Interview: Clare Lyons, Photographer
WITH phones that work as decent cameras and apps like Instagram adding filters and effects, is photography becoming an everyman’s profession? There are handfuls of young people in Ireland and abroad who hope to become the next it photographer and Clare Lyons is one of these talented individuals who has a big future ahead of her. Only 20 years old, Clare is still a student studying photography in the Institute of Art Design & Technology in Dublin. She has recently launched her new website where she states of dream of challenging the generally accepted ‘norms’ of the fashion photography genre and even fashion itself. She describes her work as ‘anti-fashion’, shooting exclusively on film and rejecting Photoshop and digital retouching of any kind.
When did you know that you wanted to become a photographer? What, or who, was it that inspired you to choose photography as a college course/career?
There was actually a very specific moment which I will probably never forget. You see, a long time ago, horses were my life and my main source of inspiration for pretty much everything. They were all I cared about. I worked in a stables during the summer of 2008 during which time I took the photograph which made me want to pursue photography. As for choosing it as a college course, it really seemed like the only choice for me, I hated school and academia. I knew I needed to do something creative.
How do you stay motivated to keep going in such a competitive field?
It’s really, really difficult. There are many days when I wonder why the hell I’m doing this because I will probably never ‘make it‘ and will never be able to make a living from photography but I just love it so much that I can’t really understand it. I don’t think there is anything keeping me going more than the fact that I love photography more than anything in the world. Making pictures makes me happier than even makes sense.
What are your thoughts on amateur photography? Do you think formal training (such as a degree/part time photography course) is the only way to become successful?
I actually don’t. In fact, I often wonder where I would be right now had I not made it into IADT. I definitely believe in that whole ‘if there’s a will there’s a way‘ thing but I do love my course. Through studying in IADT I’ve learned how to process and develop and print my own images in the darkroom which is something I would never be able to do otherwise and I also have full access to a professional photography studio and endless guidance from amazing tutors.
How would you describe your own work?
Oh god, I wouldn’t. I’ve always struggled desperately to settle into a certain style of work. I used to do an awful lot of self-portraiture but my more recent work sees me delve into the world of fashion photography on film with weird scanning methods and other weird stuff. I don’t have a style. I don’t think I can describe my work just yet.
What advice would you give for someone who is thinking about starting photography?
Don’t use Photoshop. You want to be a photographer? Your camera is your tool. If you spend more time in front of your computer than you do behind your camera, you are not a photographer,
You were heavily involved in organizing OBSERVE, your years end of term college exhibition. Tell me a little about your role and what was involved in that.
I was, yes! I ran the Facebook page for the exhibition which is something I thoroughly enjoyed, I’m a bit of a sucker for social media. It really just involved promoting the exhibition and giving each student a little feature on the page.
In your work ‘but you don’t even know my name‘ you addressed subjects such as online anonymity, ‘sexting’ and the differences between physical/non physical intimacy in the technology based world – what kind of issues were you consider? Tell me a bit about the work.
This particular work actually developed from a previous project which was about the posting of nude or heavily sexualised images of the self on websites such as Tumblr etc. Specifically focusing on themed days such as ‘Topless Tuesday’ when young people (women in particular) were encouraged to share their naked bodies online for the viewing pleasure of complete strangers. It got me thinking a lot about how the internet has affected our experience of the body and physical intimacy. I collected the imagery for “but you don’t even know my name” using Snapchat and I encouraged strangers to send me images of themselves. They were all from men and they were all of their penises. The project evolved into something that not only looks at sex on Snapchat but sex in general. Male dominance, the heavy influence of porn on young adults and their sexual education and knowledge, human psychology and how social networking has changed how we connect with each other on both an emotional and physical level in every single way imaginable.
You can read more about the project and view some of the imagery yourself here but it is STRICTLY 18+ and #NSFW as it contains sexually explicit language and vulgar nudity which some viewers may find offensive.
What kind of genre of photography do you see yourself going into?
I’ve been doing a lot of fashion and portraiture work lately and really enjoying it but right now, I don’t really know. I just like to take photographs and tell stories with my work, be it a fashion editorial or a collection of iPhone snapchat screenshots of penises, I kind of just want people to enjoy my work and maybe think a little about what I’m trying to say or show them. I really don’t know, I guess we’ll have to see!