by Alessandro Alex Failla

Being first generation American, how much do you identify as Italian?

As a first generation Italian-American I sometimes like to think that it's an even 50/50 split down the middle, but most of the times it's not. My parents married in Sicily in the 80s and shortly after immigrated to America. They kept their roots very close, my dad still barely speaking english to this day. In my mind, my blood is 100% Italian, but I am American by birth. I feel very blessed to be a first generation child of immigrants, getting to experience the best of both cultures.

How was it for you growing up in Pennsylvania?

If you would have asked me this 5 or 10 years ago I would have told you I hated it. But today, I'm grateful for being brought up in the area I lived in. Etters, Pennsylvania, a small and practically unheard of town outside the capitol, is an extremely rural and somewhat conservative area. I feel as though I have to give some credit to my upbringing in this type of environment that gave me my ability to empathize and see others' viewpoints. In this political climate I feel like a foreigner going back home to visit, being a child of immigrants, being a liberal creative, and being gay. But, a part of me will always love the rural scenery, rolling hills, farms, mountains, woods, and somewhat redneck culture of Etters, PA.

When was the first time you picked up the camera?

2007 -- what a time to be alive -- was the first time I remember being passionate about photography and cameras when I received my first cellphone (the Motorola Razr flip phone). Anything and everything was photographed on that phone.

The first time I received my first real camera was in 2010 at 16 years old. My parents pushed off buying me an expensive camera because they believed it was just a phase. Little did they know then that I'd graduate high school and spend the next four years studying photography in college.

Is it an exciting time being a young creative in Philadelphia?

I believe now more than ever that has always been exciting being a young creative in Philadelphia. There is such a vast amount of diversity, culture and interests along with scenery and grit. Opportunities are available everywhere if you are hungry enough to hunt them down... From successful magazines, well known bloggers, top fashion brands, to galleries and local coffee shops.

It can also be difficult sometimes because being such a diverse and talented city, expectations are very high. It's all about perfecting your craft, pushing your own limits, and being comfortable and confident enough to know your worth as a young artist.

What is the nightlife like there?

Oh, the nightlife... Have to love it. I tend to enjoy going out to experience the nightlife. I can't help but admit the first thing that comes to mind are the clubs and bars. I'm never disappointed when I go out on the town. My favorite places to grab some drinks and bust a move or two are in Fishtown, the Gayborhood, and some holes in the wall in South Philly. The restaurants and food scene in Philadelphia are also out of this world amazing. There are so many options that can cater to everyone from any lifestyle. The art scene is also something that contributes to the nightlife in Philadelphia such as events at the local museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute to independent galleries and movie theaters.

How comfortable are you in front of the camera vs. behind?

To be very honest, before I worked with self portraits I never wanted to be in front of the camera. Now that I have experience being in front of the camera I don't mind it one bit. In fact, I have more interest to work with other photographers and be on the other side of things. I feel like as a photographer I know how to position my body, use the space, and give a range of poses when I'm in front of the camera. There will always be a sense of nervousness and excitement bordering on anxiety when I'm in front or behind the camera. I think if you're not feeling this way then you might not be doing something that is pushing you or putting you out of your comfort zone, which is something I always try to do.

Are your self-portraits at all an exercise in body pride?

A big part of my self portraits are in fact an exercise in body pride. It has taken a long time and it didn't happen overnight but, a large part of what I do is to show others that self love and appreciation is extremely important. Body positivity is starting to become a more discussed topic today, but still not so much amongst men. Obsession with exercise, muscle building, eating disorders, and body dysmorphia is very common in men. My self portraits have served as a form of my own therapy, but also as a tool to send a message to viewers that self love and body appreciation is important.