Film photography has the unique power to create an atmosphere through its grain, its way of translating light…
British photographer, Lena Jasmine takes advantage of what film has to offer to sublimate the landscapes and bodies she photographs with taste and sensitivity.
We asked her about her relationship with nature, her love of film, the influence of social networks, and other things…
Hi Lena, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m a film photographer from the UK. I’m half Welsh, half Russian and grew up on an island called Anglesey in North Wales, which is where I now live.
How did you start photography?
I remember shooting with an old Nikkormat camera when I was 14. I had no idea how to use it and ended up shooting tons of photos on Bulb setting. At best several shots came out looking like abstract paintings.
“Now I can’t imagine my life without photography.”
Over the years I’ve had a few film cameras and have always enjoyed photography but I only really fell in love with it again when I moved back home to Wales a couple of years ago.
Within a summer I’d shot more film than I had done in years and before I knew it I was shooting almost every day. I started a new photography Instagram account in 2016 and the passion’s just grown and grown. Now I can’t imagine my life without photography.
Whether there are bodies or not, all your images emanate sensuality and intimacy. How did you manage to create a visual identity, what was the path?
Thank you, that’s a lovely compliment. It happened very organically. When I moved back to Wales I started to shoot more regularly and just took pictures of what I loved. These things happened to be quite sensual, earthy things – bodies, flowers, nature, animals.
All these things make me feel ‘at home’ and are important to me so naturally, I want to capture them on film. I started to realize that what I loved to capture was the strong archetypes – masculine, feminine, sea, horse.
“It’s easy to forget that making work that’s important to you takes time.”
I think the more you shoot the more you discover what you love and how to translate that feeling in a photo. It’s easy to forget that making work that’s important to you takes time. I’ve been shooting steadily for around two years now and still feel I’m learning and discovering what I want to create and why.
“Film for me is so much more organic and feels more whole.”
You work on film. What does this bring to your practice?
All I shoot is film so I don’t think I would be doing photography if it wasn’t for film. I had a digital camera a few years ago but I practically stopped taking photographs when I had it. I just didn’t enjoy using it.
Film for me is so much more organic and feels more whole. I love the process and history of it and the fact you’re dealing with something tangible. I can’t really describe it I just know it looks better.
You take a lot of pictures of nature. What more do you find there than in urban areas?
I feel at home in nature, more myself. I can’t help but pick up my camera and shoot. In the city, I don’t feel so at home and can walk around for hours without taking a picture.
“[…]if I had grown up in a city instead of the countryside things would be different. “
I just don’t see things that make me feel the way I do when I’m in nature. It’s ancient, archetypal, full of good things. Saying that lots of my favorite photographers shoot great work in urban areas and maybe if I had grown up in a city instead of the countryside things would be different.
Your images are very cinematic. Do you get your inspiration from other art forms than photography?
Thank you. I often wonder if other art I like inspires my work, even if subconsciously. I love cinema, especially films by Bresson, Tarkovsky, Bergman, and Malick. Their works really are inspiring.
I’m also learning more and more about painting and recently bought a book about the masters. Botticelli, Titian, Giotto, their work is beautiful. I’ve always loved William Blake, (my Instagram handle is from a Blake quote). His work really resonates with me.
“If I could create a photograph that has a flicker of the spirit you find in a William Blake painting, then that really would be something special.”
I like to think that my photos are in some way inspired by all these greats artists. But maybe more than anything they just inspire me to keep creating and trying to make something that has integrity and spirit like their works do. If I could create a photograph that has a flicker of the spirit you find in a William Blake painting, then that really would be something special.
“[…] my self-portraits help me better understand the female form […]”
You also take self-portraits. Does staging yourself have any impact on the way you photograph others?
I guess my self-portraits help me better understand the female form and how to photograph it in a way that is honest and beautiful. I’ve learned a lot about photography through my self-portraits.
Having the time and space at home to experiment when I’m photographing myself, which I don’t always have with a model, helps me learn how to get the results I want.
You are starting to have a lot of people following you on Instagram. Social networks require sustained content production, while film imposes a much slower and reflective pace. Did this contradictory dynamic affect the way you take pictures?
I don’t think film is necessarily slower and more reflective. Shooting film does mean that instead of coming home with a thousand images from a shoot I come home with a hundred. So the number of times I go out and shoot doesn’t change, just the number of images I have at the end.
In this way, the Instagram community doesn’t really affect the way I take pictures as such, but it does motivate me to keep creating and keep striving to get the work I want.
I think that’s part of the reason I love the analog community on there – people inspiring and encouraging each other to create and learn from one another.
Do you have any projects in the pipeline?
I do! A friend of mine has recently set up a film lab and print studio in the UK. They are making some beautiful prints and scans and I’m collaborating with them on several exciting projects. I’m also taking part in a black and white film project this month which will be cool as I don’t normally shoot black and white.
And lastly, as I’m writing this I’m also preparing for a shoot with some actors in Liverpool for a short film. I’m very excited and grateful for all these wonderful opportunities.