Genius Spotlight: Maggie West


In our Genius Series, we spotlight, you guessed it… geniuses. 

Maggie West is an extraordinary photographer, known not just for her photos but the innovative homes she gives them. The installations she’s created give her work a unique platform to be viewed and experienced. And they need to be experienced. Her dynamic use of experimental lighting and color give her work a distinct personality, so you know a Maggie West photograph when you see it. And you’re moved when you do. 

We were lucky enough to have Maggie shoot a photo series for Genius and get her thoughts on all things genius.  

What’s your definition of Genius?

I don’t know that I can really define what it means to be a genius, I’m not sure anyone can. I guess I associate the label of “genius” with someone who is really exceptional in their field.  

What genius do you most admire?

I have so much respect for so many artists, but if I had to pick one I’d have to say Erwin Blumenfeld. He was so ahead of his time as a photographer and artist and has been a huge source of inspiration for me over the years.

Untitled, by Erwin Blumenfeld. New York, 1942. 

Who’s someone who doesn’t get enough credit for being a genius?

I really love Nathaniel Mellors. He is an English artist that works with a lot of mediums (video, sculpture, puppetry, etc) and I think his work is so creative, entertaining and innovative.  He is kind of well known and yet I feel like he deserves more shine than he’s getting….

What was the last piece of art that inspired you?

Tavares Strachan’s show Invisibles at Regen Projects last November.  Particularly the plasma skeleton.  I’ve often thought that plasma is underused in the arts and I was thrilled to see someone using it in such a beautiful way.

How do you stay motivated? What keeps you hungry?

Honestly, I feel like I am borderline compulsive about my work. I really love exploring new fields, which is why I usually have too many projects going on at once. I’ve never had a problem being “motivated” or “hungry.” I feel like my problem is usually that I want to do too much all at once.

What’s your relationship to cannabis? Do you incorporate it into your creative process?

I usually have a lot going on at any given time (see above) and I really like to use cannabis as a way to relax after a really long day. I think it’s really important that freelancers have some sort of work/life separation, and for me smoking weed is a great way to end my work day.

What’s the craziest idea you’ve ever had when high?

I don’t know but it probably involved bioluminescent plankton. I really love bioluminescent plankton.

Finish this sentence: One time I got high and ______. It was amazing.

“immediately left the party” (lol)

What was your vision for the Genius photoshoot? What would you like people to take from it?

I really wanted to do something in “my style” that depicted cannabis use in a more stylish, artistic way. In the past, I feel like a lot of weed ads had been kind of “wacky” or gimmick-y, and I wanted to show cannabis in (quite literally) a new light.