Interview with photographer India Lawton
F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?
India Lawton: As a child I was always excited to get a throw away camera developed, the element of surprise and capturing the things in my world thrilled me. At the age of around 15, my mother gave me her old Olympus OM10 camera that she had used in college, and it is still the same camera I use today.
I always shoot my art on 35 mm film. I love the ease of working with 35mm, but also the discipline working with film demands from me. The surprise, the mistakes, the care I must take with every shot is why I use this medium.
F-Stop: The current “Black and White” issue of F-Stop includes four of your photographs from the series “Scars”. Can you talk about what this project is about and what inspired it?
IL: This project was particularly personal to me. It represents an event and time in my younger life that was very difficult for me, and that was resurfacing for many years. It was through this project I was able to challenge this time, and come to terms with it.
While digging through old family snaps, the smiling faces did not represent my feelings at the time, and the memories that have echoed through my life. I began to re edit these photographs, and created self-portraits in places that were particularly poignant in my memories. Through the process of sorting through these self-portraits and family images, I was angry at the way I had felt then and now, but most of all I was angry at those that had caused me to feel this way. My mother had taught me that photographs were something precious to be treasured, but to me they were reminders of a time I wanted to forget.
F-Stop: What is your process for making these images? Where do the images come from and how do you choose them?
IL: Through burning, scratching, and stabbing, I was able to let my emotions run loose, to remove and re edit, to take control of something I did not have the strength to do before. I felt more able to take control, and begin to let go. However after the destructive moment had passed, I was left with the crude remains, and a feeling of exhaustion – but with that, a sense of relief.
The images are a reminder that no matter how hard I tried, the scars of these memories would always remain in my mind, as they will in these photographs, however now, they are mine to control.
F-Stop: What do you hope people see or feel or perhaps learn when they look at your photographs?
IL: I hope people project themselves onto my images. Many of us face difficult times in our lives, and I hope that through my work they too can feel the inner strength to take control, and try to move on.
F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in this series? If so, which one and why is it the image that speaks to you most?
IL: I do not think I can call any of the images a ‘favorite’. Each image in the series speaks very personally to me. There are self-portraits, family snaps, and some of places and people I wish I could forget. The reasoning behind the images brings me pain, but the effect they have on me is a sense of empowerment, and strength to move on.
F-Stop: What are you working on now?
IL: I am currently lecturing photography in Oxford, UK, and have been waiting for inspiration to find me again. From moving to a new city, I have begun experimenting with the idea of the female Flâneur, and I have also been working on some projects out of my comfort zone such as documentary work based on Education.
I will be bringing out a book on my project ‘Scars’ soon. More information about this will be available via my website.
F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?
IL: The fantastic thing about working in education is the vast range of photography you are exposed to. I am constantly being inspired by artists, and students, and keep a document of work I find that particularly excites me. So far I am at over 200 photographers in this document and it is still growing!
I have a very eclectic taste in art. The work of all genres of photographers inspires me, particularly those that are very different than my own style. Some of my current favourites are:
Duane Michals, Francesca Woodman, Ryan Mcginley, Sophie Calle, Sally Mann (Proud Flesh series), Wilhelm von Gloeden, Anne Brigman, Nan Goldin, Stephen Gill, Victor Burgin, Taryn Simon, Jo Spence …
to name a few!
For more of India Lawton’s work: indialawton.