While she was growing up in Chicago, IL, Laura Bates dreamed of a career in fashion. At the age of 18 she made it happen, when she moved to Los Angeles to be an intern and late an assistant for a fashion stylist. But after working on photo shoots, music videos, and red carpet appearances, she knew she wanted to expand her creative horizons. It was when she moved abroad to attend the University of Arts London College of Fashion that she discovered photography — instant analog photography, to be exact, which became her new dream.
How old were you when you got into photography?
My interest in photography began during high school, but I never took it seriously. I wanted to be a fashion stylist. That was my dream, and I imagined myself on music video sets so I moved to Los Angeles. As it turned out I found myself on some of the biggest music video sets at the time as an assistant stylist, but I realized I wanted something different. At 21, I moved to London to study fashion styling at the University of the Arts London. The course included both fashion styling and photography. This is when I fell in love with photography and started to take it more seriously.
When did you first shoot instant film?
I first heard about instant film as a more serious medium when I was studying at the university. I was experimenting with all types of photography. I loved working in studio with digital cameras, but I decided to experiment with Polaroid. I found that Polaroid photography was the best way to portray my aesthetic.
Who are the artists whose work inspires you?
Photographers Sarah Moon and Deborah Turbeville are the most inspirational to me. Their work is very dark, delicate and mysterious. Also Corinne Day for how intimate and personal her work is. One can tell she has a real connection with her model. I like to work in an intimate setting too and Polaroid photography allows me to do that. Rather than having a big production, I like to work with a small team in a more personal atmosphere. I can be a more soft-spoken and introverted person, so this way of working suits me. I’m also very inspired by the works of filmmaker Vera Chytilova.
What is your favorite time of day to shoot?
When I lived in London I preferred to shoot earlier in the day as it got dark a lot earlier than in the States. I loved the haziness London brought to my photos. Now that I am based in LA I shoot later in the day. And I almost always shoot with natural light.
Tell us about your process of preparing for a shoot.
I always create a mood board but I don’t create a specific storyboard. I feel that my work is more intuitive and I don’t like shoots to be too planned. I like spontaneity. Also I like to make the shoot a real collaboration. I don’t just think of the photo as mine, but also the stylist’s and the model’s and sometimes the make-up artist’s. We are all creating an image and I like everyone’s input. The images are often more unique when they include all types of perspectives.
Where did you grow up, and how does that still impact your work today?
Chicago is where I grew up and that’s where I first began creating shoots with just friends who I considered my muses. We were able to experiment and have fun with no pressure. I probably wouldn’t be shooting now if it weren’t for them. But my experiences in London especially have had an impact on my work today. London is so creative and I would be a completely different person if I had not lived there for awhile. It is a city that is so diverse, and I have been lucky to make friends from all over the world. From London, I was able to visit Tokyo, Mexico City and many places in Italy. I’ve created work in all of these cities, or at least drew inspiration, from them and I have London and the friends I made there to be thankful for that.
What do you like most about shooting with a Polaroid camera?
The magic of Polaroid is something I love. You never quite know what you’re going to get, and there is a nostalgia to the image. I love that the photo is tangible unlike digital photography. Polaroids just suit my aesthetic more than any other type of camera (and I’ve experimented extensively with many types). People are also more drawn to my Polaroid work. Polaroid cameras are compact so I’m able to move around a lot more and work in a more intimate setting as I mentioned before.
What drew you to fashion photography in the first place?
I always wanted to create fashion images, but again, I initially thought that would be through fashion styling. It was during my studies at the UAL London College of Fashion I was introduced to the photography side and it just felt natural. However, having experience in styling really helps me understand how to work with a stylist during a shoot.
Tell us about one of the most challenging projects you’ve worked on.
It’s been awhile, but I would have to say my most challenging project was the first exhibition I curated with my collaborator at the time. This was the first big project I worked on, so I learned a lot from the experience. We raised almost £4,000 through Go Fund Me to fund the exhibition and open in a small gallery on the East side of London. We had been given discouraging advice at first that it would be too hard, but it was successful. I would like to challenge myself much more in the next year. It’s important to not stay stagnant.
What is something you’d like to accomplish creatively this year?
Something I would like to accomplish this year is to be a part of more exhibitions. Also this year I would like to expand my creative circle in LA. I’m lucky to have a few like-minded and creative people in my life in LA but I need to branch out more. I believe this will inspire me to create more work that I feel connected to. It’s really important who you surround yourself with. And my photography has also taken a back seat to many other things going on in my life this last year and now I want to really dive back in.
See more of Lolo’s Originals on IG: @lolobates
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