Irisi Magazine - LILLI WATERS

Irisi Magazine

An interview with
Melbourne-based photographic artist and filmmaker Lilli Waters
by Mairead Warren

One dark wintry day in Sydney, whilst aimlessly browsing on my instagram feed, I discovered Lilli’s work. Her provocative and inspiring image series ‘Plastic Fish’ instantly cut through to me, even amidst the flurry of images on my visually overloaded device.

Juxtaposing the world of selfies and filtered life porn, the images were arresting. They made me consider the tough and complicated discourse surrounding contemporary representations of beauty.

As a millennial I am greatly exposed to the rise of digital media and the control it allows us in styling and creating a personal image, which involves packaging the stories of our life into neat little parcels edited perfectly to please. It has become a fierce engine of self love, that can venture into toxic self loathing, and ultimately leads so many people to the conclusion – what or who am I doing this for?

The depths and shallows in Lilli’s work can stimulate this discussion, or they can bedazzle you with illusion and allure. Lilli says of the works ‘At first glance these images may appear to be reminiscent of still-life paintings – colourful and vibrant – but hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) are manmade materials like plastic. Plastic has found its way into every corner of our planet, it's even in our water. The plastic in these works itself has a beauty, but inherent in its presence is a darker, more destructive side.’

The work also makes comment on the state of our environment, Lilli shared with me that ‘The themes are somewhat subtle but I feel like most people sensed that the works were making a comment on the state of our current environment when they looked a bit closer.’

 

On the core message of the work and what the artist wanted it to reflect about society in 2017, Lilli shared ‘We live in a time where things aren’t made to last, and consumerism is the driving force behind our society. Objects we buy need to break regularly and be replaced for the system to keep functioning.’

Further to exploring the interesting and contemporary topics in the work, they are technical masterpieces and I decided to delve into understanding the process and inspiration behind the series. I asked Lilli the questions below:

How did you choose the subject matter for your photographic series Plastic Fish?
I'm a big lover of water and am fascinated with the beauty and complexity of plants, so it seemed like the next step for me was to attempt making a body of work exploring and combining these elements.

Where did the inspiration for your imagery come from?
This series came from a thought of “could I photograph flowers underwater?" This idea then merged with my fascination with the beauty and fragility of underwater creatures. There were many visits to markets and aquariums to find inspiration.

How did you use light and dark to tell a story in the series? 
I have always used a lot of darkness in my images, though this series embraces a more vivid colour, which often sits amongst dark shadows. The colours are sometimes almost fluorescent and not quite natural, vibrant and fantastical yet somehow not at ease.  

Was your commercial work an influence on how you approached Plastic Fish?
Yes. Usually I utilise natural light and focus on female subjects for my work, but I have found a new fascination with working in the studio using controlled lighting & being able to slow down the photo making process. Plastic Fish was photographed in this way and required quite an elaborate setup.

Plastic Fish is now out in the public domain. Has this altered the way you think or feel about the work?
When these works emerged, they were not at all what I had pictured in my mind throughout the preparation. Now that they are hanging in people's homes and on gallery walls, I'm glad that I took the plunge and delved into such colourful & vibrant works. Experimenting for me is almost always going to lead to mixed feelings about the work.

Is the series complete?
Yes, it was exhibited in a two week solo show at Junior Space Gallery in September. There were four works printed quite large, the largest I have printed for a show.

What are the main things that you’ve learnt about your craft through the process of Plastic Fish?
Shooting underwater involves a lot of challenges and several trips to Bunnings. I learnt that it is in fact possible to eventually get the shot with fish that swim really fast!

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Plastic Fish is currently on show at The Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery in exhibition STILL: National Still Life Award 2017.

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Hunter & Folk - Lilli Waters

Art Talk // Lilli Waters

by Hande Renshaw

Melbourne-based award winning photographic artist and filmmaker Lilli Waters' photographs can easily be mistaken for paintings. Lilli's love for the Renaissance era and her muse Bill Henson, is evident in her photography, which captures layers of colour, shadow and beautiful depth. We sat down with Lilli to find out about her photographic journey and why nature's elusive beauty is such a major inspiration in her work.

Hi Lilli, tell us about when your love for photography was first sparked? Funnily enough, when I walked out of a really bad job in 2011 and couldn't find any work for six months, I took advantage of the spare hours I had on my hands and photographed my first series, Intrinsic Storms. I tied my old medium format film camera to a piece of timber, placed it over the top of a mezzanine in an old factory I was living in at the time, threaded some wire through some tubing to make an extended cable release, lay down on the concrete floor and layered the film scans with images I'd taken of stormy skies together in Photoshop. It was first time I had really allowed myself to play creatively with photo-making since studying photography nine years earlier. 

Do you have a muse? Music has always been my main muse for creating. I was a musician for fourteen years, but I don't play anymore. I honestly can't picture my world without it, and am always listening to a specific artist throughout the process of creating a body of work. This helps to guide me and can really influence the mood of the work.

I've also greatly admired the work of photographer Bill Henson. The mysterious and powerful themes he portrays around youth and nature have always drawn me in, and his use of blacks, dark colours and shadowing remind me of some romantic but unsettling paintings from the Renaissance, which I so love. 

Your photos are so wonderfully moody and evocative, how do you achieve this unique quality? Oh thank you, that's very kind of you to say! My aim is to recreate a fantastical scene inside the little frame of my camera. I often wait until the last flicker of dying light and then work quickly, as it doesn't seem to want to play for too long, leaving me a window of ten minutes or so until it's too dark for my camera to focus. It's often a lot of impatiently waiting for a mad rush. I’m definitely less of a technician and more someone who is driven by a spontaneous stream of light or a gust of wind, which tells me a storm is coming.

Tell us about your creative process - do you work intuitively or is it planned? The creative process for me comes in stages; ideas that are mulled over a glass of wine, listening to a favourite album, finding a time and a place, and the rest seems to sort itself out. My work is sometimes planned but I also love to allow things to happen naturally. I feel like you can plan as much as you like, but in the end, the images will most likely never come out the way you had imagined in your head. Manipulation of the original image is a huge part of my process. Sometimes I pick elements from a series of images, layering them to create the final work, and, much like I imagine a painter might feel, at times it's hard to know when it's finished. 

What are you most passionate about? Nature. I was born on a commune in Wytaliba in NSW - there was no electricity, everyone grew their own produce on the land and the river was where people washed and swam. I now live in the city, but still constantly yearn to be out in the bush and close to the water. I can’t seem to get enough of nature’s elusive beauty and I feel most at home in her arms.

What are you loving at the moment? My pottery classes, the book The Body Keeps the Score - my current bible, making homemade kombucha, spring flowers on every corner in my neighbourhood and delving into old R.E.M albums.

What’s in store for you for the rest of this year? I'm very excited to be filmed for an episode of Art Bites on the ABC in November. I am also in the early stages of preparing for my next solo exhibition happening next year at Saint Cloche Gallery in Sydney. The plan at this stage is to create a body of work that follows on from my most recent Plastic Fish underwater series.

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The Opera Magazine Vol VI

After being featured in Volume III of this extraordinarily beautiful magazine, I am so amazingly humbled to have works from the series 'As the World Falls Down' featured in the newly released Vol. VI publication of 'The Opera Magazine for Classic & Contemporary Nude Photography' for 2017, printed in Germany & featuring so many incredibly talented photographers from all over the world.