Name: Lydia Roberts
Hometown: Swindon, England
Current town: Swindon, England (sigh)
Film and/or Digital: A dusty old Pentax sits on my desk, and I often think about picking it up and actually making use of it. But it would be a lie if I said film, as much as I admire and respect it, digital is so much easier and quicker. I am far too impatient for the darkroom—and poor!
First camera: Panasonic Lumix (point and shoot)
Current camera: Well, I advanced to a Canon 5d mk1, but regressed back to my dear old Lumix; it’s my comfort camera. However, I do use my 5d for more important shoots, I just still need to get my head around the settings and saving up for more lenses.
How long have you been taking photographs and how did you get started?
For about 3 years now, I have been hooked. It began on a wet family holiday in England with some crappy throw-away camera, I just began noticing my surroundings, trying to snap everything that came into my pathway into an oblivion! At the time, I didn’t really think about what I was taking, just rotating the camera and crouching down, like I thought photographers did. To my parents, it was just a ‘novelty soon to be worn off.’
Thoughts about first images ever taken, describe them?
Over-saturated flowers, bunnies, sunsets and endless photos of myself in the mirror, sat by the window. They were terrible. I got my kick up the backside from Brett Walker and have not looked back since, aside from the self-portraits, they still remain and are quite a recurrent theme in my work.
What do you see when you look at your work now?
I see myself staring in a mirror; my reality, my fantasy, but more, the mad whirl of the world around me. It’s a liberation for me to be able to express myself this way, to take what I see and make it mine. I do try to keep life at a respectful distance to remain focused on what is sometimes just an abstract decoration to what I’m seeing.
What do you hope others will see, if anything? Their experience?
I would hope not to control what people see in my photos, but to make as they wish of them. The possibilities of what you are presented with becomes endless that way, much more fun and sometimes daunting.
What do you look for in an image? What makes a great photograph for you?
I search for that feeling in my gut, stomach or heart—wherever. A great photo moves me, shocks me, and, most of all, inspires me. I cannot always judge the photo technically as, really, I have little understanding of this, so I base it mainly on feeling and what it evokes.
So many, too many, but to name a few: Elke Krystufek, Egon Schiele, Carolee Schneeman, Francesca Woodman, Adam Fuss, Man Ray and Tracey Emin.
Currently: Sylvia Plath, Oscar Wilde, John Berger
Favorite places online?
Don’t really keep track of this . . . apart from I’m a Tumblr and Flickr-holic, oh, and THESE AMERICANS.
Eugene Richards. Really inspired by these photographs currently. They make me want to step out of my world and into the world of others.
Young photographers who most inspire you now?
Jack Davison, of course, the boy can take a mean photograph for sure, and I’ve definitely picked up a thing or two in his presence. Also Rebecca Cairns. To me, she is a modern day Woodman with haunted and beautifully chaotic work.
How would you describe your work to someone who’s never seen it?
Hmmm. I would say, for those who know me, it’s a reflection of myself. Those who don’t, it’s kind of like a private journal belonging to a restless girl exposed as photographs.
Having just turned seventeen, how do you manage juggling school and artwork?
Well, I’m studying art, so the two mix pretty well. My personal photography gets used at college, and sometimes vice versa. Just lots of hard work!
Where do you want to take your photography, or vice versa?
I would love for it to be what I do for the rest of my life; I want to keep on inventing, creating, refashioning the old into fresh forms and hope that life doesn’t always get the upper hand. Being an artist is a lifestyle, but making a living from it is the tough part!
You’ve been exhibited already in London. How did it feel to have all those people looking at your work?
Yes. It was certainly a night that will be with me for the rest of my life. The people surrounding me were the people I love and respect most, brilliant photographers who I follow, family and friends. Of course there were many people I didn’t know, and it was quite daunting having my work stared at and discussed. I think I described it at the time as walking into a room naked.
“Sunday Afternoon,” “Me and Zsuzsa,” and “Zsuzsa,” by Lydia Roberts
about your new films. Do you approach film any differently than photography?
I’m just experimenting, using the video setting on my camera. I like the limitless possibilities, like photography, so I try to recreate scenes and scenarios in my head that just one image can’t depict. It’s not very different from my approach to photography at all, apart from I have to think more! I wouldn’t really say it’s going to progress anywhere, but it’s another tool I can practice at and play around with.
You’ve openly opposed censorship on Flickr. Huge subject, but talk about that more?
I disagree with it. I have become a great lover of the human form, particularly the female form. To me, it’s just another way of self-expression, and a much more powerful one at that, allowing us to look past clothes, accessories, fashions, things that can constrain and constrict us artistically. I know that being younger can put me at a disadvantage with nude photography and censorship for obvious reasons, but I believe that I’m at an age where I’m mature enough to appreciate and understand the body as art. I don’t think that it should be looked upon negatively.
Artist’s playlist: Max Richter, Cat Power, M. Ward, Yann Tiersen, Nouvelle Vague, Dead Prez vs Grizzly Bear, LJC, Zola Jesus, KCO meets CocoRosie, Syl Johnson, Gil Scott-Heron and This Mortal Coil, here: Featured Artist: Lydia Roberts