Artist Focus: Hannah Lapsley
Hannah Lapsley graduated from Sussex University with a degree in Philosophy and English. She is currently based in Brighton, working at an Art Gallery. She has plans to move abroad next year, to teach English.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the everyday. I tend to get lots of weird looks from people when I’m out and about because I often stop to take a photograph of a dirty wall or an old door frame, but I like to think that there is something poetic about mundane occurrences and everyday moments. I like to look for order in the imperfections of the every day; whether it be in straight lines or perfectly shaped shadows, or an aesthetically pleasing coexistence of colours. It’s all beautiful in its own way.
Does photography give you a sense of purpose when you travel? Why do you take photographs?
I’ve never thought of photography as the sole purpose of my travelling, and it is something that has always come second.
However, I suppose it does offer me a sense of purpose, especially in unknown territories. Specifically scouting out objects that I like the look of and photographing them enables me to form my own narrative. I can attribute certain memories to them and use my photographs as a visual diary to document this. I suppose this is why, when I leave a place, the photographs make me feel like I’ve been there. Photographing then, for me, is a way of establishing a poetic narrative between myself and the place I’m in.
What do you feel is the most important element of a photograph?
For me, the most important element of a photograph is the subtle details within it- the colour of a wall or a defined shadow, or a stream of light hitting an angle. I don’t ever use black and white film. Although I love the aesthetic it produces, I always find myself loving bright colours. I think they look great on film too.
In her book, ‘On Photography’, Susan Sontag talks about photography being an act of violence. How do you feel about this definition? Do you ever feel as though you are taking something from someone when you take their photograph? How do you set up your portraits- are they spontaneous or planned?
This is a definition I’ve been philosophically involved with for a while, and to be honest, I don’t know how I feel about it! In many ways, it is invasive and void of any intimacy. The subject becomes the object because they have no say in the photograph. More so, they lose all agency as the photograph becomes entrenched in many different cultural dialogues from the moment it is taken.
Because of this I try to ask the individual for their permission or give them something in return. Human interaction dissipates the unequal dynamics of the photographer-subject relationship. On the other hand, I do feel that there is much more beauty and vulnerability in the randomness of a photo. I think spontaneity is really important.
I don’t ever take a photo having planned to take it- it just so happens that I like the look of it. I love the immediacy and presence of it all. Also, the fact that the subject doesn’t have the opportunity to create an ideal image of themselves naturally makes the photograph more authentically human.
Why do you choose to use film over digital?
I love the uncertainty of using film. When you’re taking the picture, you get a mental image of what it will look like, but because of the nature of film, the end photograph may be completely different. It also has a certain nostalgic, otherworldly aesthetic to it that I find comforting- I think this dreamy atmosphere suits a lot of the images of decaying buildings that I like to take.
Have you any future plans regarding photography?
I plan to move abroad within the next year or so, with the aim of teaching English as a foreign language, eventually travelling the world to offer education in places where it is not so readily available. I’m excited to take my camera with me on my travels, as I see my photography as a form of personal documentation. I like sharing these experiences with people. I also enjoy writing so I would like to create some travel writing or poetry to accompany my images.
Words: Emma Phillips