With over 64k followers on Instagram, photographer Alyssa Rosenheck has built a loyal fanbase — but for the Nashville local, it’s more of a community. With her hashtag, #thenewsouthern, Alyssa is redefining what it means to live and work in the American South. She’s pioneered a unique business model, working with designers and architects across the country, acting as both a photographer and stylist on set. She then bridges the gap between marketing and editorial with ease, acting as an advocate for her clients far beyond the photoshoot.
This month, Alyssa is adding another title to her impressive resume: author. Her book, The New Southern Style, will be released on September 22 and is available for preorder now! It’s “a vibrantly illustrated exploration of the creative, inclusive, and inspiring movement happening in today’s Southern interior design.” Each page will encourage you to set aside the preconceived notions of Southern living, balancing beauty and substance with a hearty dose of design tips on the side. In a recent conversation, Alyssa told us more:
Tell us, what does the phrase ‘The New Southern’ mean?
I am redefining what it means to be Southern – The thing that makes The New Southern so special is that it is a movement. The New Southern is grounded in cultural change, community, while honoring and humanizing our differences through the lens of creativity. We have to know where we have been to know where we are going and the vehicle for me is Creativity. It is not the silver bullet solution, but it’s an expander to challenge old beliefs and bring people to the table. And it’s something we all have within us. I am living proof. I never thought I had a creative bone in my body until I was 32 years old. Creativity tells us the truth about the world and connects us to ourselves and to our communities. I am sharing my photography of over 30 home and studio tours along with conversations I have had with artists, chefs, designers, makers, activists and authors – where I am documenting how a paint brush, a camera, a chef’s knife, a poet’s pen and all kind of creative tools can connect us in a way that transcends division. This is The New Southern.
What do you love most about living and working in the south?
This is a difficult question but I will answer it simply with this… There is an equally palpable pain and beauty that comes with this land. I honor both and I am inspired by both.
Congrats on the book! Tell us a little about the idea and inspiration behind it.
Thank you! The genesis of this project came from my personal experience moving to the South as a young Jewish woman. At the time, I didn’t feel like I belonged. I experienced hate. I was young, fiercely independent, and didn’t have money. I didn’t consider myself creative and I didn’t subscribe to what a “traditional” Southern lady embodied. Fast forward to my early 30’s – with an extensive corporate career and more stability under my belt – I was diagnosed with cancer. This stopped me in my tracks, and, for the first time in my life, I decided to turn inward and entertain these little creative pulses. I picked up a camera and began something new at 32. This became my healing catharsis through cancer. When I found my creativity, I found my community. I am merely a photographer and storyteller, but my goal is to shine light on the idea that art and creativity reveal we are far more alike than different. With The New Southern Style and movement, I am nurturing an inclusive ecosystem of creatives, where we are redefining what it means to be Southern while honoring our differences.
What is the reader experience with this book? What can readers expect beyond pretty images / the typical “coffee table” book?
This project really started out as a simple idea and it quickly grew into a story that is less safe, but necessary to tell – a story about celebrating our differences and finding solidarity through creativity. It is very important for me to have a balance of style and substance. Yes, I want you to have beautiful, practical takeaways. There are 6 distinct design genres in The New Southern Style and I will personally show you how to incorporate many of the design elements that you see throughout the book into your own space. My hardworking styling tips can be found in a section called “Style” at the end of each chapter – and they are good!! Expect fresh, affordable and easy ways to elevate your space, For example, I am discussing how “the bar cart is the new china cabinet” at the end of the Laid-Back New Southern chapter. I’ve adapted the bar cart into a bath cart that promotes soothing vibes and personal tub ingredients we can all enjoy.
But I also want to explore subjects you normally wouldn’t find in a book like this. I have paired my Style advice with sections called “Substance.” Here you will find my back-to-basics approaches to instill more awareness, stillness, and creativity in our lives, which I hope will lead us to a more connected version of ourselves. To complement the bath cart, I am introducing how “evening rituals are the new nightcap” and walking the reader through a guided visualization ensured to quiet the mind and create pause.
Ultimately, I want this book to evoke the feeling of looking into another person’s eyes with deep understanding. What better conduit for that type of connection than our homes? I welcome the reader into my home and I am sharing six design themes of The New Southern Movement. I hope the diverse and courageous group of people in the book inspire you to dream even bigger, to further expand into your truth, and embrace your shadows to show the world your brightest light.
What was the creative process like for you? Were there any unexpected surprises, good or bad, that you encountered?
Yes and both! Writing and photographing a book is a long process. The good days were euphoric. I knew my ideas and the energy of this project were congruent to the book’s authenticity. But then there were challenging moments. Scheduling interviews on a deadline with more than 30 creatives all over the country took logistical finesse. I also dealt with rejection from some of my heroes, which I had to really work through internally. And there were days where I experienced such creative tension that I had to literally sit still and learn to let go of my expectations. For me, the creative process is a lot like letting go. You have to surrender in order to receive and be willing to fail. I did both, and therefore this process in and of itself has been the biggest gift for me.