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Lena Aires

Interview, 10/2023

Hi Lena, thank you for finding some time to make our interview. How are you doing lately? could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a film photographer from the UK. I grew up in a small town in North Wales, my dad is Russian and my mum was Welsh. I moved down to London for university and worked there after my studies for several years before coming back up to Wales in 2017. Around this time is when I started to pursue photography more seriously.

How did you discover photography? when and why did you start shooting in film? do you control the process from beginning to the end?

I’ve had a film camera since I was 14 but I only really started to shoot regulary a few years ago when I moved back home. The landscape here has always made me want to take photos, especially the coastline and the wild horses. Over time I started taking self portraits and portraits of other people and through this process photography slowly started to weave its way into my life. With regards to the process my lab develops and scans my film. I don’t really edit my photos, it’s something I should learn how to do at some point but for now I just crop/censor for instagram.

What is your role in southsun film lab? what do you love the most about working in a film lab?

I’m the lab manager so my role involves a lot of things. I get stuck in with all the processes that the lab needs to run smoothly day to day. What I love most about working at Southsun is learning about the whole process of film — how it transforms from a little canister into beautiful images at the end. Also I feel so lucky to be part of a business with such a good vision and to be part of a team of people who have such passion and diligence when it comes to working with people’s film.

Which are the moments throughout your life that have marked you (such as childhood, the place where you grew up…) to shape your style? or, on the contrary, has it been a very natural path that has led you to this point?

I think all my experiences have shaped who I am and ultimately led me to this point and what I create, but yes I would say the place where I grew up definitely led me to pursue photography more seriously. Not only because the nature here is so beautiful but also because when I moved back here, for the first time in a while I had the space, time and flexibility to shoot more (I lived and worked full time in London for years before). That really allowed me to be creative and it feels almost inevitable that I would delve deeper into photography. Instagram has also played a huge part in my journey with film, finding artists that inspire me, feeling part of the community and collaborating with people from all over the world — it has and continues to be such an important and positive contribution to the process.

What does photography mean to you? do you feel it’s a way to express yourself that would be harder otherwise?

Photography is my attempt at expressing who I am, my vision of the world and at turning it into something tangible and meaningful. It’s a big part of my life and I can’t imagine what I would do without it. It constantly motivates me to get up and make something good and I’m always trying to get better at it. I think that really is a blessing to have something in your life that you’re obsessed with, in a good way, and that you can envisage doing for the rest of your life.

You have a lot of self-portraits, do you feel confidence being the star of the photograph? what do you enjoy the most of this process?

I think it’s a natural progression for a lot of photographers to turn the camera towards themselves — being able to experiment with your ideas at your own will and pace. But then it becomes much more than that and making self portraits takes on new meaning the deeper you delve into it. You start to tell a story of life as you experience it, a very personal narrative. I don’t feel confidence necessarily from taking photos of myself but I do feel a stronger self-identity, something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Just the process of making something, even if the photos don’t turn out how I planned, always feels good.

Where do you get your inspiration from? is there any artist or photographer that particularly inspires you? which photographer would you like us to interview?

Whenever I see an artist making good work I feel inspired and it spurs me on to get more intensity and meaning in my photos. Whether they be film directors, musicians, photographers, writers. I think you should interview the photographer Adam Newsham. He has a real passion for film photography.

Could you take one of your photographs and tell us the story behind that?

Sure. Last month I found some old 35mm Jessops film in a junk shop for £2 a roll. It expired in 2008 so I didn’t have high expectations. It was in my fridge for a few weeks before I finally got round to shooting it. I thought I would experiment and for the first time I shot a whole roll just nudes, quite simple forms, and overexposed a stop . When I had the scans back from the lab I couldn’t believe how nice the results were for such long expired film! I got up super early the next day hoping and praying the rest of rolls were still in the display cabinet in the junk shop. They were! so I bought all ten of them and still have a few left in the fridge for special occasions. I would go as far to say that it’s the best film I’ve ever shot with.

And finally, would you like to tell us about future projects or promote anything?

I am running my next film photography workshop with Chantal Convertini (@paeulini) in Portugal in October. Tickets will be up for sale very soon, check my instagram (@love.errs) and my website (https://www.lenaaires.com/) for more details. In November I will be exhibiting one of my photos at Imagenation, Paris. You can find all the details here: https://www.imagenationparis.com/ethereal You can also buy fine art prints of my work from my print shop at Southsun here: https://southsun.co/collections/lena-jeanne

We’d love to bring you a miramono print version. It is not yet possible. Meanwhile...

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