DG: Laelia, your work is dramatic, bleeding into fantasy. How do you encourage sitters (and dancers, like Stephanie Culson) to reach an imaginative place, within themselves?
Before I do a shoot I make sure there’s great communication between me and the sitter, and a deep understanding of what we want to achieve. I also make sure that our surroundings, music and accessories help with the vision and atmosphere. Sometimes we have a drink…
DG: Do you prefer to photograph people you know, or strangers? What are the advantages of either situation?
I certainly prefer to photograph people I know. If possible I meet those I don’t before the shoot, so they are not strangers anymore. To capture more than mere appearance, it’s necessary to create trust. Photographing strangers, on the other hand, can be fun, an interesting story… danger or disaster. It depends if they know about being photographed or they don’t. People can become shy, artificial and suspicious. Not everyone is used to the camera and posing or has the confidence to perform in front of the lens.
Strangers captured when they’re in their own thoughts, element or situations – that’s a different story, and the results can be magnificent. Personally, I’d hate to be photographed when I’m unaware, so I’m not a fan of doing this myself, unless it’s a part of the job. I will stick with what I can control and influence.
DG: Can a photographer see things in a person that they, or their closest friend, might not see?
You don’t need a photographer to see those things, everyone we meet is our mirror: it’s up to your perception. The final outcome, the photo, often reveals something to the person that their closest circle didn’t notice. It is a huge responsibility to photograph people.
DG: Some of your photographs propose stories, like the witchlike figure in the woods and the man in the derelict building. Is this deliberate?
Some are deliberate, others are born during the process. There’s room for improvising, the unexpected and for side-stories. I have a vision and plan and I am happy when everything goes according to it, but the unexpected ‘extras’ are my bliss. It often feels as if there are other forces partaking in those shoots, inspiring all involved. I have many strange stories.