If art & activism had a baby it would be Juliann McCandless
If art & activism had a baby it would be Juliann McCandless
BY : VICTORIA JESIONEK
Activist, stylist, director, photographer; Canadian born Juliann McCandless has an endless curiosity for the creative world and infectious energy towards activism. She sits down with WestwoodWestwood to discuss her book OPPOSITION, balancing creative work, and the importance of inclusivity.
What is your background?
I was born and raised in Canada in a home that was completely centered around art and activism, both were such a big part of my upbringing. My mom is a contemporary dancer and professor, she used to have her own dance company so I learned to walk in a studio surrounded by dancers. My dad was a full time activist, who as a job put on the Stein Valley Festival every year, which was this huge art and music festival that was in a beautiful Valley in British Columbia. The whole point of it was to get everyone together to save this valley from logging which was a big threat. The festival was based around fighting for the environment and also First Nation’s rights (Native American.) I have part First Nations heritage and both my parents work closely with the community in Canada. First Nations rights and representation are very important to me, I feel like that side of social justice is often overlooked and not spoken about enough.
Growing up I went to an art school, then a french school and as soon as I graduated high school I moved to Paris, where I was doing some acting but ended up falling into fashion and working at a friend’s magazine. After living in Paris I moved to New York pretty much on accident, and started working at Interview Magazine. I was in New York for about 4 years and now I’m in LA.
How did you become interested in creative directing and styling?
I really feel like my career found me, I never intended on being a stylist or a creative director. I always thought I would do something creative but I think I was more inclined towards being a dancer or an actor, some sort of performance based art. At the beginning people just kept offering me jobs as a stylist for videos or photo shoots and I ended up really loving it. Honestly, looking back on it now it makes sense, I remember being in grade 1 or 2 pouring over my clothes and strategically planning my outfits for the first two weeks of school. I remember in grade 3 I made a “magazine” and dropped it off door to door to all my neighbors…so…been in it since day one.
How did you begin your career?
I feel like my career really started and I actually started taking it seriously when I started at Interview Magazine, RIP:(. Working there was honestly terrifying and so difficult at times and exhausting but it taught me so much. That’s also where I first got to see what really goes into a magazine, especially a magazine like that, and how creative the whole process is. New York is just a whole other beast when it comes to fashion and art obviously, it’s crazy, you really have to love it to survive. I loved it, I guess it all went up from there.
How did the idea for Opposition come about?
I was extremely frustrated with the state of the US and honestly a lot of the world. I didn’t really know how I could help or what I could do about it, or if I could even do anything to change it. I wanted to find a way to channel that frustration into something that was positive or at least productive and hopefully educational and inspiring. I really come from two worlds, the world of activism and a world of art fashion and culture, this is my way of bringing the two together.
What were your aims for the book?
The book is a series of interviews with different creative women and femmes. I wanted to present all these extremely problematic issues through a lens of intersectional feminism and inspiring, artistic people to try to make activism, politics and social justice more relatable. I feel like it’s our responsibility in the fashion and art industries to make these issues a priority. We have so much influence, we should use it to help the world. With Opposition I also really wanted to try to engage a new audience to be interested in these issues and also to make people aware of what is and has been really happening in our country. I wanted to try to wake a new audience up to all the deep rooted problems that exist in America whether it is colonization, systemic racism, police brutality, segregation, income inequality, climate change…the list goes on. There’s so much to address but everyone should probably just read the book and hopefully they’ll learn something and feel inspired to change it.
What was the most difficult part of putting together this process?
Honestly, I’ve gotten this question a lot and it’s a tough one. I really didn’t find anything extremely difficult, I enjoyed the process so much. I guess one thing that was hard was being so emotionally immersed in such troubling content, all the time. All the issues discussed in the book, are extremely problematic, deep rooted and real in our society, sometimes it was hard to stay positive. I’m so grateful to all the amazing femmes who were willing to share their views and stories with me for this and at the end of the day I do feel hopeful for the future.
What do you want your work, in all its manifestations, to convey?
I hope my work conveys inclusivity. I hope it makes people feel inspired to go make their own projects whether it’s a photo shoot, a zine, a video. When it comes to my fashion work I always want to convey something more than just a pretty picture, I try to bring my ethics into my fashion work as much as possible.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
My peers. There are so many incredible people doing amazing work right now and I find it so inspiring.
What would your dream project be?
That’s a really hard question for me, I honestly want to do everything all the time lol. My dream projects to work on are creative projects that are good for the world, to help move us forward in a positive way. It’s always amazing to work with subjects or collaborators whose work conveys a similar progressive message, I think those artists should be amplified as much as possible, so if I can help to do that that’s great. As far as one specific dream project goes… stay tuned.