In the enigmatic world of Lo Lo, the lens is not just a medium for capturing images but a testament to resilience and renewal. From her early days capturing candid moments in suburban Chicago to a career in the fashion capitals of Los Angeles and London, Lo Lo’s photographic journey took an unexpected turn into the shadows of addiction. Yet, emerging from the depths, she not only earned a Master’s in Fashion Photography but showcased her work at the prestigious Galerie Joseph in Paris. Join us as we explore the chapters of Lo Lo’s narrative—fuelled by influences from iconic photographers and marked by a profound dedication to capturing the essence of women. This is the compelling story of Lo Lo and the transformative power she discovered through her lens.

Instant Photographers: Can you take us back to the moment when you first discovered your love for photography? What sparked your interest, and how did it evolve from a passion into a dedicated career pursuit?

Lo Lo: I think I originally discovered my love of photography in high school, just capturing moments at parties while using just a portable compact camera. It seems so silly but even then I thought of composition and just capturing those candid moments. But I never thought anything more of it. In high school, I remember just wanting to go into wardrobe styling, which I did end up pursuing in LA at 18. I wanted to be a part of making images but never imagined it would be as a photographer. At the age of 21, I moved to London styling at the University of the Arts London for a 2-year degree in Fashion Styling and Photography. In this program, we set out to do both styling and photography projects and this is where I found my true passion for photography. After the 2 year degree, it was more financially realistic for me to go back to Los Angeles and continue my styling career, but I never felt fulfilled after discovering my true passion. This is when I decided to go back to London and get my Master’s degree in Fashion Photography.

IP: Moving from wardrobe styling to photography is a significant shift. What prompted this transition, and how did your experience in styling inform or influence your approach to photography?

LL: As I mentioned, the reason I shifted was just by being in a program that taught both. I had no idea that I would have this shift but I’m grateful to have had access to not just the styling part of an image but the photography part while in Uni, as I don’t believe I would have otherwise. And I think that styling influences my approach to photography as I find it very important that I find stylists I trust to do work with. But as I love to do a true collaboration, I find it to be just as much their image as it is mine. Styling is a huge part of the image I take. It’s an art form in itself.

IP: How does your background in wardrobe styling enhance your ability to collaborate and conceptualize images as a photographer? Are there specific instances where your styling experience influenced the overall aesthetic and narrative of a photoshoot

LL: Yes absolutely, my background in styling has taken a role in the shoots I do. I am very particular about the stylists I work with and I often trust them. We do speak on what we want our images to convey and I think that’s when the real collaboration and magic happens!

IP: Studying fashion styling and photography at the London College of Fashion indicates a deep dive into the art form. How did this academic pursuit shape your understanding of photography, and were there specific moments that stood out during your studies?

LL: Well when I went on to study purely Fashion Photography as a master’s degree there, I remember at first just finding it amazing to be surrounded by like-minded people and being back in one of the most creative cities in the world. It was also incredible to have access to photography studios, all types of cameras, dark rooms and more. This is a luxury I miss. It helped me experiment and eventually led me to analogue and polaroid which I found more suitable to my aesthetic. To be honest there were so many specific moments that stood out to me that it’s hard to choose. But one project I worked on, I linked up with my friend and creative partner at the time, and we raised thousands of pounds to put on a photography exhibition we curated with photographers all over the world. This show was held in East London. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that and it was promoted by many magazines that it was just a dream for me to have my name in. On the opening night of the show, there were so many people there and it is a memory I will never forget. Due to this being a University project we actually received an award from the school for it, which led to us being granted a bursary to go to Tokyo for two weeks to create work which was incredible. The biggest thing I will never forget though is the friendships and the camaraderie my class shared. I will cherish those forever, and I keep in touch with many of them still and am so proud of the successes they have now accomplished. And being selected for that program was definitely one of the best things that ever happened to me and helped form me into the human I am today.

IP: You’ve mentioned photographers like Francesca Woodman, Deborah Turbeville, and Sarah Moon as inspirations. In what ways have their works impacted your own photographic style, and how do you incorporate these influences into your creative process?

LL: Out of the three, Francesca Woodman was the first photographer who really influenced me. She is a photographer who has suffered from severe depression which I can sense through her images and I am someone who used to suffer with severe depression as well. In her work, she explored long exposure and her (or her subjects) faces were often obscured. This is a technique I experimented with a lot more in my earlier works. She is an amazing artist who tragically died too young due to suicide after a perceived failure of hers, and I can relate as my first attempt at suicide which landed me in the hospital was after a perceived failure of my own. But I am really inspired by her exploring her darkness and creating from that space. Deborah Turbeville and Sarah Moon have inspired me just as much. In photography there is sometimes an emphasis on technical perfection, they both contradict that with their own dreamy, mysterious and imperfect aesthetic. To me, their work is very emotive which is something I hope comes across in my work.

IP: Your journey includes facing personal challenges, yet you managed to pursue a master’s degree at the University of the Arts London. How did you navigate these challenges while maintaining a focus on developing your skills as a photographer?

LL: I began my Masters degree shortly after ending an abusive relationship. This relationship led to alcoholism and addiction. But as I started out my degree in London, self-medicating was a way of coping and at the time it was working in a way. Looking back I certainly see it as the beginning of my addiction but at the time I was still a functioning alcoholic/addict. But alcoholism and addiction a progressive diseases. As I stated before though, my time during the Masters was the first time I attempted suicide, so it didn’t come without its periods of struggles. But at times my self-medicating helped me get through my Masters. Again, on reflection of that time, I can see how it progressed, but not to the point where I had any idea I was an alcoholic/addict. But like I said, alcoholism and addiction are progressive diseases, and it certainly continued to progress more and more after I graduated and left London and moved back to Los Angeles. It was at this time, that my photography began to become less and less frequent, to the point that I was unable to create or function at all. And I moved back to Illinois to live in my parent’s basement which was possibly the darkest period of my life.

IP: In your journey through addiction and recovery, are there specific moments during your recovery when you found solace or inspiration through photography? How did photography play a role in your healing process, and did it serve as a form of therapeutic expression?

LL: Photography unfortunately made it worse. I grieved that part of me and in the end, it even made my addiction worse. But I am so glad to say now that I am in recovery, I am finding that side of myself again.

IP: Quitting a secure job at Amazon Air to recommit to photography is a significant decision. Can you share the catalysts behind this choice and how it has affected the trajectory of your photographic career?

LL: Just over 3 years ago I went to rehab for the second time and I have been clean and sober ever since due to being heavily involved in a program, which after all of my accomplishments, is what I am most proud of. But after leaving rehab I was working as an associate at Amazon. After everything I have done in my life, this was a very humbling experience. But looking back I believe it was the best thing for me as it is a very labor-focused job which I think was a great way to let out all of my anxieties as a newly sober person. I still never imagined myself working at a place like Amazon but I was more focused on my sobriety than my career at the time. But after some time I was promoted to being a supervisor there which I am proud of and the whole experience was very valuable. Working at Amazon though, doing overtime every day and getting off at 3 am is not really conducive to being creative, so I never even thought of getting back into photography. But the job consumed me and the exhaustion really wore on me, even though I still had plans of working my way up in the company. There were many factors that led me to finally leave, but one thing happened over the summer where someone’s behaviour hurt me. In fact, I had my heart broken for the first time in years. Due to this I just felt more lost than I had in all of my sobriety and I couldn’t hide the fact anymore that my job was not in alignment with my soul and I felt I needed a big change. One of my best friends and also an artist, Eammon James Talkington, had always pushed me to quit this job and be creative again but I always pushed back on his advice until this point. Due to being so lost, at this time I decided to get a tarot reading by my friend Caiti Hansen with Ostara reiki and tarot. She guided me in a similar direction of letting go of Amazon and being creative again. I took this guidance and quit my job at Amazon with the intention of being creative and travelling again, despite having no job lined up. Many people thought this wasn’t a smart idea but I knew the universe had a plan for me. I found a more creative job that was full-time (with no overtime) and with regular hours. I am also very grateful as this job has also been very supportive of my creative endeavours outside of work. But the week I began this job I started to doubt all my decisions in quitting Amazon. I remember feeling sick to my stomach thinking to myself “How dumb was I to think I could be creative again and ever travel?” It was within a week of those thoughts that Francesco Sambati, one of the curators of ImageNation Paris messaged me asking if I would like to be a part of the show in Paris. I felt it was divine timing! And of course, I used this as an excuse to travel again for the first time in years. At this moment I knew that I was finally back in alignment with my purpose and I will forever be grateful that I turned a painful experience into a catalyst for positive change that changed the trajectory of my life.

IP: Being part of ImageNation Paris and exhibiting at Galerie Joseph is a notable accomplishment. Could you share the experience of showcasing your work in a gallery setting and how it has influenced your approach to future projects?

LL: Being asked to exhibit at Galerie Joseph with ImageNation certainly helped my belief that the universe was guiding me in the right direction. It was an honor to be asked by Francesco to be a part of it and it certainly boosted my confidence to get back into photography. As I mentioned before I used this as an excuse to travel again so I went to Paris alone and was able to go to the show where I met many amazing artists and was able to connect with them in person. The opening night was so much fun! It’s incredible meeting artists in person that I have been a fan of and I connected with some of them immediately. Being in Paris was a very emotional experience and I in fact cried many times out of gratitude because I never thought I would be in this space in my life again. Since then I have begun taking photographs again, both of friends where I live and of models from agencies while in Paris. I have plans to show some of my works in exhibitions in 2024 which I am really looking forward to. I also want to take these as opportunities to travel more, see the world again and meet more amazing artists in person like I did in Paris! But as I said I think the most important thing was that being asked to show with ImageNation Paris at Galerie Joseph really gave me the confidence I needed, not only as a photographer, but that the universe has set me on the right path.

IP: You primarily focus on photographing women, emphasizing collaboration and intimacy. How do you approach these shoots, and what do you aim to convey through your portrayal of women in your photography?

LL: I am so inspired by other women and I always feel it is a collaboration between myself and the model and I am very open-minded to their ideas. Some photographers have a whole crew with them to do lighting etc, but that is one thing I love about a Polaroid camera. Sometimes it is just me, the subject and my Polaroid. At the most, it is just myself, the subject, a wardrobe stylist, and a make-up artist as the team. But with a small team, I feel I can really connect with the model, make them feel comfortable, and we can bounce ideas off of each other. With my models, I really want to convey vulnerability. Vulnerability can seem like a scary word, but it shows true strength to be vulnerable. Years ago when I first first began photographing women, my self-esteem was so low due to the abusive relationship I had mentioned that I did not look at myself in the mirror for about a year, nor were there any photos of me at that time. So I believe there was a part of me that was so inspired by the women I would photograph because they were so brave to put themselves in front of a camera. It can often feel like an invasive thing to have a camera in front of you, so I would like to make my model feel as comfortable and connected to me as possible.

IP: After a period of not creating, what inspired you to pick up your camera again? Can you describe how your artistic vision has evolved, and what themes or messages you are exploring in your recent work?

LL: One thing I remember right before I quit my job, my friend Eamonn and I were discussing picking up my camera again, he said something like, “I think creative people go crazy when they don’t create.” I think that really resonated with me. As I said before, I just began realizing I wasn’t in alignment with my soul’s purpose and I made the decision to photograph again. Being a photographer was a part of my life that I grieved for a long period of time and I never thought I would do it again. But being on the sober path that I am on, I believe anything is possible, and at that time I decided to take a leap of faith and begin. As far as future projects, I want to dive deeper into concepts of the trauma I experienced and the darkness I felt while in the midst of addiction. But I would also like to create images that show the joy I feel now of being free from that. I am truly the happiest I have ever been and I want to express that too, as I no longer suffer from depression and addiction. More than anything I want to show others that if they are in the midst of that trauma or addiction, they are not alone, but also that there is hope to come out through the other side.

IP: Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations as a photographer? Are there specific projects or themes you are eager to explore in your ongoing photographic journey?

LL: At the moment I just want to have fun while I do my photography! And I honestly believe that when you are doing something that is connected to your joy, that’s when you’ll experience the most success. The universe matches your energy and right now I am very enthusiastic about moving forward in my photographic endeavours. One project I am going to be working on soon is curating a show with a friend of mine where I live with both of our works focusing on femininity. So look out for that! But I also would like to just go with the flow, be open to new ideas, and see where it all takes me.

IP: What would you say to the new photographers who want to embark on instant photography and how to introduce them to explore this format you dive?

IP: I would say to them to just experiment a lot. Don’t be afraid to fail. I failed a lot when I started and I’m failing a lot again. But in the midst of that you will find your own aesthetic and what speaks to you. And within those failures, you will find photos that you love and are very special to you. Also, even though social media is such an amazing platform to show our work, it’s important not to create work for likes and followers. It can be very easy to get caught up in that but it’s unhealthy and it’s also unhealthy to compare ourselves to others on social media. Just have fun with it and create what feels right to you and don’t create what you think others want to see. I also find it very important to research. As much as I love Pinterest, don’t just go on there for inspiration. There is inspiration everywhere, such as older artists like the ones I’ve mentioned, your own life whether it be traumas, love, heartbreak, or even reading books, travelling, and so much more. Like I said, just have fun and experiment!