The Confetti Project
I first saw Jelena Aleksich at this year's Nasty Women Unite Fest, she was one of the body positivity panelists. Not only was she well spoken and passionate about woman, but what really stood out for me was her photography project: The Confetti Project. The concept is simple, yet beautiful. Confetti is colorful and fun, it is used for celebration, and it makes people happy. Ergo, Jelena now spends her time throwing confetti at people and taking their picture. The results are just magical!
Foreword by Kira Bucca, Editor and Chief of Jejune Magazine
Please tell me what is The Confetti Project?
The Confetti Project began as a three-month photography challenge to ask humans what they celebrate in their life while being doused in confetti. It was also the first thing I ever finished in my life; the first idea that was executed fully. In the beginning, I was on a mission: profile as many amazing humans as possible. As the body of work grew, there were inflection points that lead me to ultimately go full force with it. That happened seven months ago, right before we debuted it in Dubai at the beginning of this year. At this point, it's become a creative brand that creates a space for unencumbered expression and play, reminding you to always find the gratitude and celebration in every moment of your existence.
How did you get started taking pictures of people and confetti?
I had just left my full-time job and was living in Williamsburg. I already had a DSRL camera that I used during travel trips and was essentially in a place where I didn't know what would happen next. A few random things occurred that I ultimately pieced together: getting glitter bombed at a party, hoarding confetti in my jacket at an Ok Go show and then later finding that same confetti in my pockets on a particularly hard day. But it made me happy. So I looked up the definition (celebration), looked up every single photo of confetti on the internet and began to entertain the questions: what do I celebrate? Why do I get out of bed in the morning? What motivates and inspires me? I'd always been an inquisitive person so I began asking people around me. The answers I was getting were fascinating and just being asked them always made anyone stop to ruminate. That's when I came to a crossroads where I knew there was something here but didn't know exactly what yet. I just knew that I had to explore it. I owed it to myself. So, I created a challenge: profile 50 people doused in confetti and make a coffee table book out of it. When it got rejected by a literary agent, she gave me the best advice: keep going and develop it. Here we are two and a half years later.
Why do you think confetti makes people happy?
From a visual point of view, it's very aesthetically striking. There's something so magnetic about it that catches the eye. And it lives in so many different forms: when you see it on the street in the aftermath of a revelry or it's falling down like rain during a concert when it's blasted out of a canon. It's an entity in itself that is volatile, colorful and constantly in flow. But that's just the superficial aspect of it. As a culture, we've bestowed meaning upon it where it becomes emotive and nostalgic. When I found confetti in my pockets from that Ok Go show, it made me so happy during a sad moment, completely shifting my mood (which is powerful AF). When I got glitter bombed at a party, it was everywhere for days and it kept making me get nostalgic about that night. Anytime I've seen confetti on the street randomly I always think with a smile of my face, "what a beautiful mess, I wonder what happened here."
How has The Confetti Project changed your life?
I should actually make a list of all the ways it's impacted me as it would probably be in the hundreds. It's ultimately saved my life and forged my path in a plethora of obvious and non-obvious ways. I mentioned it was the first thing I ever finished so it made me into a limitless action-taker. I learned how to take photograph and schedule New Yorkers (which is a feat in itself). I honed an idea and found one of my creative purposes. It helped me grieve when my father passed away the first year I began it. I've learned the beauty of perseverance. I've been able to travel to the other side of the world because of something I've created. Every person that has participated in it, answered my uncomfortably deep questions and let go while playing with confetti has impacted me. Every one of us has a story and deserves to feel so present and alive in every moment.
How does The Confetti Project help you connect with others?
It's essentially my excuse for going deep with people right away. I'd always hated small talk and asked other humans thought-provoking questions so this project has given me an opportunity to really create a space for someone where they can essentially check-in with themselves and share their journey. It's one of my favorite parts of everything I do within the project and my life in general: deep conversations feed me.
How many people have you thrown confetti at?
That's an amazing question that I don't have the exact number to. I would say I've photographed nearly 400 people during private, one-on-one photo-shoots. I'd probably doused over a thousand people with confetti during public pop-up's or collaborative, experiential events.
How did The Confetti Project help you cope with your father’s cancer?
I didn't realize at the time but it exposed me to the notion that celebration is all about having gratitude for your life. Every second of it. Or having that awareness that every moment you're given is a gift so use it in a way that makes you not regret it when you're at the end of it. The first year I began The Confetti Project was the year he was ill, he was diagnosed with lung cancer right after I finished my 3-month challenge, when I decided to continue it with a vigor. I call it my year of cancer and confetti, where I was either dousing people with confetti in my room in Williamsburg or going back home to support my father fight for his life. It was wild. You'd think cancer and confetti are completely opposite but I found such a silver living of being comfortable in that middle ground where pain and pleasure are not mutually exclusive. I was also able to find my purpose by seeing my father live out his and it just happened to synchronistically be right as I was birthing my first brainchild.
You gave us some of your favorite shots from your two year adventure of The Confetti Project, what makes these shots particularly powerful to you?
(A) The first one is probably the most poignant photo that really symbolizes the hidden meaning behind this work and why I keep going with it. It's a photo of a previous roommate who was diagnosed with cancer. I was able to send her her photos and celebration story as she was facing this adversity. She went back home to Norway and, a year later, passed away from cancer right after my Dad did. She was twenty-six. I was then able to send more photos to her grieving, loved ones for them to see what she stood for in her life. This photo is probably the most meaningful in the entire series as it's a reminder to me of how fleeting life is and the power of documentation. B) This is one of the first photos ever taken of The Confetti Project where I asked my sister to go in our backyard with the yellow foliage and throw confetti on herself. She went along with it and these are some of my favorite photos in the project and of her as they symbolize the precipice of something new and unknown. (C) I was in Bali right before my father was diagnosed and took a photo of a beautiful friend of mine in front of a temple with bright, exotic flower petals. I haven't really taken other photos like this one where we're using natural confetti in a foreign land since then. This was the last photo shoot I did before my world permanently changed.
Have you shot anyone famous for The Confetti Project?
When we debuted the project in Dubai we had an Influencer Campaign prior to the event and I got a chance to see how beauty/fashion bloggers are mega-celebrities in the Middle East. There was a regional celebrity doing a meet-and-greet at the store where the activation was and I had a chance to do a photo shoot with her prior. There have been some higher profile individuals that were part of the campaign I did with Shine for Mental Health Month this year. Sophia Bush and Stacy London made an appearance at my first pop-up in Brooklyn way back after coincidentally walking by and being intrigued. I will say that the magic of this project is photographing real people in real moments.
What is next for The Confetti Project?
So many things it blows my mind a little bit. We just moved into a big, 500 sq. ft. studio so that's opened up a lot of possibilities with not just one person portraits. We have a monthly Open Studios every month that is one of my favorite things. There are group workshops and sessions beginning to happen along with more pop-up's and social awareness campaigns. I'm starting a podcast with one of my best friends called The Dead Parent's Club where we want to de-stigmatize death and share stories of how loss can fuel more meaning and love. There will also be an interactive experience that will be the biggest production of The Confetti Project for the masses in the future as well. The honest answer is that when you create something that has no guide book, everything is so month-to-month, day-to-day and I'm at a point where every opportunity I get shapes the next thing I do.
How can someone get involved?
If you're interested in being part of The Confetti Project, there are two ways to get involved depending on what you want that are outlined in the "Work With Us" page on our website: an Open Studios ticket (if you want a fun, mini-photo-booth style shoot) or a private session (where we go deep for 2 hours with a Q+A and photo shoot).
If you want to be in the loop for future events and activations sign up for the newsletter that gives you the exclusives on that. We also have volunteer for our Open Studios that we typically post on Instagram a week before the date where it's first come first serve. You essentially help be a positive vibe in the studio, letting people in and out and occasionally throwing confetti on them in exchange for your own session at the end. That's my favorite way to offer it to those who aren't in the position to snag a ticket.