Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Conversation with Lottie Davies

from the 'Syria" series ©Lottie Davies

The first time I came across an image of Lottie Davies' was on a blog or website. It was an image from her series "Memories & Nightmares" and it intrigued me. Upon researching Lottie I was impressed by her incredible range, attention to detail and general picture making.
And I was deeply moved by her portraiture and the accompanying stories.
I am incredibly delighted that Lottie took the time out of her busy schedule for this conversation.

from the 'Syria" series ©Lottie Davies

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Lottie Davies: Well, I was born in Guildford (southern England) in 1971, which makes me a grand old 37 at the last count! I had a fairly conventional childhood in Surrey with my parents and two younger brothers, and studied philosophy at St Andrews University in Scotland which I absolutely loved, but a career as a professional philosopher was not for me, so I moved back to England to learn the photographic trade as an assistant in London, where I have been based for the past fourteen years. I live in North London with my cat Friday and a growing collection of useless objects I find on my travels which includes a wooden flying horse, a plastic ‘Nunzilla’, a couple of pieces of volanic rock, 4 carved elephants, a black bath duck and a miniature coffee pot.

White Lady Lodge, Namibia & from "Bushmen of the Kalahari" ©Lottie Davies

NP: How did you discover photography?

LD: My father bought a basic darkroom kit for my brother when I was about fourteen, and being completely competitive I had to learn how to use it as well! As a result I was the only student at my university who knew how to print photographs and I ended up being the unofficial student theatre photographer, which was great – I cut my teeth on black and white posters which were stuck up all over town, usually made from photocopies of cut-up newspaper print and my prints stuck down with sellotape. I loved the theatre and I directed a production of Sartre’s ‘Dirty Hands’ (a dark play about politics, assassination and existentialism, perfect philosophy student material...), which was a fantastic challenge and enormous fun.

from the "Thai/Burma Border" series ©Lottie Davies

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

LD: I guess from lots of different places – I love stories; film, theatre, literature, and the everyday stories we all have. In my journalistic work I began to realise that I was collecting life-stories from the people I was photographing, to illustrate the situations they were living in and to bring the pieces to life, to add context to the images themselves. So my latest project, ‘Memories and Nightmares’ is something of an extension of that idea. Practically, I wanted to do something based in the UK which I could spend longer working on than my trips abroad (which are usually only a couple of weeks), and I also wanted to try a different approach, by creating images from an idea in someone’s head, rather than the ‘found’ images I often shoot. This project is about the tales and myths which we use to tell our own lives; memories, life-stories, beliefs. In many ways, stories and memories are a uniquely human experience; we have used them for generations to illustrate our lives, record ourselves for the future, and to make sense of the past. I’ve consciously used classical painting, film and illustrations to influence the look of the images, with the intention of tapping into subconscious looking habits – which might not work out of context of the UK, as of course I have a very British sensibility in such things! For instance, I’m not sure that anyone outside of the UK will get the ‘Fuzzy Felt’ reference in ‘Katherine’, but I hope most people will understand the filmic look of ‘The Blue Bedroom’ and the classical influence in ‘Quints’.

from "Asylum Seekers" ©Lottie Davies

NP: How do your projects come about?

LD: I’m not sure, to be honest. The journalistic projects often arise from hearing about a certain situation in the media or via friends working in different fields – a friend of mine works as a legal adviser to asylum seekers in the UK, which led to my interest in their stories. My trips to Botswana and Guatemala were as a result of contacting NGOs working there and a desire to get some publicity for their campaigns. My more personal work seems to have arisen by itself – I had the idea of memories from my own early memory (The Day My Brother Was Born) and grew from there. I think we are influenced more than we realise by images all over the place – advertising posters, tv, film, just moving around in the world – I’m sure all my ideas have been sparked by things I’ve seen and only half-recognised.

from "Memories & Nightmares" ©Lottie Davies

NP: What's next?

Good question! I’ve yet to finish ‘Memories and Nightmares’, and the last few images are pretty complicated – I need a boat on a river with weeping willows, a bathroom full of sparrows and a gigantic cartoon kangaroo, so I’m working on getting those completed before moving on – but I do have a few ideas waiting in the wings – watch this space.....!

NP: Thank you so much!

from "Memories & Nightmares" ©Lottie Davies

To see more of Lottie Davies' work please visit Her site also provides samples of her writing and background information about her sitters.

1 comment:

Rona Chang said...

Wow. Lottie, I've spent all morning reading and looking at your work. There are so many stories behind the photos, your interactions with people and their communities. The photographs from Guatemala reminded me of the bit of time I spent there. I visited an orphanage/ school inside the dump and I wonder if it's still there.