Lou Escobar’s photographs position the human subject between the real and the surreal
In her striking images, ethereal figures are brought down to earth by their mundane environment, creating a balance between fact and fiction.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 7 July 2021
There’s an undeniably cinematic quality to photographer Lou Escobar’s work. The characters are the most eye-catching part of the compositions – they feel surreal and incongruous in contrast to their frequently quotidian surroundings. Grocery stores, diners, alleyways, bedrooms, balconies, and kitchens are common backdrops in Lou’s photographs and they serve to ground the dreamlike models. Each image feels as though it could be a still from a film and we find ourselves trying to create a narrative to fit whatever is playing out within the frame. It is no surprise then to learn that Lou cites the weird and wonderful work of Quentin Tarantino as one of her key inspirations – though she insists his films are only the beginning: “I've said before that Tarantino is a big influence, but [actually] I think it's limitless, and most importantly, the influence never stops,” she tells us.
Growing up in the suburbs of Paris, moving between an affordable housing development in the south of the city to a small property on the border where the city meets the countryside, Lou was determined from an early age to leave behind her humble beginnings – “I come from a world that you had to get out of in order to have a strong trajectory and the possibility of [bettering] yourself,” she says. Raised by a Spanish father and a Kabyle (a Berber ethnic group indigenous to northern Algeria) mother, she also cites her childhood as one of the inspirations behind her photography. Her family and their travels are stamped indelibly on her memory and she draws heavily on the “the colours and the people” from that time – especially those that left a mark on her. We can see these influences in the striking colour palettes of her images which feel part fashion shoot, part travelogue. There is also a clear fascination with light, which she uses to bring attention to the protagonists of these “stories,” further enhancing the bright hues of their clothing or the objects that they are interacting with.
Speaking on the development of her practice and signature style, Lou says it was very simple during the early days. “I first tried photography in the US where I was visually stimulated by the scenery. I didn't even think I would get anywhere at first, but I just wanted to try and do a little bit every day,” she explains. “I met several people on the road during my travels who live by expressing themselves, and it fascinated me that they could trust each other and believe in their abilities.” She soon began to trust her own instinct and what she saw through the lens of her camera and before long a call from a clothing brand to do a small shoot for them kickstarted her now successful career in fashion photography, currently managed by DMB Represents. She quickly found a desirable middleground between an efficient commercial style and a personal approach that calls into play the influences of film and TV.
Clothing may often be the focus of Lou’s photographs, but where her passion really lies is in the individual. This takes precedence over all other elements of her compositions. “If a setting alone is incredible, it will strike me as interesting when a character comes to inhabit it,” she says. In other words, while the everyday scenery in her work is captivating in and of itself, it only truly shines with a suitably fascinating human subject to occupy it. Because, after all, what makes each person unique, what separates them from others, is the underlying focus in all of Lou’s images. The human subject is elevated to an ethereal position, seeming both of this world and somehow detached from it – “I think my vision is both real and surreal. A mix between here and a dream.”
GalleryAll images copyright © Lou Escobar, 2021
Copyright © Lou Escobar, 2021
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.