Not every photographer is able to draw deep within and find meaning in their work. It's not necessary for everyone nor is it a requirement to capture beautiful photographs. But for others, it's a driving idea and in between the frames, magic happens and new doors open. Lena Jeanne is the type of photographer who puts meaning in the images she takes.
For her, there's a connection that you can establish from photographer to image to viewer. Her strong belief trickles down to her work and it's part of what makes her photographs so interesting. If you're looking for inspiration and a meaningful read today then this is it. Read on and find out how an inspired view on things can change the way you look at the world and photography as a whole.
Hi, Lena and welcome to the Magazine! What do you do and what got you started in photography?
I’m a film photographer from North Wales. I remember shooting with an old Nikkormat camera when I was 14. I had no idea how to use it and ended up shooting tons of photos on Bulb setting. At best, several shots came out looking like abstract paintings. Over the years, I’ve had a few film cameras and have always enjoyed film photography but I only really fell in love with it again when I moved back home to Wales a few years ago. Within a summer, I’d shot more film than I had done in years and before I knew it, I was shooting almost every day. Now I can’t imagine my life without photography.
Why pick photography as your medium?
I guess it all happened quite organically over the years. I started to really enjoy taking pictures and felt that I could express something with it. At the same time, I was feeling more connected to the things around me and photography was a way of expressing that and connecting me even more. So the two things grew together at the same time. Photography is my bridge into the imaginative world. It shows me things and teaches me things all the time. When I have my camera in my hand, it gets me in the zone, gives me a structure and a starting point to be creative.
I’ve often felt a bit outside of things and I wonder if I've gravitated towards photography partly because of this idea of hiding behind the lens and the safety and security in that. Having my camera with me is like having a constant companion. My mum was really good at photography, although she stopped doing it when she had children. I only realise now as an adult that she could have had something there. For as long as I can remember, my dad has taken his Canon film camera around with him and documented his travels and his time with me and my sister. So maybe it was written in the stars somewhere that I would find my way into it.
Why stay with film photography in this day and age?
Film and photography are one and the same thing for me as all I shoot is film. I had a digital camera a few years ago but I gradually stopped taking photos when I had it. I didn’t enjoy using it and something just didn’t connect for me. Film is so much more organic and feels more whole. I love the process and history of it and the fact you’re dealing with something tangible. I can’t really describe it, I just know it looks and feels better, so I don't think I would be shooting if it wasn't for film.
What inspires you to shoot?
My desire to create something that is good and true has some kind of beauty in it. Capturing something that is outside of myself but which ultimately connects me back to my true self. I love that feeling when you get your film back from the lab and you're looking at a photo that you've taken and it's like you weren't even there. Like you've captured some other place, some other person. I get this often with my self-portraits. It's like I'm photographing someone else. I’m always inspired by other artists, may they be photographers, writers or painters. I watched another Ross McElwee film recently and he inspired me so much. His constant curiosity about the world, his desire to capture it on film to learn more about himself and the meaning of life.
How would you describe your photography style?
Intimate portraiture and landscape? I don’t know, maybe the readers can help me decide that one. :)
We love how you use nature and the beauty of the human body in your shots. What's the story behind that choice of subjects?
Thank you. When I started to shoot more regularly, I just took pictures of what I loved and these things happened to be quite sensual, earthy things - bodies, flowers, nature, animals. They make me feel ‘at home’ and connect me more to life so naturally, I want to capture them on film. I like the idea of the strong archetypes – the masculine, the feminine, beauty, fragility.
Another thing we noticed is that you almost always use natural light in your work. Was this a particular style you were going for?
Natural light is the source of life and it’s also the fundamental of photography, so I think most photographers are drawn to it.
What is the message that you would like to get across with your photographs?
I guess I'd like my photographs to show some of the strong archetypes and a glimpse of the idea that everything in the natural world is in us humans too - that it’s one and the same thing, that the archetypes live in everything and everyone. I try constantly to tap into that for myself and hopefully show it in some way through my photos.
How are you doing during these crazy times? What has been keeping you busy?
I’ve been reading a lot about the cosmos, it’s become a bit of an obsession. I’ve also been shooting lots of film, making ginger beer, and helping out at my local lab Southsun.
What is the thing you miss most right now?
Freedom. Being able to move about freely where I live and shoot. Also making travel plans with friends.
Which do you think matters more - talent or skill?
Your talent is what you have naturally deep down but the skill is the thing that takes time and effort every day. A skill can be technical such as understanding your equipment and how to use it, but also philosophical too, like really understanding the meaning behind your work. Skill allows your talent to burst forth and flourish. You need both to make good work, so they come hand in hand.
What does a perfect day look like for Lena Jeanne?
Early morning get up (so hard for me) into nature to start the day right, and would involve lots of walking and exploring to expend some energy, lunch under the sun and an afternoon rest with some animals (horses or goats). Late afternoon we'd get in the car and go on a trip somewhere, anywhere interesting in good light, rolling into the evening we'd head out to the coast to build a fire, drink, philosophize and swim in the sea. This sounds so damn cliché but it is the perfect life isn’t it, outdoors under the open sky with good friends and a bag full of film.