Melbourne, Australia, based photographer Lilli Waters is pragmatic about photography - self discovery, yes, but she’s also making an income to support herself - and keeping herself out of trouble! Lilli ventured into photography by chance; originally intending to be a film editor. Well known in Australia and worldwide in the fine art industry for her personal work -‘Anja’ (on women’s bodily image and money was donated towards preventing violence against women) and ‘She Raw’ (on preventing violence against women) - her photos are widely exhibited and published (so is her commissioned work for commercial & weddings - she markets her wedding work under “I got you babe”). Her practice draws inspiration from nature; there’s a rawness and openness centred around female themes, and strong narration that leaves you wanting more. Catch Lilli’s upcoming exhibition in May this year - details at the end of this post.
Note, some of the images in this post contains nudity.
1. What do making images mean to you?
A way of expressing myself, staying sane, holding on to the beauty around me, my way of giving something back, being able to pay for my studio rent & multiple daily weak lattes, keeping me out of trouble.
2. What is life to you? What it should be?
Probably my biggest question of all. What is life? A very short time on earth between being an unborn star and returning to the sky, as an older & wiser star. In my case, a constant learning experience & a pretty huge privilege.
3. Where did you grow up and how did that play a part in your photography?
As a baby, I grew up in the northern hills of NSW near a town called Nimbin in NSW & came to Melbourne as a small girl. Growing up with poor hippy artist parents from the bush has definitely influenced my love of being close to nature & my association with the arts.
4. There are a lot of professions out there - why be a photographer?
I didn't actually mean to be a photographer. I wanted to be a film editor but my film class was cancelled at Uni so I continued on studying stills, so now I'm a photographer. I work for myself, under the name of Lilli Waters (personal work), and in 2011 I started my full time wedding photography business, I Got You Babe, something I thought I would never do. I thought my calling was to be a war photojournalist, who knows, it still might be. Some of the pros of being a photographer working for yourself are the freedom, ability to work from bed in your pyjamas with my two cats & endless cups of tea and not having to leave the house if I don't want to, having a beautiful studio space where I can come & go as I please, and being able to take winter time off to work on personal projects & take trips to Europe. The cons are, well there aren't many, except maybe that you don't really stop working or have an official 'knock off' time, ever. I don't mind that though, I frigging love what I do.
5. Are you creativity satisfied at the moment?
When I have a project or projects on the go I'm usually overwhelmed with the amount of work I need to produce, which also means excitement, as opposed to the times in the year I am not shooting personal work and I forget that I'm a photographer. At the moment I'm very nervous and excited about a current project I've just started, a series for an exhibition at 'Saint Cloche' gallery in Sydney in May of this year. They have asked me that I create a Botanical body of work, so I'm quite excited about doing my first themed series.
6. What movie did you love recently?
I try to see a film every other week at my local cinema, this is also probably due to the fact that I am an addict of chilli choc tops & my new favourite hobby is to buy a book at the book shop which is across the road beforehand, even when I haven't finished the last book I purchased. Two films I loved recently were 'Youth' with the brilliant Michael Caine, and 'The Lobster'. They are officially my all time favourite films (well this year anyway).
7. How do you approach a body of work - what’s your creative process?
I wish I knew. I guess I have learnt to accept the natural flux of creativity, that sometimes it's there & sometimes it's not, and when it's not, to let it be and not force it, and when it is, to embrace it and take full advantage. I'm a bit of a workaholic and like to finish what I've started, and as I also shoot weddings (www.igotyoubabe.com.au) and am preoccupied with lovers for 6 months or more of the year. So during the winter months I tend to throw myself full force into getting thoughts onto paper, or in my case, film. A week off here and there, any spare time is used to create personal work, even if I'm tired or don't particularly feel like it, I book the shoots in anyway, then I am forced to do it, and I never regret it. If I don't do that for myself, then I feel like I am not fulfilling my purpose.
8. Do you shoot with your left or right eye?
No idea, I've never thought about it. Hang on, let me check. Left.
9. Who do you respect - in photography or elsewhere?
Too many people to name, so I'll just call some names randomly. Bill Henson. Robin Williams. James Nachtwey. Annie Leibovitz. Cate Blanchett. David Bowie. Prince. Meryl Streep. Nick Cave. Francesca Woodman. Jim Henson. Virginia Wolf. Justin Kurzel (Australian Director of 'Macbeth'). Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Jane Burton. Sally Mann. My Grandmother, past Australian of the year 1972, Elaine Joyce Moir. I think they are all, very very clever & brave.
10. Where do you see yourself in 10 year’s time?
Hopefully being a bare footed mama, running around the back yard chasing some kidlets & dogs on our country block. Renovating our home. Tending to the veggie patch. Painting. Baking. Swimming in the local creek everyday. Being surrounded by gigantic gums. Playing music & taking evening bush walks with my husband. Waking up to the sound of the birds.. Most of the things that exist only in my head for the moment.
Bonus Q: Do you think the gear you use affects the way you photograph? Why?
Most definitely. I use digital for personal work mainly as I am a Photoshop addict and am constantly manipulating my images, and I find raw digital files to be more malleable than film.
- Canon Mark iii x 2
- Canon 35mm 1.4 (use for weddings)
- Canon 50mm 1.2 (use for weddings)
- Canon 24mm 1.4 (use for weddings)
- Canon 80mm 1.2 (commercial work)
- Canon 24-70mm 1.2 (commercial work, personal work)
- Canon 17-40mm F4 (personal work)
- Canon 70-200mm F4 (personal work)
- Canon Speedlites x 2 (use for weddings)
- Manfrotto Tripod (my best friend for personal work)
- Pocket Wizards (have never used)
- Rolleiflex 2.8mm (travel photography & occasionally personal work)
- Pentax 67 (bought in NY for a bargain 2 years ago, havn't used yet)
- lenses -
- 105mm, 45mm, 165mm
- Olympus OM 35mm (travel photography)
Currently on the wish list - Sony a7rii, only need about 10k for that plus lenses?!?
(Any Sony vendors here who would like to sponsor our featured artist?)
For personal work I shoot a mixture of digital & medium format. I don’t use presets. For film stock I am a lover of FUJI (colour), ILFORD (BW) & Tech pan 25 (when it can rarely be found on ebay). I mostly shoot film when I'm travelling. I find it to be a good challenge to walk around a new strange city with my rolleiflex around my neck, having only one chance to get a shot or not. However, I love digital for my personal work as it is more malleable to play with in Photoshop, whereas film needs to be left alone & appreciated as it is.