"Colors can say much more than words."

Allegra Pacheco, a Costa Rican-born artist but, ultimately, a citizen of the world, finds truth in color. Her approach to inspiration is open, curious, and driven—it is how she conjures her colorful, abstract paintings and how she put together her latest film, Salaryman.

“I like embracing the limitations of things. I will purposely use colors that I don’t like and try to make them work. I feel like a canvas is such a limitless thing. Yes, you have the size, dimensions, and materials, but a blank canvas can be anything. When you play with the rules—when you take a pink you don't like so much or a difficult purple, it becomes a fun challenge. So I approach my work like that sometimes, like games. I chose the dress in Joshua Tree because I liked the relationship of color between the orange and the cyan, it gave me ideas. The dress pattern itself really inspired me, so that was really fun.”

But it’s not just her unique ability to translate chroma that makes Allegra a unique artist, her artistic lens is so that she finds herself gravitating towards all sorts of subjects that she then channels into very dynamic art. One of those is Salaryman, a documentary film that explores white-collar workers in Japan, or salarymen. 

“I guess I was first drawn to them visually, because salarymen tend to dress in a very formal way. They look like they’re in a uniform, a suited uniform. They follow similar patterns of getting to the train at the same time, flowing out of the office, and going out for a drink. When I see something that catches my eye and I zoom in, millions of things start appearing. So once I focused on salarymen, each day I would notice something else that I was interested in.

“So I decided to do a documentary about it because I really wanted to understand their world. I wanted to understand, you know, how did we get to working to the point of collapse?”

Salaryman explored the work culture of Japan, but what Allegra found can be applied to most major cities where employees are expected to work overtime, go out drinking with clients, and give up almost all of their personal lives. Something that marked the film, other than the playful music scored by James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins and the electric contrast of colors from the Tokyo nightlife scene, was the ubiquity of salarymen who fall asleep near the train stations after a night of drinking. 

Most of them don’t live in Tokyo and the last train out leaves at midnight, meaning it’s completely normal to see men in suits sleeping on the floor. In Allegra’s film, she’s seen going up to the sleeping salarymen and laying out a chalk outline of their bodies—“It’s almost like a corporate death scene”—and snapping pics of them. Sometimes even interviewing them the morning after they wake up and have to go back into the office.

We asked Allegra a question from the DVF x We’re Not Really Strangers Own It Expansion Pack that seemed pertinent after she had spent 5 years directing, producing, and sourcing financing for her film about the concessions we are willing to make for our careers.

“How has your definition of success evolved over time and what is your definition of it today? Get specific.”

Her answer: “When I was younger, my definition of success was having my work in an important gallery and making it in a big city. Now, honestly, it has changed so much. I’m really happy that I was able to finish my movie. It’s one of the many goals I had for my life, so for me, having finished that, is already success.

But now that I’ve finished it, success is a day by day thing. Success for me is knowing that I can dedicate enough time to have an interior life, to be with family, to sleep, to box, to paint, and to just feel at peace with myself. To have enough time to create that distance and observe myself when I’m uneasy or maybe doing something for the wrong reasons. I think I’m already successful in the sense that I’m lucky to work as an artist and, overall, just feel very lucky.”

The photographer for this shoot was Jiro Schneider, keep up with his work at @jiro_sc.

To check out Allegra’s latest projects, follow @allegrapacheco on Instagram.