Lily Zoumpouli

Discolouration / Introducing Selenophilia


Can you tell us a little about your journey with photography, how you started, what inspired you and where you are now?

I started taking photographs when I turned fourteen. I decided to take part in a school competition for young photographers, I collaborated with a friend, we ended up winning second place. I guess that was the first thing that motivated me to keep experimenting with this medium. The following year (2011) I started a three year series of seminars with a photographic group titled “Stereosis” in Thessaloniki, Greece. This is the place that changed everything for me. I got introduced into the world of photography, I found artists that really inspired me to discover my own personal style such as Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann, Nan Goldin, Anders Petersen, Jacob Aue Sobol, Michael Ackerman, Antoine D’Agata and many others.

After the first series of seminars I decided to take another with Greek photographer Stratos Kalafatis who became my mentor and a very good friend. Following this I had workshops with two of my role models, a five-day workshop with Jacob Aue Sobol and later a three-day workshop with Anders Petersen. Today, I am in my final year at Wimbledon University UAL, finishing a BA in Fine Arts, where I have started experimenting with making short videos.

From childhood, I have always been interested in creating things. I can’t count the amount of times I got yelled at by my parents for drawing on the walls and furniture of our house. For me it wasn’t the medium that mattered, but the importance and the need to express emotions and thoughts through creative processes. Whether that was drawing, photography, video or writing. I always had the feeling of being obligated to obey someone else’s rules, that my freedom would always be limited by certain written or unwritten laws and authorities.

I believe that art is the closest thing we have to freedom, this is still not entirely true for most places in the world. By creating something you instantly feel a balance between you, the world and the universe, you gain inspiration from it, then you give something back in return. Art is meant to be shared with people regardless of culture or language. It gives you the ability to communicate a message globally.

By following my instincts I realised what interested me the most was depicting human relations regarding how people have a connection with their surroundings, emotions and themselves, as well as the psychological impact on social, political commentary and statements.

At the moment I am working on an ongoing project, photographing moments in my life, environments, friends and family. I am recording experiences I gain through living life and getting to know people that fill me with inspiration through their characters and personal stories to gain a better insight into what it means to be a human living in the modern world. Over the past four years I have been living in London, so a part of the project is the double life I share between London and Greece.

How would you describe your photographic approach and could you elaborate on how you work with your subjects?

My photographic approach can be described in many different ways, such as personal, biographical, documentary, narrative, or diary, but the truth is I prefer not to label it, I don’t want to limit the possibilities or affects that this work can have on the viewer.

I photograph people, spaces and objects I share a connection with. If someone or something seems intriguing to me I just go for it, as if it was meant for me to find her, him or it along the way. Maybe I have known the people and spaces all my life, maybe only a few days but in any case, time doesn’t affect the impact that someone or something can have on you.

The way I go about this is I am genuinely chilled and comfortable with the people I feel close to. I believe this is something I “transfer” to them so they feel the same way about me. I need to spend sometime getting to know them better before I try to photograph them. My work can be described as having a self-documentary approach. I am intrigued by ugliness that entails great beauty within. Therefore the images I produce encompass a raw subject while preserving an aesthetic sense. This approach helped me understand that my strength lies in my ability to interact with people, and showed me how to use that interaction as the main inspiration for my work.

Most of the time I take photographs of something that is happening or if something “catches” my eye I may decide to use it and take either a self-portrait or photograph of a friend. An example being, a friend and I might be taking a walk and I see an interesting spot or a dead butterfly so I’ll decide on that moment if I want to photograph this and ask my friend to be included in the picture. My personal motto is that if you don’t live an interesting life and don’t surround yourself with interesting characters that fill you with a greater insight on matters of life or death, then you won’t have interesting work. For me making art is not a choice it’s something that if you “have it in you” you simply need to do it. My work is linked with the way I live my life, that is what motivates me to try my best in both. The images I take wouldn’t exist if I didn’t decide to go about it my own way, living life doing right by me

How did you get involved with Atonal Collective? How does working alongside these photographers aid your photographic practice?

Atonal Photography Collective invited me to be part of their group after Igor Pisuk, one of the members of the Collective saw my work via Facebook and Instagram. I read an article about his work that I loved, so I started “following” him. I guess we both felt there was something in common regarding the approach we use to tell a personal story through photography. After consulting the group they asked me if I wanted to become a member of their collective which I obviously was very thrilled about, considering I admire their works. We communicate mostly through Facebook and Skype. It wasn’t until we travelled to Rome to take part in our first group exhibition at Interzone Gallery that we all met for the first time in person, I believe we felt a familiarity, as though we had already met each other before. Understanding someone’s work gives you a greater insight into their personality, so none of them felt like strangers. Working on a group exhibition with these particular people was surprisingly easy. We all shared the same vision, we collaborated in order to serve the purpose of sharing a project that communicated a message about relations.

Your photographic style is eclectic and has characteristics akin to memory (degrading and corrupting over time). How did your photographic practice evolve in this method? Could you explain your process?

The process I use begins with taking my camera with me everywhere I go. I follow mainly my instinct and I am always quite impulsive. I take pictures when I see something I feel that I have to record. I then spend a fair amount of time editing using Photoshop, manipulating colours, light and contrast. The way I process an image depends on what feeling each image brings out in me. The editing serves the purpose of the content, the subject of interest displayed on the photograph. Memory plays a significant role, as these photographs are moments taken from my personal life. My aim is to create an emotional impact on the viewer, who has no personal relationship with the people depicted in the work. My focus is turning the private into public, in such a way that the pictures gain a better understanding by allowing the audience space to either relate to the work or be drawn in by it. Seeing this work as a window to something they haven’t experienced themselves but allows them to understand it.

Could you describe your most memorable photographic experience, and could you tell us a little bit about how it came to be?

There are so many experiences to choose from, it is difficult for me to pick just one, considering that they all have great emotional value. There is a story behind each photograph I have taken. There are many times I find myself in conflict as to whether it would be better or not to reveal these (sometimes) intimate stories. Would they give the work a greater value or take away from it? Sometimes I photograph something because I want to depict that present moment, other times I see something that awakens a memory that feels important enough to save it from the passing of time.

Some of the photographic experiences I enjoy sharing are the ones of the three boys in the bathtub which has a similar story as the one with the ‘naked boy and the deer’. The photographs are from moments when we would just decide to be freely naked around each other while spending time together. The bathtub image was taken in my house where they used to sleep over quite often when we were about fifteen years old. In that picture the boys are all showering together, getting ready to go out to a party. The picture with the boy and the deer shows one of my friends wearing a plastic bag on his head running around naked outside a country house at the same time that the deer were mating in front of us. I remember he was just fully enjoying himself being free of the need to wear clothes around other people. It took quite a while to get him back into his clothes again. These are memories I believe are worth sharing because of the multiple messages they carry.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on an ongoing project I started many years ago. I’m also working on editing pictures taken on trips during my last few summers travelling around Europe - such as the Greek Islands Samothraki, Serifos, Amorgos, Sifnos, Denmark and Prague. However, my most recent project is of my life in London over the past few years. This project includes landscapes but mostly portraits of my friends who live and spend time with me. As well as making videos in a documentary approach about the people I photograph, their stories and thoughts. What thrills me most about London are the opportunities you get to meet people from different cultures. What interests me is depicting how we are all so unique but at the same time so similar as human beings coming from different places in the world. By documenting my closest friends and my personal experiences with them is the main core of my latest work.