Lisa Gillies

University: Nottingham Trent University

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Documentary Landscape


Artist Statement: At university I became more interested in the theories behind photography rather than photography itself. I always struggled to find my ‘style’ and know what I wanted to photograph. I remember reading Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida and instantly everything clicked into place. I created Clocks For Seeing as a personal reflection on photography and somewhat in homage to Barthes. From reading Barthes I became more interested in the reasons why we photograph and interact with it and so my images became less of a series and more of a focus on the individual images It was after shooting and writing about each image that it only suited being a photobook. These images were all shot on medium format film, which helped me slow down my photographic process and really think about what I was shooting and why.

Clocks For Seeing was a way for me to question and analyse the way I see photography and the way it fitted into my life.

From the series  Clocks For Seeing

From the series Clocks For Seeing

What are some standout moments from your time at university? Curating and being part of exhibitions has always been enjoyable, but at university it’s really testing, when you pull it off and everyone’s work is on the wall, it’s a great feeling. I was lucky enough to have two great exhibitions to be proud of. I would say learning the skill of developing my own film that produced the work for my second year show was great too. I hand colour printed all my images which I would never have been confident enough to do without the help and the facilities.

I was also fortunate enough to travel to New York with my course, which was just incredible. I fell in love with photographing in the city, as the light is just brilliant, I was constantly photographing which was great to get my stride back and fall in love with photography again! 

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I quite often find myself photographing more landscapes than portraits now I’ve finished university. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some amazing places and the landscapes are phenomenal. I would place myself in a Documentary Landscape genre, as I like to be able to photograph in a way that shows the viewer the real sense of the landscape, as if they were there themselves. 

From the series  Clocks For Seeing

From the series Clocks For Seeing

What themes do you find yourself exploring? I mostly photograph landscapes as separate images, when I come across a beautiful sight I just photograph it rather than thinking to build up a series around it. However after university I do like to think more about the theories behind photography and the reasoning behind taking photographs. I recently did a mini series of photographs along my route to work but I wanted to explore the way I photographed the changing light and why I chose certain pictures instead of just snapping away. 

For anybody who hasn't read Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, can you give us an overview? Camera Lucida is reflection on photography by Barthes, exploring the relationship between photography and life, death and history and the relationship we, as humans have with photographs. Barthes uses this personal reflection as a journey to find an image that would accurately represent his mother after her death, an image that wouldn’t just be of her, but one in that he could feel her. Cameral Lucia is an exploration of Barthes mind and a teaching of it too.  

Clocks For Seeing is a very personal body of work. What did you learn about yourself from making it? I was finding it very hard to find a style, or make photographs at all that would mean anything during my university time, I used to find myself taking images and then trying to fit them into a brief or an idea. I knew I didn’t want to be a fashion photographer or a fine art photographer and though I had to fit into a ‘genre’ which I’ve now learnt that it’s not the case.

Clocks for Seeing helped me think about what photographs would be used for first, before I even shot them. It made me really think about what a photograph would be used for and how it would be seen rather than just shoot for the sake of it. I decided to also shoot on a Hasselblad for this project. I knew doing this, I would have the option to print the images myself, but that it would slow my photography process down. With shooting film I really had to think about each photograph carefully and even make sure I technically dusted off my skills too! 

From the series  Clocks For Seeing

From the series Clocks For Seeing

Can you tell us about your photobook that accompanies this series? Clocks for Seeing is a small square book approx. 6x6 inches. I designed it with a red band down the edging, paying homage to the red writing on the front of my (very tattered) camera Lucida book. Each page has a paragraph of my ‘reflection’ on photography with a coinciding image. There are some stand-alone images in the book which I felt were necessary to break up the text and make sure it still felt like a photobook. I did however chose to print it on paper that you would have a novel written on to almost imitate the feel of the pages in Camera Lucida, to make it feel like a story.

Why do you think the outcome of this work resulted in a book? Did it just turn out this way? At university we had a brief of making a photobook/zine. I originally wanted to create a book focusing on images nature and our connection with it, but after shooting a few images alongside reading Camera Lucida, it made instant sense to write my reflections on photography in the way Barthes had. To organise my thoughts onto paper, to remove all of the confusion I had in my head and put it onto paper. 

Clocks For Seeing  photobook

Clocks For Seeing photobook

Roland Barthes influenced Clocks For Seeing a great deal, of course, but was there any imagery that you enjoyed looking at? I’ve always been inspired by the greats; Dorothea Lange, Lee Friedlander, Robert Adams and his series Summer Nights. I like looking at photographers who just capture the everyday. As Clocks For Seeing was about the everyday images and not necessarily photographed as a series it was nice taking inspiration from photographers who use individual photographs to create a series. 

For years I’ve been interested in collaging and work by John Stezaker and Richard Hamilton have always been present in making work, even though Clocks for Seeing wasn’t a collage, the mixture of text and images was influenced by these artists.

From the series  Clocks For Seeing

From the series Clocks For Seeing

What do you enjoy most about using film and the darkroom to produce work? Are you still able to do this now? With film the thing I love the most was waiting to see what the outcome was. It is such a great feeling when your picture develops in front of you and it turns out just as you wanted. I think the suspense is what makes me want to make more! It’s also interesting though when something goes wrong but works and creates a whole new image you didn’t expect. I don’t currently have access to a darkroom but I still occasionally shoot on film, I think its nice to get still prints developed, especially when its rolls of film you have forgotten about! 

You seem to have continued making a variety of work since finishing university. Have you got any tips for sticking with making images without that support network? I think it is just about continuing to take photographs. It’s so easy to just stop and put your camera down and continue with something else because you have no briefs or deadlines. For me I’ve been lucky enough to travel, and as landscapes are what I’m interested in photographing, I’ve been able to shoot a lot of material for myself. I think it’s also making mini projects for yourself which is important, to test yourself, and even try and find a style you haven’t tried at university. 

From the series  Clocks For Seeing

From the series Clocks For Seeing

What would you say you’ve achieved since university career wise? Can you tell us about your role with #PHOTOGRAPHY Magazine? I’ve just completed an internship as a photographer for a small business, which was nice to get my camera back out after a summer of working and neglecting it. Doing my internship allowed me to establish my relationship with my camera again and remind me how much I enjoy photography!  I started working with Hashtag photography in my final year at university helping out with their social media and writing some interviews. Its been so great as in my spare time I’m still doing something creative, I get to interview some great photographers who keep me inspired and make me want to try new things! It’s such a fab magazine and am so happy I’m part of such a great team, its also improved and encouraged my critical writing skills which is so helpful.

What are your future creative plans? I’m hoping to get more creative in my spare time and take my camera everywhere! I also paint and draw and so really want to create more for myself and for the public, to keep my creativity active!  I’m also looking for internships/experience to enhance all parts of skills and maybe expand on from photography and into other sectors of the art world too!