Escapism Through a Viewfinder with Laura Ward

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We talked to UK-based photographer Laura Ward about her experiences of shooting with film and what inspires her to create such calming and tranquil photographs amongst the chaos of everyday life.

© Laura Ward Taken on the LC-A+

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started shooting with film?

I started shooting with film when I was 15, back in the mid-90s. My dad gave me a Pentax camera thinking I might like it. I was a bit of an introvert into music and writing. Using cameras and exploring places by myself seemed to coincide. I've always lived in cities and gravitated towards quiet little pockets. I can't remember when I moved towards plastic and lo-fi cameras but I used to mess around with manual lenses trying to get a softer aesthetic. I rubbed vaseline into lenses and wrapped them in cling film. It was back in the early 2000s that I came across Lomography by following people on Flickr who were shooting with film. Back then you didn't necessarily know what each camera was capable of so I bought a Diana F and a Holga on a whim followed by an ActionSampler and a Vivitar. It was trial and error. I've collected and used quite a few plastic cameras over the last 10 years, many of which I use until they break. Very few of mine don't have sellotape all over them. Digital work has long been a drain on my time. You create a lot of frames which require time to sort through, store and manage. There's a different kind of sensory administration with film.

© Laura Ward Taken on the Diana F+

What inspires you to create these photos?

I've lived and worked in London for almost 20 years but my photos don't focus on that central, frenetic buzz of the city. I live here because I love the freedom of large places, but I’ve never enjoyed the pace. I look for the peace and the small things, and often in bad weather. Using film slows you down and allows you to consider each frame. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about a frame, but I know that I'll be taking just one.

I've spent a lot of the last 5 years in hospitals which gave me quite a bit of time to reconnect with my process and inspiration. I was tangled up in things I couldn't control and grateful for knowing I always had escapism through a viewfinder. Since then I've been taking more pictures of glasshouses, faceless portraits and images of plastics wrapped up with nature.

Do you have a favourite film or camera and why?

I go back and forth between a few cameras. It really depends on where I'm going, the season and the mood I'm in. A few winters ago I was using a lot of expired films and doing some pinhole. I've been using a lot of cinefilm lately but if I don't have that I tend to use anything 400 ISO when I can get it. Now that it's winter I'll be using 800 ISO a bit more. I honestly don’t have a favourite.

© Laura Ward

When do you work best?

I always have a small film camera in my backpack just in case I see something. I tend to work best when I have some time to focus on pictures which isn't easy at the moment as I have two small daughters. Over the past year, I've had some fun collaborations and assignments, doing work for Abbey Road Studios and Oh Comely magazine. For both of those projects, I was restricted to one camera and low light conditions. Sometimes the pressure helps but I always end up cursing for putting myself in those situations. A brief for one of my commissions said ‘do your messy thing’. I can definitely do that.

Where do you see your work progressing in the future?

I have 3 or 4 series of images which are ongoing. I had a bit of a crap life moment last month which really put a spanner in a project but I’m trying to look at it as a documentary. My faceless portraits series is something I want to progress. I have daughters whose faces you will never see in a photograph. I was interested in hiding and protecting identity before they came along. A lot of emotion can be projected without seeing facial expressions.

© Laura Ward

Anything coming up which we should know about?

I was super busy last year with exhibitions, so I took a break this year to focus on personal things. I’m recalibrating at the moment and taking my time before I crack on again. I’m looking forward to the spring and putting something out there again.


Thank you, Laura for you time! You could visit her website. to view more of her work.

2020-01-15

Mentioned Product

Lomography Diana F+

Lomography Diana F+

Take timeless and dramatic photos on 120 film with the Diana F+. Create stunning soft-focused images and customize it with sweet lenses or even an instant back for additional effects and flexibility.

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