Interview with photographer Lucy Purrington

“…I was always drawn to image making.

2015 #12 December VOL II Purrington PRINTLucy, can you tell me a bit about yourself, your journey as a photographer and what first inspired you to become a photographer? As a child, I grew up helping my hobbyist photographer father in his makeshift darkroom. Endlessly fascinated by these ‘magic’ pictures appearing before my eyes, I was always drawn to image making. But as a typical rebellious teen, I wanted to carve a path for myself and moved away from my early interest in photography to pursue other things. Fast forward a decade or two (makes me sound old!), and my father, again, sparked my intrigue into the craft by passing on to me an old DSLR camera as he was upgrading and had no further use for it. I played with it, booked some photoshoots with models, took some self portraits and was hooked! Fast forward a year and I’d signed up to study ‘Photographic Arts’ at a local South Wales university, where I am currently working through my second year.

How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it? What (who) influenced you to create your own style? I take inspiration from songs, books, other artists, photographs; I love Barbara Kruger, David Lynch, Jeff Wall, Erwin Wurm, Cornelia Parker – anyone who displays an element of thought out performance, be it comical or dark and melancholic. I suppose my own work mirrors such themes, addressing my own personal demons and life’s problems. The collection of personal self portraits from a cathartic exercise to mentally carpmentalise a struggle with a chronic pain illness I’ve suffered from for 14 years.

Why is digital art important to you? I work in both analog (35 and 120 film) and digital formats, the former becoming a useful tool to learn how to slow down my working practice; making sure every image counts. When you’re paying for film, you make every shot worth it and I think that’s a great lesson to take forward to working with digital. I am continuously fascinated how fast technology is moving, for instance, the new Iphone cameras have such a tremendous photographic capability.

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When you create your art are there specific emotions you are trying to achieve? Can you explain some of the feelings you are trying to achieve in your photographs? Many people comment on my work being of a ‘dark nature.’ Whereas, I don’t feel that they are entirely. They often express part of an inner struggle or an emotionally unpleasant state, but the act of producing each image serves as a cathartic physical exercise. It provides a chance to escape: wondering outside away from urban areas, alone with my own thoughts, and photographing. Slowing down, taking some ‘me’ time. I think we all forget to do that these days, we’re always so busy. I think that’s why my work resonated with people – there are too many pressures in the world today.

2015 #12 December VOL II Purrington PRINT2How did you come up with an idea of digital manipulations? How long have you been working in Photoshop? A­­re you self-taught in photo-manipulations or was learning Photoshop a part of your formal education? I’ve been working with photoshop for two years, with a brief set of art college classes a decade ago being my initial introduction to the program. I’ve mostly learnt photoshop wizardry from trial and error and from watching youtube videos – you can learn anything these days on there! The ideas and designs of my images are usually pre-set in my mind before I shoot.

Lucy, could you take us through the typical planning process for your images? Do you plan each photo out or are you more spontaneous with your creations? Typically working solo, I find it easiest to work with a designed idea in mind with notes and diagrams already set out so that I can create the look I want quickly, mostly because the Welsh weather is always against me, and because for self shots, I have to be the model, the photographer, the designer. There’s nobody there to tell me if someone doesn’t look right, so sitting down and drawing everything up makes things easier.

Tell us a secret, how much time do you spend taking photos, versus retouching photos? What is your post-processing workflow like? With most of my self portraits being a combination of several composition images and post processing, I try to spend the majority of my time setting up the image in frame as best I can, which saves a lot of bother later in post processing. Reiterating what I mentioned earlier, my lessons from working in analog film have taught me to be considerate of when I press the shutter. In regards to post processing in photoshop, I can take half an hour to 5 or 6 hours depending on the image. Stopping, saving and coming back later is always a good habit to be in when it comes to any artwork, a tip a tutor gave me – a new days gives a new perspective. Of course, sometimes you do unfortunately end up with work that’s sat on for weeks!

Can you name a collection or single work that you have created that has resonated with you the most emotionally? Why is it significant to you? The image titled ‘Caged’ at times can be difficult to look at, knowing where it came from. I remember suffering rather badly at the time of its creation from a chronic pain illness. The feeling of being trapped inside a body that didn’t work properly, I felt, ‘caged.’

Thankfully, I’m doing a LOT better now! I’ll need to find something eles to channel in my art!

2015 #12 December VOL II Purington PRINT2What do you love the most about photography in general? What do you enjoy most photographing? I very much enjoy photographing people. I’m constantly intrigued about what a portrait can capture of a person’s soul, their character and what visual indicators you can use to guide the viewer to feeling or thinking certain things. Its been happening for hundreds of years in paintings, but never has it been so instant as the art of the photograph.

In your opinion, what do you think makes a great digital artist? The willingness to explore yourself, your surroundings, to push your tech to the limit, try new things out. It doesn’t matter if a photo or a post-processing experiment don’t work, you learn from it and gain a better understanding of what you visually want. There are so many directions one can pursue, each one having its worthy merits. Try them all. Experiment.

What has been your most memorable moment in your career so far? My acceptance onto my university course has to be the most memorable moment of my career. As a mature student, I thought ‘maybe I’m a bit too old, can I make work that’s relevant?’ And here I am, tired, overworked and dreading my next set of deadlines, but utterly loving it.

 What projects are you working on next, and what are your goals for the future? I have an ongoing self portrait series that I’ve been working on for two years, I doubt that’ll ever conclude and end; it’s my art-therapy. And currently I am mid-way through a site specific project based in a National Trust manor house. Which is an absolute pleasure and privilege to be working on. How can you not love working as an artist in a beautiful huge old castle like house!

For those that would like to consider working with you, what’s the best way to start? If anyone ever wanted to work with me, don’t hesitate to message me, I don’t bite.. I love collaboration work with different artists, models, stylists, MUAs, Hairdressers. It’s nice to get out there and work with others, to get fresh perspectives and try different styles. It’s also an enjoyable experience trying to match conceptual ideas to an individual’s personality or mood.

Where can we see more of your works and get connected with you? The best place to find me is Facebook, it’s a bit more relaxed as I know it can be intimidating messaging strangers sometimes. Alternatively, I do spend (too much) time on Flickr.

If you couldn’t be a photographer, what would be your other career choice? What do you do on your down time? It may sound daft, but I’d love to work at an animal rescue center. I adore animals, especially birds and broken ones – the ones that nobody else would want. But I am hilariously and awfully allergic to anything with fur or feathers.

What is the most important thing you have learned that you want to share with the world?
Don’t compare yourself against others. Success is how you measure it for yourself, not by someone else’s definition. Do what you know, follow what you love, you can never go wrong that way. You’ll either end up somewhere you’re happy to be at or have an excellent adventure on the way.

 Thank you, Lucy.

Published December 2015 Vol II: BUY NOW

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