Michelle Watt explores the complexity of Asian American id by way of her surrealist pictures

There are those who take photos and those who make photos, to paraphrase the legendary photographer Ansel Adams.

Michelle Watt is firmly the latter. Her richly hued, surrealist compositions — whether she’s shooting a magazine cover or working on a personal project — are brought to life through elaborate productions, involving teams of set designers, wardrobe stylists and makeup artists.

For Watt, creating these intricate images is a form of therapy — a way for her to process traumas and personal experiences.

“It’s not really an inspiration as much as it’s a compulsion to work it out,” she told CNN in a recent interview. “Deconstructing it through staging and storytelling and narrative in these symbolic ways ends up being a really healing way of dealing with those things.”

An image from Michelle Watt's series "Lunar Geisha."

An image from Michelle Watt’s series “Lunar Geisha.” Credit: Michelle Watt

Her portrait series “Lunar Geisha,” published in Blanc Magazine, is an exploration of Asian American female identity. Using the geisha as a…