Visual Culture

See the Moody Photographs Netflix Commissioned for The OA’s Second Season

Jacqui Palumbo
Mar 5, 2019 4:00PM

Still from The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.

When Netflix released the first season of the mind-bending drama The OA, it was entirely a surprise. Viewers had no expectations when they tuned in to the story of a blind woman (played by Brit Marling) who inexplicably returned from being missing for seven years with her eyesight restored, now referring to herself as “the OA.” As the story unfolds, we learn it’s a show about alternate dimensions—the OA can travel elsewhere in space, and she had her eyesight both taken from her as a child and restored to her on another plane of existence. In the season finale (spoiler alert), the OA is shot, and her life hangs precariously in the balance as she is transported once again to a new reality.

Eda Dürüst, art for The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.


The metaphysical nature of the show required a visual aesthetic that was as captivating as the story itself. Scenes switch between the surreality of another dimension and eerie but beautifully lit scenes in a more familiar world. The second season, The OA: Part II, which Netflix announced last week (it will premiere on March 22nd), will also have an emphasis on visuals. In addition to that, Netflix invited eight photographers to the set to photograph during production and create a series of conceptual promotional images, with the guidance of showrunners Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij.

Hick Duarte, art for The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.

Martina Matencio, art for The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.

The selected photographers, who hail from around the world, are Olivia Bee, Kyle Thompson, Martina Matencio, Daniel Rueda and Anna Devís, Eda Dürüst, Teresa C. Freitas, and Hick Duarte. Each photographer was present for the filming of one or more scenes, and was asked to interpret it through their own artistic style, with ample creative freedom.

Kyle Thompson, art for The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.

Their photographs offer glimpses of what we’ll see in the new season, where the OA will find herself living a different life in an alternate reality, though her former life will still be relevant, including her past demons. Bee, who vaulted into the photography industry as a teenager and is known for her dreamlike and romantic sensibilities, found that her style was well-suited to the new narratives around the OA’s transformations.

Olivia Bee, art for The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.

“I collaborated on scenes that were pivotal for the transformation of [the] OA, and typically had a lot of physical movement,” Bee said. “I wanted to capture those scenes with a painterly quality that showed the emotion of the transition.” In her work, Bee embraces spontaneity. She gravitates toward “intense colors and movement,” she noted, and emphasizes the imperfections of film, allowing light leaks and grain to inject mood and atmosphere.

Likewise, Freitas captures images that occupy a space where wonder and reality meet; in her landscape photography, she restricts her color palette to create an otherworldly quality. Her scenes portray baby-blue skies and pink-tinged clouds behind salmon buildings and mustard rooftops.

Teresa C. Freitas, art for The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.

“All of my images are created and defined through the use of pastel tones, a style that I’ve been developing and that my pictures are now recognized by,” Freitas said. “These tones also give a feeling of a subtle strangeness when we are looking at places that exist—there’s something a little bit ‘off’ about them.” On set, Freitas was tasked with taking photos of a home that was styled in the same hues as her signature work.

Kyle Thompson, art for The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.

Thompson, on the other hand, pushes his imagery into a darker, more introspective realm. “The images I’m drawn to are usually a bit isolated and lonely,” he explained. “I often take self-portraits, which force me to build these fabricated moments and actually live in them briefly. It allows me to explore that moment a bit more intensely.”

Thompson was paired up with scenes that resonated with this intensity. In one of his images, several pairs of arms extend upwards from a claustrophobic hole in the ground, their hands grabbing one another in a tight formation; their bodies, not seen, seem to be pressed together underneath the surface.

Daniel Rueda and Anna Devís, art for The OA: Part II, 2019. Courtesy of Netflix.

Creating this work, Thompson said, “allowed us to incorporate our own visions onto the set.” Instead of showing literal moments from the second season, these photographers were able to put their own spin on the narrative. “The images show off core moments and scenes without necessarily clashing with the plot,” he added. Together, they evoke a heightened sense of mystery around the events of The OA: Part II, and celebrate the show’s enigmatic spirit.

Jacqui Palumbo
Jacqui Palumbo is a contributing writer for Artsy Editorial.