A Lebanese self-taught photographer, Lara Zankoul photographs models in stunning environments she has created. Whether they be on land, in the ocean or both, her photographs often tell stories of places long forgotten in a dream. Also dabbling in levitation and underwater photography, we interviewed Lara about her inspirations and the elements that drive Lara to continue her career as a photographer.
Hi Lara how are you?
Hello Ezra Magazine! I’m good thanks and yourself?
We’re great thanks! So tell us a little about yourself and how you came into possession of a camera…
I am a 26 year old Lebanese fine arts photographer represented by Ayyam Gallery. My photography is a mix of conceptual, dreamlike and psychological themes. I use the art of photography to visualize reality in a poetic and symbolic way. I’ve always had an interest in photography since I was in school; I used to spend a lot of time looking at fashion and staged pictures. After I started my first full time job, I woke up one day and decided to offer myself a professional cam. My first journey was a 365 project whereby I committed on taking a photo every day in a row for a year. This is how my passion grew and photography became part of my life.
I am happy with the way it all went. Photography grew from a hobby to a passion and semi-profession. I wouldn’t have had it in any other way. I learned it naturally and spontaneously. If it was imposed as a major or vocation, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it that much.
What is it about conceptual photography that stirs something within you?
The symbolism and poetry is what mainly drew me into conceptual photography. One of the things I love most about photography is creating surreal set ups. I put a lot of work and effort to take the picture as it is. For example,
I once dragged a bed into the sea or built a giant key from cardboard for the photo.
Staging the moment and giving it a certain meaning, was exactly what I wanted to do.
What do you enjoy most about creating the images that you do?
Each art work is more than a photograph to me, it is an experience, a memory, I just love being out there shooting and trying weird things that might lead to unique photographs. I enjoy the preparation and anticipation of the shoot, I do a LOT of research before every shoot: I research the location, the desired prop, the wardrobe…I also really enjoy meeting new people in the process.
What is it like photographing underwater?
Everything gets so prettier underwater, however, photographing underwater is not as practical as regular shooting. Photographing underwater can be stressful due to breathing limitations and lack of movement control. We tend to float underwater so it’s not easy to stay in the deep for a long time. Also communication with the model gets harder. Although it’s not a very practical thing, I love it, mainly because I love the results.
How do you plan your images and has any image you have taken in the past gone wrong on the day of shooting but turned out brilliant afterwards?
Conceptual photography requires that I plan my shoots very well before going on field. The first step is to come up with a concept (sometimes the concept pops up in my head out of nowhere and sometimes I chase it). The second step is the passage from idea to picture. This is where I start building my set up: I choose the location, the model, the props, the light etc..I work with natural lighting most of the time so I become the weather forecasts’ best friend before my outdoor shoots (can be pretty frustrating!). Most of the concepts I come up with are quite far from reality, so it’s not always easy to implement them. It becomes a problem solving exercise to find ways and tricks to build the set up. The photo-shoot planning process can take up from 1 week to months of preparation. Once I gathered all the elements needed, I click my picture. The third step is the editing stage. Post-processing is very important to me because it completes my vision.
Many pictures have gone wrong and turned out right, it’s an ever-going experimentation process for me so I get many unexpected results and discover new techniques.
In your eyes, which photograph means the most to you and why?
Some pictures I create mark my personal artistic vision and bring me full self-achievement. They are pictures that I feel very satisfied with, regarding composition, strength of the concept, effectiveness and uniqueness. Here are some examples:
Also my new series titled “The unseen” means the most to me currently.
You have also experimented with levitation photography. What is it like shooting that and do you hope to do more in the future?
Levitation has become a common approach in artistic photography and because of that; I feel it has lost its magic. When I shoot levitation pictures, I do it for fun, because I really enjoy creating such pictures and I still enjoy their outcome, however my aim is to try to think outside the box to come up with new styles when it comes to levitation. I am not sure to be basing my future series on levitations though.
It is almost as if you are creating worlds inside your images, a little like Brooke Shaden. What do you hope for the viewer to take away from each one of your photographs?
Each work carries a different notion touching on the psychological aspect of humans. This results in the creation of “new worlds” as you describe it. Each work inhabits a different character interacting with her/his fantastic surrounding. Bizarre situations, misplaced items, surreal dimensions, strange struggles…leave the mind to wander in a possibility of interpretations, to re-invent and complete unfinished stories, to explore unanswered questions. Through my pictures, I invite the viewer to decipher the hidden symbols and interact with the picture to reflect on his reality and personal experience. What seems to be so unreal in the first place could be closer than we expect, to the complexities of our mind.
Where do you hope to go with your photography in the future?
I hope to take photography to a new level by pushing boundaries and exploring new concepts and techniques. I hope to motivate and inspire other to create.
Any advice for someone wishing to try their hand at photography?
My advice would be not to be afraid to failure. Failure can end up a success story…or an opportunity to learn and be better prepared next time you want to shoot.