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Friends on Film

Words and images by Lilli Waters

By March 31, 2021August 10th, 2021The Collective

Friends on Film is a portrait series documenting family and friends photographed on medium format film, after social distancing restrictions during Covid-19 were eased in the state of Victoria, and people were permitted to visit friends in their homes whilst practicing social distancing.

This series was inspired by isolation and the need for human connection and sharing of our own individual experiences of this strange time.

For me, unable to work and having a newfound amount of time on my hands, I was unable to find purpose and joy in a bonding ritual by capturing these portraits.

I am attempting to embrace what was an enforced slowing down and use this approach in my practice. I do this by using film and allocating only two rolls of film per person, a maximum of 20 photographs per sitting. Every shot is carefully considered, far removed from working in the digital realm where an ability to shoot endless images removes the risk but also the magic.

The analog camera lens for me is a portal into a different way of seeing, a re-evaluation of how I feel about photography, which is ultimately just a way to connect with other humans. 

Lilli Waters

Lilli Waters (born 1983, Armidale, NSW) is a fine arts photographer whose work explores the human condition through dramatic images of the female form in haunting, windswept landscapes. A Lilli Waters image has a painterly quality, evoking the Pre-Raphaelites with macabre, foreboding elements, a jewel-like palette and a sensitive use of light. Waters makes use of translucent fabrics and long hair to obscure the identities of her subjects, suggesting that the image might be just as much a mirror for the viewer, as it is a portrait.

These images initially appear to represent a romantic idea of beauty and an equivalence between the fertility of the female body and the landscape. Yet in the era of ‘Me Too’ and ecological crisis, Waters’ work ofers a critical feminine gaze. Her portraits allude to the conundrum of simply being in a woman’s skin: of how to express physical agency and ease in a society that constantly objectifies women and irrevocably wreaks damage on the environment. These are images that convey complex emotions: the interplay of darkness and luminosity, strength and vulnerability, and the possibility for new understandings based on an awareness of our dependence on the earth.

An ecological concern also finds expression in Waters’ underwater still life series which reference Northern Renaissance paintings in lighting and composition. Her underwater works feature live marine creatures amongst rocks, fruit and flowers to evoke other-worldly landscapes with a palpable feeling of space and slowed time. Waters representations of luxuriant, yet fragile beauty are a reminder of the imminent loss of whole species and ecosystems as a result of climate change.

Lilli’s work has been exhibited to much acclaim in Italy, Germany, Japan, the UK, the US and Australia. Her images have appeared in publications around the globe – including Vogue Living (Aus), Belle Magazine (Aus), Art Aesthetica (UK), Real Living Magazine (Aus), Austrian Living (Austria), Jane by the Grey Attic (Aus) and The Opera Magazine (Germany) as well as appeared in feature films, including Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed (USA). She has been a finalist in the Naked & Nude Art Prize (2021), Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize (2021), Nillumbik Prize for Contemporary Art (2021), Fisher’s Ghost Art Award (2020), Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize (2020), Du Reitz Art Awards (2020), Percival Photographic Art Prize (2020), National Portrait Prize (2019), Australian Photography Awards (2018) and Art Aesthetica Art Award (2018).

Lilli is reprented by Curatorial & Co Gallery in NSW, Metro Gallery and Modern Times in VIC.

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