We first met Anaïs, along with her partner Dax, around the time we were starting Canyon Coffee. The couple have operated together as a photography duo for years, and we've been lucky enough to enlist their skills for several shoots of Canyon Coffee behind-the-scenes since the beginning—back when we were making bags and shipping everything out of our apartment!
Shooting with Anaïs and Dax always feels more like hanging out. Before long, we're deep into conversations about what we've been reading or some new interest or project we're into. Both Anaïs and Dax are adept at trying out new things, and over the last year, they've had plenty of it! They had a baby, Dylan, Anaïs published a collection of essays and poems, The Blue of Summer, Dax took up surfing, and Anaïs has taken up ocean swimming.
When the pandemic hit, we talked Anaïs and Dax about taking photos of their life at home. We thought it would be fun to turn it into a feature on Anaïs to learn a bit more about her story, as well as her thoughts on creativity and trying new things.
In the process, we also learned that Anaïs has gotten into sewing and hand-dyed and sewed some beautiful pot holders, which we have a very limited supply of here!
Without further ado, we hope you enjoy the feature:
Do you have a morning ritual? Has it changed over time?
I used to do yoga and meditate every morning, but everything has changed since I became a mother last December. Dax and I are full time parents now and so we take turns at taking care of Dylan in the morning so that one of us can go enjoy the ocean. Dax surfs every minute he can and I started swimming in open water… it’s exhilarating! We’re morning people in our home and being in the water plays a big part in our lives. But really the biggest and most consistent ritual now is opening up the blinds in our baby’s room and saying good morning to him with cuddles!
What was your path to Los Angeles and into photography?
I landed in Los Angeles from Paris in June of 2005. I was a law and film student (yes, a strange combination) in Paris and had signed up for a summer program at UCLA in cinematography. I was quite unhappy in school and ready for a big change, so I packed my bags to the maximum weight allowance and never looked back. I wanted to be a DP but needed to make some money to pay for rent, so with my personal knowledge of the history of photography I went from photo gallery to photo gallery in LA with my resume, and got a job as a gallery assistant. From there I decided a few years later to move to New York to study photography at the International Center of Photography. I thought I was going to stay as it was closer to France, but my heart yearned to be back in LA, near the mountains and the ocean. When I moved back in 2009 I got a job as a retoucher for a fashion and portrait photographer and it is when Dax and I reconnected. He was a photo assistant then. We quickly fell in love and the photo collaboration quickly ensued when I got laid off and he decided to quit assisting.
As a photographer, your work already draws upon your creativity. What have been some of your other creative pursuits, and how have you balanced those outside of work?
My brain is constantly dreaming up projects, creating, imagining. Daydreaming is a mode of survival for me, I always love living between reality and fiction. Photography is definitely my main mode of channeling my creative energy, but I also need other avenues to complete these creative sensorial experiences. I write and I love to do natural dyes and sew pieces with the fabrics I have. I have sewn blankets in the traditional sashiko method and made pot holders. Lucky enough as a freelancer I can be flexible with my schedule, so it is on me to carve out the time for each medium. I find that taking time away from photography in creating with other mediums has allowed me to rest my eyes and come back to it with renewed energy. Photography requires to be around people all day, talking and directing, so my other creative pursuits allow me to have some alone time and to self reflect.
We know living and working with your partner is a kind of dance—maybe even more now in the era of shelter in place! Do you and Dax have any rules or tactics for finding the balance? Or do you just wing it?
Dax and I have been together ten years and been a photo duo for nine, so we’ve had lots of practice already in spending a lot of time together. As I’ve said in the beginning, we’re both morning people. We used to both go out early every morning to either surf, do yoga, cycle in the Los Angeles canyons, etc. With a baby now we have learned to communicate with each other on how we can still get this precious morning time to ourselves. We have learned that if one of us doesn’t get their alone time, especially outdoors, the day is not gonna be as rosy… so you could say that our “rule” is to carve daily alone time for ourselves and support each other in doing so. I am also very lucky that Dax supports me in my creative endeavours and allows me to take the time that I need outside of our joint career to pursue my personal projects. But the fact that we’ve practically spent all of our time together in the last ten years is a testament to our friendship and our deep partnership.
You and Dax both seem to have a way of not only staying curious, but acting on curiosities and trying new things out. Taking ideas from the meta-stage into reality. We’ve watched you write a book, take up ocean swimming, surfing and paddle boarding, dying and sewing — not to mention, now you have Dylan! Do you have any thoughts on how to break old molds or overcome obstacles to learning about and trying new things?
Such a great question!! Yeah, I’m pretty restless even though I always fantasize about a quiet life in a quiet town! Creating or being active outside is in a way a meditation for me, it allows me to get all that pent up energy out and to keep calm. There is also something immensely satisfying about acting upon an idea. I dream up a lot of things and not many really come to fruition. Every time I take on a new endeavor I have this fear in my gut that tells me something exciting is going to happen… I love that sensation.
Structure and support, that is how I break through and overcome the fear of failure in the face of something new and unknown. By structure I mean having a plan, showing up for it and repeating the action over and over again. Before I wrote my book I sat down for 3 months writing the famous Morning Pages from the book The Artist’s Way. Every morning upon waking I wrote three pages of uninterrupted stream of consciousness. It moved a lot of things in me and my book would have never happened without it. Another word for structure would be ritual, something you come back to over and over again. By support I'm talking about friends or mentors who are there to give you feedback. Dax really gave me the faith I could publish my book and a friend of mine became my mentor by helping me edit the book. I wouldn’t be swimming if it weren’t for my meetup group that I am accountable to for showing up every week. I wouldn’t be pursuing natural dyes any further if it wasn’t for friends who have encouraged me and appreciated my work or for the knowledge of teachers.
And what ties it all together is allowing oneself to get lost. By this I mean going somewhere you’ve never been, all by yourself, figuratively or geographically or both all at once. It’s ok not to know what result you’re gonna get when you sit down in front of a blank page, just start writing or sketching, it doesn’t matter if it’s “good” or not, you just want to get things flowing. I love taking solo road trips to places like the desert or Ojai, with no other goal than to drive down a road, then another and accidentally discovering beautiful things. That is how I ended in the Mojave desert in front of the Kelso Dunes, totally stunned and grateful for the beauty in front of me.
What new goals or projects are on the horizon for you?
I would like to keep expanding my work with natural dyes and hand sewn pot holders. I love objects that marry form and function and I’m hoping to expand a bit more in that realm. And photography as always! Work is picking back up slowly, so we are getting back to set, cautiously of course.