incongruity of familiar objects out of context realises that we aren’t as powerful as we thought – and that maybe we’re not as important as we think.
Our neglected environment often tells a tale of hubris and thoughtlessness. In the world of fake tans and fake smiles, our culture suffers from an amnesiac’s view of our past and a willful refusal to accept that our future contains aging and death. Our environment mirrors us; it contains our history and shows us signs of it’s own aging. Like the picture of Dorian Grey – when we look into our world, we see our true faces staring back at us etched in concrete.
In terms of being an antidote to this culture, these pictures are intended to be solemn and beautiful and contemplated slowly. They should give the harried contemporary citizen a chance to stop and breathe, to step into a patient world and take some time for quiet contemplation.
SDk: In your article for SomethingDark, “Modern culture: living to record ourselves living so others will say we have lived”, you criticise the obsession our culture is developing to substitute superficial images of life for life itself. How do you think your work differs from the mass cultural obsession with recording life merely for its own sake?
LF: I don’t record life for the sake of the record. I believe that the precious moments in our lives should be treasured for their transience, and appreciated all the more knowing that
when those moments are gone, they are gone forever. When I do “record life”, it’s the result of a conscious decision. My work is all about taking a longer and slower look at a scene or subject, and taking the time to capture something unique. I strive to achieve a deeper resonance and greater meaning than the physical subject of the image. But the viewer must decide for themselves whether I’ve managed to achieve that and to take what they can from my work.
Like the picture of Dorian Grey – when we look into our world, we see our true faces staring back at us etched in concrete.
There is a very fine line between my work and vast swathes of images that have been produced with no thought at all and it’s difficult to identify actual physical differences between the two. Intention, and sensibility of approach, are major factors.
SDk: What makes one image just one more meaningless piece in the flotsam of superficiality, and another image a work of art?
LF: I’m not sure how to answer this question; it’s one I’ve struggled with for as long as I’ve been interested in photography. I guess it is to do with the photographer’s intention and the photograph’s effect, but is almost impossible to put into words without
ending up expressing a snobbish and elitist tone that isn’t intended at all.
The other way to view it is that my article is about encouraging a healthier way of engaging with the world. It recommends an attempt to recognise the psychological impulse to record everything and to act against it when it threatens to hinder direct life experience. The photographers I mentioned – Nan Goldin, Corinne Day, Arthur Tress and Robert Mapplethorpe – didn’t necessarily have a healthy relationship with life. On the other hand, my instinct would suggest that these people who are capable of making such powerful photographs are more aware than most of the power of the medium and may have treated their cameras with a greater cautious respect than is evidenced in our modern world.
I was worried about including reference to these photographers in the text as it seems a bit tangental and could potentially confuse my (extremely simple) message. However, I felt compelled to write it because the images I’ve mentioned are some of my most favourite in the medium and are genuinely impossible to ignore. They are personal and direct and raw. I first saw Arthur Tress’ picture of his father in the snow about ten years ago and it has never left me. Nan Goldin’s Nan One Month After Being Battered is one of the most memorable and intimate photographs ever produced [SDk: See link to Lisa’s more involved thoughts on these photographers and these images in Additional info, below].
SDk: And should artists, from time to time, also put down their cameras?
LF: Yes. It is a terrible thing to always be the photographer. It can alienate you from life.
I regularly break the photographer’s golden rule and fail to carry my camera with me; I treat my time with my camera as a separate and unique part of my life. I like to live surrounded by people, noise and engagement. When I carry my camera I am a seeker of ambience – I step softly and walk alone with my senses open.
When I carry my camera I am a seeker of ambience – I step softly and walk alone with my senses open.
SDk: Diane Arbus and Simon Norfolk are two of your greatest inspirations; can you provide an insight into what their work means to you, and why?
LF: I am in awe of both of them for their honesty. They explore society’s hidden truths, the ones that don’t fit the view that we as a culture like to have of ourselves.
Diane Arbus photographed people in the 1960s and ’70s. Her work is concerned with human reality; she shows us humanity in all its unconventional variety, revealing our dream of conformity as the destructive illusion that it is. She lays bare lives lived behind closed doors and confronts