ve changed much, I still
shoot in my moms wedding dress haha.
Could you share with us some of your inspirations or influences?
Real photographers inspire me, people who put in the time. Photographers that
dress like swans and float down a lake to photograph a swan, that’s inspiring!
What about Los Angeles do you love most and where is your favourite location to
I wouldn’t say I love Los Angeles haha, or at least it’s a love hate relationship.
Traffic sucks, people have no patience, everyone’s on edge trying to get where
they need to go. My favorite place is away from all that. My porch with all my
cats, my friends living rooms, the mountains, backyards, that kind of stuff is ideal
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
People trying to do good for no reason other than that’s how it’s supposed to be,
selflessness inspires me.
What do you do in your free time?
I’m an animal lover! Me and my husband have domesticated 5 stray cats so we
spend a lot of time with them. I love film so I watch a lot of classics and just kinda
delve into that world with directors and actors and old techniques. I really like
knowing the back end of stuff so I like doing research. And then there’s the
outdoors, I love to hike, surf, swim, you name it!
Could you share with us some of your favourite past works?
My favorite work of all time was with my twin sister. We did a series called
“Symbiotic” which was all about the give and take of being twins, the codependance.
And then “Post-Mordem / Disambiguation” is also a favorite, a
series of images I shot of myself dying in mysterious ways, it was more satirical
than morbid, about anxiety and the fact that it can always be worse.
You’ve produced a zine back in 2017 titled Anxiety, so you’re no stranger to what
a zine is. Why did you decide to curate the photographs into zine as the
medium? What was your motivation behind this?
Well I wanted to see all the photographs together, I was pretty proud of that
collection of images, the photographs were pretty hard to do, my husband helped
out a lot by making sure I never drowned or was arrested. Two in particular were
very difficult, one I was laying in wet tar that was just poured on a street corner
and another I was floating in cement water, definitely had to take a shot of
courage before taking both of those!
Tell us a little more about your latest zine titled “Standing in the Shadows of the
Spotlight”. What was your thought process when creating this zine and how did
you curate your images?
This photographs are of people that are famous to me but not necessarily
anyone else. The spotlight can be unattainable for most however the shadows
are not, and in my opinion they produce better lighting situations. It’s
metaphorical as much as it is very literal. Living in the shadows is just as
important as being in the spotlight.
How important do you feel zines are in relation to photography and how has
creating a zine benefited you creatively?
Zines are important because we should not let print die! Print is so important. I
loved putting this series of images together because it showed me how
consistent my work is when I often times feel like I’m lacking direction.
Are you working on any new projects?
I’m in the middle of working on Air France’s September issue, we’re doing a story
on California surfing which was very fun to shoot because I got to include my
friends. I really like photojournalism, I wish it was more in demand, another
reason why print should never die!
Amber's zine titled "Standing in the Shadows of the Spotlight" is available on our webstore in a limited edition run of 30 copies. A5 / 44 Pages / Semi Gloss Paper / Individually Hand-Numbered / Perfect Bound
By Huda Azzis for Your Local Newsstand