It has been quite some time since we last posted a feature here, but we are back and with an amazing new folio from emerging UK documentary photographer Holly Lansdell.
The COVID pandemic has turned our world on its head and many creatives have had to completely rethink the way that they interact with their audience and the way in which they can continue to make a living during these times. Holly’s is the first in a series of features that we will be publishing highlighting the ways in which photographers have adapted and are continuing to roll with the punches.
Photo/Foto: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how and why photography became your medium of choice?
Holly: I chose photography for one of my options at GCSE as I needed a creative outlet, liking the instant results I could get and develop. At that point, I never saw it as a career path and initially planned on becoming an engineer but realised that I didn’t have the same passion for the subject. I completed both my undergraduate and Master’s degree in photography at UCA Rochester. There I developed a love for analogue photography, especially medium format, and the way it helped refine my style as it slowed my process down. Photography gave me a way to express and process some serious mental health issues during my first year at university while becoming more confident.
Photo/Foto: How would you describe your photography? Your work appears to me to be documentary in style but covering many subjects; do you feel you have defined your personal style/genre yet or is this still evolving?
Holly: I approach documentary topics with a fine art style resulting in a series of cinematic images. My work is always evolving as I find new ways to experiment and develop my techniques. With the recent pandemic I was forced to move from analogue to digital which changed the way I shoot as I’m not limited by the number of shots. I had previously used the distinction to define personal and commercial work but am now finding ways to capture images in my style on a digital camera. I work predominantly with continuous lighting, preferably natural, although I also love experimenting with colour and exploring colour theory – often referring to Derek Jarman, Chroma, throughout my research process. I’m currently trying to focus on creating work that I enjoy and that is not going to be marked and criticised by the education system to fit their curriculum. Hopefully by doing this, I can further refine my style.
Photo/Foto: The work that we are featuring is a series of your nude self-portraiture. This is a genre that really fascinates me due to the intensely personal nature of the images. What inspired you to start making such intimate self-portraits?
Holly: In my final year of my undergraduate degree I studied the nude within art, performance and photography exploring the difference between our perception of naked and nude. I’ve always been fascinated with how others view bodies and how one’s sexuality and gender can influence the way they see the world. Having worked on a nude series with my partner exploring the nature of an asexual and heterosexual relationship to illustrate how we perceive ourselves and each other differently, I wanted to focus more on myself to reclaim ownership of my image. The female figure within nude art has always been objectified when captured and viewed by heterosexual males. Like many female photographers, the nude self-portrait returned control to me and was a very empowering experience. Looking through the series, I can see myself embodying Manet’s Olympia as I reference her pose and what it means to be a women appearing to sell her body for art, money and sex.
In a time when I felt my most vulnerable and was struggling with my mental health and reliving past traumas, I was able to change the narrative and challenge my perception of myself. My work tackles ideals associated with femininity, virginity and sex as I allow the viewer an insight into my vulnerability and what it means to be a young women in a world obsessed with sex.
I want people to question whether I am producing nude art or taking a picture of myself naked.
Photo/Foto: To say this year has been weird is an understatement, but how has this impacted your work? For me, I have retreated in to my cave and really struggled to find inspiration; but how have you managed to remain motivated in COVID times?
Holly: This year I was completing my Masters in photography, so having to move my degree online was extremely difficult. I had started a project at the beginning of the year using analogue that I was then going to experiment with in a darkroom. I still have rolls of undeveloped film from that project. Knowing that I had deadlines helped keep me motivated for small periods of time but my love for the project was not there. That’s how I started developing my nude self-portraits as it was something I had loved exploring during my undergraduate degree. I found that I needed a distraction and something to keep my love of photography there as, without it, my struggle during lockdown would’ve been greater.
Photo/Foto: What are the next steps for you with your photography?
Holly: I’m hoping to continue experimenting and finding new ways to capture my body and producing some form of written work along side it. Combining my nude self-portraits with more traditional documentary work to create a series focusing on the representation of the female body on social media and how this translates to daily life.