Victoria Alexander’s life reads as a long list of achievements. She started out as a fashion editor for Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazines before working as an art director, stylist and on wardrobe for television, still photography and plays. Victoria also founded, was a producer and art director for the television production company The Film Business and was the founder and designer of Sydney’s original small boutique hotel, The Russell Hotel. She did the same again at The Bathers' Pavilion in Balmoral for 15 years. Afterwards Victoria studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National Art School and completed her Honours BFA. While creating homewares from textiles mostly found her on travels, Victoria has also created four books. The first was The Bathers Pavilion Cookbook and the most recent three, all with Murdoch Books - One, Colour and Real, in order - are part of a series that explore her observations from travelling through 60 countries.
Victoria says photography is a natural progression. “I’m a visual person who adores travel, experiencing and learning from different cultures,” she says. “Photography is a storytelling medium, one that's able to transport the viewer. I enjoy the responsibility that comes with that: the truth. It’s challenging, there’s always more to learn and much to think about.” She takes photos in a reportage style. “I respond to anything that interests me and need to rely on my instincts, observe everything around me closely and engage with people I would not otherwise.”
For your chance to win a copy of Real: Living a Balanced Life by Victoria Alexander (Murdoch Books), like Daily Imprint’s Facebook page and like the Real book competition post. The competition, open to Australia only, will close at 8pm on Thursday June 4. The winner, selected at random, will be announced on Tuesday 9 June on Daily Imprint’s Facebook page.
Which five words best describe you? I feel uncomfortable doing that so I asked those closest to me. This is their consensus: adventurous, kind, loving, creative, insightful.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I studied dress design, moved to being the youngest Vogue fashion editor after the someone I was working with in the fashion promotions and co-ordination department of a major store suggested I apply. She had been to an interview for the job and generously said it was me Vogue wanted, not her. A photographer I was working with editorially wanted me to style some ads for him, there was nobody doing that, and so my move to being the first stylist/art director in Sydney was again at the suggestion of another. It was then a natural progression to start The Film Business, a television production company working with still photographers who became directors. The Russell, Sydney’s first boutique hotel, was a result of having stayed in interesting small hotels while travelling in Europe and falling in love with the then very run down building and wanting to give it a new life. I hadn’t worked a day in a restaurant when starting The Bathers Pavilion at Balmoral. Again, it was a love affair with the building and the joy of giving it life. The intention was for it to be a small hotel with that memorable view, but history tells differently. My 15 years running it were demanding with the pleasure coming from the creativity that’s required to make a place unique. I felt embarrassed by not having a degree so obtaining my BFA (Hons) after selling Bathers felt heavenly and a relief. It informs my every day.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To trust my initial instinct, when I didn’t things went awry.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Can’t say just one. Renovating and starting both The Russell Hotel and The Bathers Pavilion. The Enterprise Agreement at Bathers - it was another first and I believe its conditions contained a fairer, more considerate workplace than the award allowed for. I always knew I would do a book - having my first, A Taste of Australia. The Bathers Pavilion Cookbook, published by Ten Speed Press in the States and of course my trilogy - One, Colour and Real, all Murdoch Books.
What’s been your best decision? To have my three wonderful children.
Who inspires you? People who are true to themselves.
What are you passionate about? Living life. A creative world.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Anyone with a great a sense of humour.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To live a long and useful life.
What are you reading? A library of wonderful, imaginative books to my nearly three-year-old granddaughter, another pile of anything I can get my hands on about Cy Twombly, Light Matters, Writings on Photography by Vicki Goldberg is in my handbag for those just in case I get a minute moments, and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande is beside my bed. I should also be reading my book club book.
How did you arrive at the concept for the book? The seed for the idea was the term “first and third-world problems” - I wondered where the second world might be considered to be and realised it was inside all of us in our attitude to life and wanted to explore that idea.
What was involved in the creation process? Making books means I have long periods of solitude when it’s just me and my words making pages together, while my photography takes me out into a wider world where everything is fresh and I approach strangers to share some of themselves with me. It’s a wonderful mix, a privilege. I have a close and valuable relationship with Real's designer, Tracy Lines, who brings much to the process. She understands what it is I am wanting and then adds her cleverness. With over 300,000 images there were a great many hours spent going through each one, editing and arranging them into chapters in a way that told stories. It was important to me that the colours and countries flowed seamlessly. Sometimes an image begins a thought, a chapter, and sometimes it’s the words.
How long did it take to come together - from concept to first copy? Two happy years.
What was important to you in terms of the book's text, photography and design? I put equal weight on all three things. That it be unpredictable. I wanted to create a book that made the reader feel connected, included, valued, inspired, and one where there was anticipation for what might be on the next page.
What was unexpected about the whole process? The immediate acceptance of my idea by Sue Hines at Murdoch Books who saw only an email summary of two paragraphs, no images, and offered me a contract within 24 hours. I’m grateful she did.
images courtesy of victoria alexander