May 31, 2013

Spotlight: Laurence Philomène

An interview with our favorite blue haired photographer.

Laurence Philomène is a name that many active Tumblr users will recognize. She is 19-years-old, has blue hair, and lives in Montreal, Canada. But more importantly – she is the girl behind countless photographs adorned with a particular shade of bubblegum pink and electric blue, glitter and crowns, cotton candy and hair. Laurence plays with contrast and concepts like a little kid might be tempted to play with fire. She takes risks, refuses to censor, and produces images that give us no choice but to say "wow." My favorite work of hers might be her series "Feminine Identities," where she begs us to question what gender really is. Where does it come from? How do we define femininity and masculinity? It is these questions embedded and carefully woven into each of her photographs that make them very powerful indeed. We're thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak with Laurence about traveling, feminism, and her dream photo adventure:

THE LE SIGH: When did you first fall in love with photography?

Laurence Philomène: I've always been fascinated with taking pictures for as far as I can remember when I was a kid. I got more seriously interested in it when I was 14 and started taking pictures of the Blythe dolls I collected and posted these pictures online. Photography became sort of an escape for me in high school so I guess that's when I got more invested in it. Flickr was also a big thing at the time and that really gave me a sense of "community" which was nice because I felt really alienated from most people I knew in school at the time.

TLS: You're based in Montreal. Do you take most of your photographs there or do you travel?

LP: Most of my pictures are taken in or around my apartment here in Montreal. Some of my older photographs were taken around my childhood friend's house in Saint-Romain which is a small village three hours away from the city. I also went to Cuba this winter on a photo journalism trip so I did take some pictures there as well.

TLS: The first thing I noticed about your work was your use and contrast of pink and blue. Can you tell us about what these colors symbolize?

LP: I guess the whole pink and blue thing is just something that happened organically. I'm just attracted to those colors. My girlfriend told me that the combination of pink and blue is proven to be one of the most relaxing color combinations though! She's really into color theory. I'm really into low-contrast colors in my photographs which is actually a bummer at times because it's really hard to print properly, especially with CMYK/magazine printers. Oh well.

TLS: I read in another interview that more and more you find yourself having a feminist stance in your art. How do you think feminism has impacted your life and work?

LP: It's something that's naturally happened in my work over the years. I'm more and more interested in exploring concepts relating to girlhood, gender identity, etc. I've been reading a lot about it, not just feminist theory, but I'm also trying to educate myself in terms of gay/trans*/queer history to try and piece together my own identity vs. the experience of others and also try to understand and identify the presence of oppression in our society. I don't know. I'm terrible with words (hence why I take pictures to express myself) so I hope this is making sense. I also have to take into account the fact that I live in a very privileged bubble being a white cis girl and having my parents support my girlfriend and I, to a certain extent, which allows us to live together and work on our art and sometimes when we stay in for a while I forget that the whole world isn't this great body positive, sex positive, respectful, tender, caring life I get to live, you know? I think my girlfriend and I inspire each other a lot art-wise too so that also explains the feminist shift in my work over the past year or so.

TLS: The Coven is one of our all-time favorite feminist art collectives and you're an active member. Does the group have any big plans for the future? 

LP: Yup. We just printed the second batch of our collective zine, and we're slowly trying to put together our first group show. We're currently waiting a response from a couple of galleries we contacted. We're also looking at spaces we could rent out in Montreal so hopefully it's going to happen sometime around the end of the summer. We might have an Indiegogo campaign set up eventually as well to help us with the financial aspect of putting together a show, once it's all a bit more set in stone. At the moment, most of the members just finished their semesters at school so a lot of us are taking a little break art-wise after working all winter but hopefully we'll have lots of new stuff coming up soon.

TLS: Who is your biggest inspiration? 

LP: Photography-wise I don't have any artist that I'm super obsessed with at the moment (other than Wolfgang Tillmans, who I always love and refer back to).  It's hard for me to say though I definitely admire Susan Sontag. Someone should make a Susan Sontag biopic – I'd watch that! They should also make a Patti Smith biopic and have Patti Smith play herself. I guess that's more like a documentary than a biopic. Never mind!

TLS: Do you have a favorite photograph that you've taken? 

LP: It kind of changes daily right now I'm really into this one (here) because my teachers really disliked it and it has no purpose other than to document the fact that I spent two entire packs of gum in the studio trying to take a picture that never – instead this is the picture I ended up taking.

TLS: If you could wake up tomorrow in another country for a photo adventure where would it be?

LP: Japan!! Basically my dream in life is that eventually I'll be able to afford spending at least a month in Tokyo.

For more on Laurence Philomène view her portfolio.

Written by Diana Cirullo