Interview by Mia Kingsley
Laurence Philomène is 20, she lives in Montreal, Canada. She’s had every colour of hair under the sun and owns two little birds. She also takes photos. Good photos. She documents her relationships, takes nudes and when she gets bored of photographing girls she projects femininity onto boys by putting them in dresses. She also clearly has an obsession with pink, and whilst on a trip to Cuba she captured every shade of the colour she could spy resulting in a really impressive series of photographs. We talk about how important it is for her to have a level of intimacy with her subjects, that particular passion for pink and that her dream photo shoot would be in her bed. Meet Laurence Philomène…
So when did you start taking photos?
I got my first camera when I was five years old and took photos on and off from then on – but I started thinking about photography more conceptually and being seriously interested in it around age 13 to 14 when I started photographing Blythe dolls.
What does photography mean to you?
I think photography means something different for me depending on where I am in my life – when I was a teenager it was an escape for me, I would come home from school and create scenarios that I would photograph. Nowadays I’m more comfortable in my own skin and life so I am more focused on documenting what is already there.
What is it that makes you want to pick up your camera and take a photo?
I can’t say, I’ve always been attracted to images for as far as I can remember, so I can’t imagine my life without photography! Sometimes I’m bored and just need to keep my hands busy, other times I have true desire to create.
What are you drawn to, what inspires you?
I think I inspire myself. I try to stay away from other influences and just show the world the way I see it. I like the contrast between femininity and masculinity. I like the colour pink but with an edginess to it. I love my birds. I’d say those are my main sources of inspiration.
Which photographers do you admire?
So many!! A favourite of mine is Juergen Teller – I love the way he works, his process, also Bettina Rheims – I love her portrait work.
Can you remember the first piece of work you were proud of?
I think the first image I was proud of was a picture of my friend Fanny wrapped in red paper garland in a red room. The colours came out really nice with no editing, it was kind of a fluke for me at the time and I got really good feedback on it instantly. I think the work I do now is a lot softer though.
One of your projects is about your obsession with the colour pink, tell us about it…
I’ve just started this series on every pink thing I own. Last year I went to Cuba and shot a bunch of pink things I saw on the streets there, and I wanted to make sort of a continued version of that series but more reflective of my personal life. I haven’t had much time to shoot it yet though but hopefully I will soon!
I’ve noticed hair is present in a lot of your work, do you feel it is a symbolic part of your work?
I think so yes. I’ve felt very connected to my hair since I was a child. I’ve had a ton of different hair colors since my childhood; blonde, red, orange, black, brown, blue…. right now it’s gray and I finally feel like I can let go of it. The other day I had an accident with a hairbrush and had to shave off a bunch of my hair, I thought I would panic but it actually felt nice, and I realized I didn’t really care about it anymore (at least not in the same way – I am not my hair). Now I have a bald spot and I look kind of silly. I think when I had blue hair I made it a big part of who I was, so I photographed it a lot.
Some of your projects are quite imitate, documenting your partner, exploring the femininity in the male gender, nude self portraits, do you feel it is important to have a level of intimacy in portrait photography?
Yes – I don’t really see an interest in taking someone’s portrait unless they show a bit of vulnerability in it. I think it’s interesting that a lot of people view my work as sexual/sensual in that way, I don’t see it that way at all, to me it’s just what comes naturally. I find that I am not a very sexual being, which is why I think I take a lot of naked pictures, in the end all I see in it is the beauty and uniqueness of every person I photograph.
Tell us about the project about boys and femininity…
I took pictures of girls my entire life and then at some point last year I got bored of it and decided I should take pictures of boys for a change – but I have zero interest in masculinity and what it represents so the logical choice for me was to show boys in a feminine manner. I love the awkwardness that comes through in those pictures. I don’t see it as vulnerable or fragile or any of those words that are often associated with femininity – I just think they are beautiful and awkward and perfect.
How would you describe your current style?
My current photo style is lazy-documentary or ~hard and soft. Or pink. My personal style would be best described as lazy femme/12 year old girl.
Do you feel your style has changed since you first started out?
I used to take much more dreamy pictures (I still do but less in my personal work). I would have a photoshoot and get one good picture out of that and post it on flickr. Now I find that I document my life a lot more, and then I also have personal work which is more structured (like series, or editorials, as opposed to just one picture).
Who where, what and when would make your dream photo shoot?
My bed right now – I’m so sleepy!!! I think I’d like to do something with some kind of giant dollhouse. Or a room filled with dollhouses with lots of cakes. Right now all I can picture is my bed. Pink buildings.
Whats next for you Laurence? Any exciting projects to look forward to?
Right now I’m talking to Ramaa Mosley about an agency she is starting for young directors so hopefully something comes out of that! I am also shooting a lookbook for Say Home Club in the next few weeks, which I’m looking forward to. I’ve got my intimates series that I’m working on and should start posting pictures of soon on my blog (laurencephilomene-photo.tumblr.com), and a bunch of other series in the works. Other than that this is my last semester of college, after which I’ll be working 100% as a photographer if things go well!!
Thank you so much Laurence! We hope your future is bright and pink!! If you too have a passion for pink, or want to see more of Laurence’s Cuba series check out her links below 🙂
And you can buy some of her prints on Etsy too! Click here.
For my next interview I will be talking to Sasha Cresdee, who knits, embroiders and makes amazing collages but until then for more ‘Mia Meets…’ or more Mia Kingsley: