Gorgeous self-portraits capture one woman's innermost emotions
Some people find their creative voice in public which, thankfully, means that viewers have the opportunity to follow their journey of artistic discovery. Such is the case with Lulu Lovering. When Vermont-based photographer Lulu began taking photographs, she explored an intensely shy and deeply developed internal emotional world. As she has grown in her photography, she’s become more confident and more empowered, and her work reflects that shift. The photographs are, quite simply, gorgeous.
We spoke with the fantastically generous, spirited and self-aware Lulu about how her emotional experiences and the female emotional interior have influenced her work. This is what she had to say.
HelloGiggles (HG): Previously, you’ve spoken about how shyness influences your work. Is that still an integral aspect of your art, or has it shifted?
Lulu Lovering (LL): When I first began photography I was struggling quite a lot with feeling incredibly shy. I loved everyone around me so much and was so happy meeting new people and being in all kinds of social situations but I really was having a hard time feeling like I knew how to best express myself and verbalize my thoughts.
When I started taking self-portraits I felt like I finally had found the perfect outlet to express all of my emotions without the struggle of how best to translate them into words. But as I’ve grown more in photography and I hope also as a person, I’ve found myself addressing all kinds of new things in my photographs; especially themes like bravery and freedom. I definitely feel as if I’ve begun to shift away from aspects of self-expression such as anxiety or fear and have transitioned more into creating art that echoes the way I’ve begun feel recently, which is a much stronger individual.
I feel more confident now expressing myself in many different ways. My shyness and introversion were the best stepping-stones imaginable into such a big world once I began working through them with self-portraiture. Because I felt so quiet and introspective I spent wonderful periods of time on my own outdoors in Vermont taking photos. But I think that now, largely thanks to the kindest response of those who have followed me over the years, I feel much more empowered and free to explore a wider range of expressions both in photography and in my life as a whole.
HG: As a viewer, I sense a real emotional density to your photographs. When you view them, do you have that sense, too?
LL: When I began taking photographs I knew right away that what was really captivating to me was to create emotionally rich imagery. Ever since I was little, I felt that my world was entirely infused by imagination and feelings, and I knew that was what I hoped to capture and express once I began channeling it all through art.
Whenever I take a photograph, I almost always try to create a certain poignancy through creating an empathetic image that I hope the viewer will connect with in their own life. Whenever I select a final image from a photo shoot I try to select the one that I think most powerfully expresses an emotion or range of emotions such as longing, wonder or joy. That way, when I look back on my work and view the final images, I feel such a sense of happiness that I was able to tell a little story contained in a single shot.
HG: The natural environment seems to be almost a second entity in your self-portraits, almost contexualizing you. As the artist, do you feel that is true? If so, was it intentional?
LL: Ever since I was very small, the natural world has felt most like home to me. Everything about it enchants me and whenever I have free time I spend it wandering far afield outdoors.
Plants and animals have always felt like such an integral part of who I am and so when I’m shooting I always try to incorporate natural elements that might reflect my own internal world. And when I have a specific emotion or element that I want to express I intentionally scout out a place that I hope will best compliment what I’m hoping to share!
HG: With its roots in shyness and solitude, the connectivity your work has generated must seem pretty interesting. How have you responded to that, and what do you think it means?
LL: I’m so completely delighted in the connectivity my work has led to so far! It really feeds my passion for creating this kind of imagery, and nothing makes me happier than knowing that people relate to the portraits and that they’re connecting with and relating personally to them. As much as the self-portraits and other portraits are for myself, to work through my own thoughts and feelings, they’re for the viewer as well.
My greatest hope is to be able to evoke deep feelings in whomever is viewing the pieces and for them to connect and translate those feelings into their own life stories and emotional interiors. I really think sometimes that the best feeling in the world is when you meet someone or read or see something and there’s a little moment of ‘Oh me too!! I know that!’ That sense of recognition is so powerful and I love to be able to work within the knowledge that everyone in the world experiences these core emotions of love, and loss and longing and that I’m just one of the many voices speaking to those truths.
HG: Your work seems distinctly feminine. Is the feminine emotional interior something you consider a primary theme in your work? If so, could you talk about what that means to you?
LL: I definitely feel as if the feminine emotional interior is one of the most prevalent themes that I work within. I’ve always been keenly aware that women have such vast hearts and minds, possible of so many feelings and emotions all at once. Sometimes I feel as if there aren’t even adjectives for what I feel and so I love exploring everything that is possible for me to experience and then turning it into imagery to express beyond what language can share.
We most often associate femininity with a certain tenderness and vulnerability and so even when I’m creating imagery with male models, I feel that I can’t help but express that softness because it’s such an integral part of who I am.
I also love creating positive imagery that really seeks to be uplifting, especially in the feminine arena as I’m keenly aware even for my own self that it’s so easy to fall into insecurities and anxieties about oneself. I can’t help but feel that women especially connect with elements like flowers or water or air in such a unique way and I love to incorporate those connections into portraiture.
So often imagery of women is quite manipulated and Photoshopped and I really wanted to share something different, which is that part of the joy of being a girl is a strong sense of naturalness and genuine beauty. I wanted to take very free-flowing, incautious imagery of women that express the lovely rawness and depth of their emotional interior worlds, and I hope so much I’ve been able to capture even a little of that!