Photography duo Lola and Pani find parts of their younger selves in the portraits they take
The London-based photographers capture portraits of people in their small community, but not before a cup of tea and conversation.
- Alif Ibrahim
- 27 November 2020
In the centre of this book cover is a portrait. The subject’s arms are crossed, his oversized jacket hanging loosely above white trousers. He looks on to his right, mouth frozen mid-speech, as a soft light grazes his forehead and nestles its way into the creases of his outerwear. This portrait is of Brian, one of the many portraits taken by the photographer duo Lola & Pani for their publication titled Studio Portraits 2015-2020.
Pani Paul and Lola Paprocka have been a couple for eight years and have been working together for the past six. Pani grew up in Byron Bay, Australia and studied photography in Melbourne before moving to London. “I was pretty relentless on heckling for any kind of work I could get on set, and I ended up assisting on and off for about six years,” says Pani. Lola grew up in Poland, then moved to London and “worked just about every hospitality job there is” before switching to tattoo shops. It was in her mid-20's that Lola started getting involved with photography.
“I was always involved in grassroots DIY projects and exhibitions,” Lola says. “I started Palm* Studios five years ago because I wanted to create a platform that could be an umbrella for all of the above.” Palm* Studios is involved in bookmaking, curating shows, workshops, talks and even holds a photo prize that has been going on for the past three years. One of these projects that Lola published was Mile End, a project that Pani photographed between 2012 and 2015 about the eponymous skatepark in East London.
“I’d met some really cool people while making that book. Lola had also become so familiar with their faces from editing and curating it. We just wanted to keep on photographing them,” Pani explains. “We started by inviting some people around to our studio back in 2015. Sometimes they would come with a friend or recommend that we photograph someone they knew.” Pani notes that they were no strangers to the community that they photographed, having skated or hung out with their subjects before their encounter in the studio. When that’s not the case, they would be friends’ of friends; the degrees of separation are traceable.
The pair kept their setup as simple as possible, preferring to shoot with daylight that gave the portraits their intimate aesthetic. But this intimacy is not just created aesthetically, it is a manifestation of the atmosphere in the studio between the photographers and their sitters. “We’d invite them over to our studio. We’d make some tea and chat before taking any photographs,” Lola describes. “Often people bring a few of their favourite outfits and we would go through them together. The picture taking is usually the shortest part of the whole exchange.”
For the two of them, the project is a celebration of youth and community, hoping that readers take away some of the same sentiments that they have for it. It’s perhaps an understatement to say that London has changed in the past five years, a period of time that Pani describes as “seismic.” It’s through this book that the two hope to pay tribute to the people that they’ve met, celebrating parts of their own youth that they recognise in the people they photograph. “We hope it documents our time in some small way, there was no deeper meaning when we started,” Pani says. “It’s a privilege to be able to use photography to objectively explore elements of your own youth that you perhaps never paid any attention to at that age,” Lola concludes.
Lola & Pani: Studio Portraits (Copyright © Lola & Pani, 2020)
About the Author
Alif joined It's Nice That as an editorial assistant from September to December 2019 after completing an MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing often looks at the impact of art and technology on society.