All that glitters may not be gold, but for Jelena Aleksich, a Brooklyn-based graphic designer and photographer, as well as the founder of The Confetti Project, it certainly leads the way. Starting off as a deeply intimate project of personal exploration, Jelena has managed to grow her passion into a visually stunning series as well as a viable business, and she’s not even close to done. We caught up with Jelena to hear about the origin story of The Confetti Project, what led her to such a unique medium, and what she plans to unleash on the world next.
What is the Confetti Project?
The Confetti Project is a photography series that profiles amazing humans exploring what they celebrate in their lives.
Can you give us a little background on how it all got started?
The project began when I quit my job and started doing all the things I was passionate about, but didn’t have the time to pursue. I went to this party where I got glitter-bombed then went to see an OK Go concert where there was confetti everywhere on the ground – I immediately thought that it was so beautiful, that I naturally started to pick some of it up and stuff it into the pockets of my leather jacket. A few weeks later, I was feeling really sad one day, and I put on my leather jacket and found the confetti still in my pocket – instantly when I saw the confetti, I became really happy. I began thinking, “It’s nostalgic, it’s emotional, what does it even mean?” I looked up the definition, and it essentially means celebration. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s essentially a medium for expression, for people to check in with themselves on where they are in their life, what they celebrate and why. I began thinking, there’s something here – I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt like I owe it to myself to explore that.
I created a three month photography challenge where I profiled 50 creative entrepreneurs in NYC, and then created a coffee table book from that. I essentially created all these new opportunities for myself, with all of these things I didn’t realize I could even do before I was 45 – like all these self-inflicted limitations. I decided to just try and see what happens when I combine all of these things. I got rejected by an agent for the book, but she gave me the best piece of advice which was to go forward with it, and now two years later it’s sort of taken on a life of its own.
How did you choose the 50 people you wanted to profile?
I had just moved to Brooklyn, and found everyone around me was so inspiring that I felt like for the first time, I had finally found my community, my tribe of people. I asked the people around me, and then asked them to forward it to their friends. It was an invitation via email, which was really wild, because at the time people could submit either through audio or by writing in, so I had strangers writing in to share what they care about in their life and what they stand for. It was very organic in that way.
When did you realize that you really had something here? That is was really worth getting started as a brand and full on project?
When I realized that I had something with The Confetti Project and when I transitioned it into a brand are two very separate things. I think that in the very beginning I saw the power of this project – people walk into the space, there’s pounds of confetti, they always really underestimate me asking them really deep, uncomfortable questions that they’re not used to being asked. There’s a very therapeutic quality to it – from the first photography to the last one, when I was doing the first 50 people who took part in the project, you could visibly see a difference. Obviously, they’re sparkled up everywhere, but they just look really loose, relaxed, different. That was when I realized that something was happening, and over the next two years I was able to hone that process.
When I transitioned it into a brand, two years after I had started the project, it was spurred by a series of events – my dad passing away, going away on a 50-day cross-country road trip then coming back feeling emptier than ever, amidst grieving, and realizing I needed to go full-force with this. That was when I’d introduced the first revenue stream, this past December.
What do you try to capture once someone’s in front of the camera?
I think that every day, every single one of us wears a lot of masks, and we play a lot of different roles. For me, since I photograph regular people who aren’t trained in front of a camera, the main element that ties everything together is to get them to strip away those masks, those anxieties, the stressed of their day, the different roles that they play. I want them to be really comfortable being vulnerable, kind of living in their truth and getting back to feeling like you do when you’re a kid, when you’re so present and in-the-moment, you’re just playing with things and you don’t necessarily know where it’s all going to go. Surrendering to that feeling, and allowing your energy to be everywhere in your body instead of overthinking and keeping it all in your head, that’s really my overall goal.
How do you envision the Confetti Project growing and evolving?
As a child I was always a dreamer, and I think I’ve gotten back to that. It’s been a year and a half since my dad passed away, and instead of just trying to get by day by day, now I’m back to thriving in that dream-like sense of my reality. I try to keep my head down and just create meaningful, authentic work. Really, me in my element is connecting with other people, and I think that’s really prevalent in the photos that you see, that those connections are established. With this, really anything can happen – I can’t predict it all, but now I’m working with different brands, different city activations, international shoots, entrepreneurial projects. Anything in the confetti space, I’m involved with to some degree.
If you could choose one celebrity to photograph for the Confetti Project, who would it be and why?
If I could choose any celebrity to shoot for The Confetti Project, it would definitely be Chelsea Handler. She is the epitome of someone who uses her platform to educate people, and she’s super-fearless and honest, and I think it would just be a lot of fun. We’d be able to use the space in a very vulnerable, authentic way, where she probably wouldn’t even need a warm-up to get ready.
What is one fun fact about you?
One fun fact about me is that when I was a teenager, I went to Fiji to do community service. While I was there, I learned to sail and surf, and got certified in scuba diving.
What are you celebrating today?
I think that everyday, I celebrate my dad – everything that he stood for, everything he taught me: the abundance mentality, unconditional love, going out into the world and doing your best. Especially today, I’ve been thinking about him a lot.
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