London-based photographer Lydia Goldblatt certainly seems to have found her feet in her medium. Her portfolio is not small collection of stunning work, while her most recent series, Still Here is best described as a sensitive and stunning portrayal of mortality and ageing. Lydia will be down at Paris Photo tomorrow if you’re at the exhibition and fancy popping down to meet her – in the meantime, though, we pinned her down for 20 minutes to have a chat about juggling admin with creativity, committing to her desk and the new direction she’s carefully feeling out in her photography…
Where do you work?
I work from my flat in Camden. I have a tiny study with a big window which looks out onto gardens below, and a block of flats opposite with really beautiful iron-framed windows that I can see into. It is a quiet space, which is great – I can’t write or do work with music, I find it too distracting. I’m pretty sure I’d be terrible in an office environment. We live right by the canal, so when I’m getting bogged down or I want to free up my head to think more creatively I will often go for a walk along there towards Regents Park.
When photographing, I could be working anywhere. Most of Still Here was made in and around my parents’ home in North London, but essentially, the photographs happen wherever the idea is. This can get tricky when the idea only exists inside my head!
How does your working day start?
With a shower and a cup of tea, otherwise I can’t think straight. The shower helps me wake up and the cup of tea motivates me to sit down at my desk. I don’t even have to drink it, it’s more like an act of commitment to the desk. I can get horribly distracted by email and the internet, to the detriment of anything more productive, so I find it useful to refer to my ever-evolving ‘to do’ list – crossing things off fills me with disproportionate satisfaction.
How do you work and how has that changed?
Practical answer: I work by trying to juggle a combination of creative, practical and administrative roles. Sadly, it feels like administrative often wins out!
Thoughtful answer: I work on commissioned and personal projects, which involve different ways of working. When commissioned, I usually spend a short but intense period of time immersed in the job, from research to production. As I often do editorial features, I frequently encounter a world that would otherwise remain hidden to me which is a wonderful privilege that comes with the responsibility to research and learn beforehand. I find that commissions often stem from qualities that commissioners have seen in my personal work, perhaps a distinctive use of light or a way of translating ideas, so I try to be true to that when developing an idea for a shoot.
At the heart of my practice are my ideas and my personal work, and these take a much longer period of time to develop. Projects are usually very fluid to begin with – they are not like a commission, which has a specific structure and a specific outcome. Research is very important to my work, though not necessarily photographic research. I like to read around my subject area, to develop my emotional, literary and psychological relationship with the work as well as my visual and conceptual relationship.
However, I am also excited by the freedom of giving myself permission to play visually, and I think this is an area where my practice is changing. It takes a long time to develop and refine your area of practice – I am still developing mine – but as I grow more confident in my themes, I think I am able to slightly relinquish the need to enclose my work critically from the get-go. At the moment, I am starting to make some images that are using paper and pencil as well as photography to build still life/landscapes. I am not sure where it is going yet, which is kind of scary, but really fun!
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
Well, as I work from home and seem to have developed a cat-like territorial instinct it is sometimes quite difficult to drag me out. I usually reach critical cabin fever at some point though. Then I either need to run around the streets wildly (where I live, I blend in), or meet friends, go to exhibitions etc. There are other options, but these are quite important ones. This is starting to sound like a post on a dating website…
Would you intern for yourself?
Yes, but I think I’d get bored, there’s not that much to do unless I were to pass on all my admin, and who would want to do that? However, I do talk to myself a lot, and I think that could translate into some quite good conversations with a second person in the room.