If Madonna was to re-write ´Material Girl´ for today’s market, then undoubtedly she could paraphrase the lyrics into ´everybody´s living in a digital world, and I am a digital girl.´ As media is getting speedier, sharper and sexier, traditional values are being lost to time dependant projects. Several weeks ago, Marc Jacobs was said to have shot (and post-produced) his entire autumn / winter 2016 collection, in a day. Compare this this back to the golden age of the analogue era and this could have taken anything up to one month plus. With a premium saved on time, is quality being compromised alongside the true values of what it means to be a photographer? We talk to Lydia Metral on how she dumped digital and went back to basics to develop her skill. Literally.
¨I encounter millions of bodies in my life; of these millions, I may desire some hundreds; but of these hundreds, I love only one¨ – Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments
The Grenoble born, self-taught photographer originally set her sights on a management career after graduating in business management from Montpellier business school and then attending Southampton Solent University in 2010. Whilst nurturing a long term passion for photography, Lydia spent many years honing her craft in the background alongside a professional daily life. Investment on more technical aspects saw her training with professionals such as Arnaud Meyer while taking masterclasses to develop her now trademark style of intimacy and sense of place in society.
To date, Metral has compiled a fruitful portfolio of exhibitions on French soil showcasing in Beaurepaire Gallery (Paris 2012), La Nuit de la Photographie Contemporaine (Paris 2013) and Les Nuits Photographiques de Pierrevert (South-Of-France 2014). In June 2015, her passion was officially accredited when she graduated from a postgraduate degree in photography and editorial design at EINA (Centre Universitari de Disseny I Art in Barcelona) where she exhibited an imitation of her first photobook ´Love-Struck´ before going on to display a retrospective of her work in Barcelona´s Espacio Barra de Ferro and Cadàver Exquisit later last year.
Currently employed as a professional freelance photographer, Lydia splits her time between her Parisienne City of Light and Barcelona, which is where we caught up with her preparing to talk about her latest concepts;
Initially, did you study photography in digital or analogue?
I started with the digital option for more ease of use. Then one day my dad gave me he is old analogue camera and I was very happy to use this and develop a new skill using the fundamentals I read up on.
What’s your preference to work with now and why?
When you shoot in digital, you don’t have the same relationship with the camera and subject. When the picture is digital, you look at a view finder. For me, you are not in the moment as you have to concentrate on this glass instead of speaking to your subject. It robs me of my connection with people in order to capture a little moment of their personal space. Also, taking the picture then going away to develop it manually allows me to re-live the moment again.
When was your first interest in photography?
It was in the USA when I bought a camera as a souvenir to capture the moments of my holiday. After this trip, I usually always had a camera with me to record daily observations that I saw. I bought my first real Nikon camera in 2010 and took it on a trip to India with me. It was there I really fell in love with my craft as it changed my vision of how I see the world. I was like a child discovering the world, but not with souvenirs, with people; the subject, the shadows and the colours. It was a really pivotal moment.
What was your first commission?
In 2010, I studied theatre and acting. Part of this course involved techniques of lighting which I found interesting. After I had completed the course, the theatre asked me to take shots of the students and space, from my point of view, for a book, which was my first real commission.
How did ´Love-Struck´ come about?
I was relaxing with my partner and thought about the light surrounding us and the moments we were sharing together. I wanted to capture an essence of time and the intimacy of our relationship in parallel with how the light is captured and how people relate to us visually. My partner said to me several times to ´leave that camera behind´ when we spent personal time together. After this, I began to look at other people and investigate the feelings of love and tenderness. Just after I split up with my girlfriend, we had one final embrace, which I self-timed on the camera to try and capture what we were feeling at that moment.
What’s your philosophy for ´Love-Struck´?
I want all my photographs to capture all the feeling that is related to love. Not just tenderness but all round love. What creates happy people and sad people. What solicits stress and mixed emotions.
Can you give an example of another of the sittings you made and what you hoped to achieve from it?
For my ´Shout Out´ series of images, I photographed a gay couple, Maximiliano and his partner Benoit at home. During the shoot, they almost forgot I was there. The connection they had was so intensive at the time. I left that once they were aware of me again, the moment was lost but I had stolen it and recorded it for all time.
Do you want to portray lifestyle, emotion or equality in this project?
I want to portray emotions and connections. I am just a part of a stolen snapshot recording a fraction of a second of someones love.
Your studies feature gay and lesbian couples. Have you considered straight or transgender couples for material yet?
Not yet, but love is love and I am more than willing to develop this idea.
What publications have you been featured in recently?
I have just been commissioned to document a group of people with Alzheimer’s in Paris who engage with musical instruments to make music as therapy for them. It is entitled ´Philharmonie De Paris.´
Is traditional film making a comeback then?
I think it is making its mark but in a different way. I always discuss quality over time, not quantity over time. I don’t just snap randomly, I wait for the moments so I snatch the essence of the element. That way, I can capture what I want to say and what I want people to feel. Be and wait in the moment, make a mark by being different and the lovely thing about film is that it allows you to do just that.
What are your thoughts on photography apps such as Instagram?
It´s a good concept. It allows photographers or artistes to showcase their story to a wider market. It is also good for making archives of your work. I use Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram to showcase my work to clients on a regular basis. With photography sometimes you have to feel the overall picture however. It can be as much about the collection and grouping of the images and their relationship with each other as the actual images inside the frames.
What projects or developments would like to develop now ´Love-Struck´ is over?
Maybe, much later I will re-visit ´Love-Struck´ and edit the images to feature in a book of intimate photography. Just now my thoughts are with my family and my personal memories of growing up. I am working on a ´then and now´ to act as a narrative of the development of life and the passing of time.
Recently, camera makers Ilford made a survey into the re-emergence of film photography which found that thanks to a creative shift and return to traditional values and artisanal trades, people are starting to show interest in these types of time-honoured skills again. With more and more amateur photographers snapping up film cameras on eBay and second hand shops, the golden age of film is in no danger of disappearing completely any time soon. If you fancy a career as a photographer, then Lydia´s is an excellent example to adopt. Simply start with a borrowed camera, some motivation and an idea, while you make your mark on the world. 1/60th of a second at a time.
Article: Charles Daniel McDonald, Executive Fashion Editor, LookBook360
Interviewee: Lydia Metral
Photography: Lydia Metral / Clara Conil