RESONANCE OF HER REALISM
IN CONVERSATION WITH LANA EILEEN
Through painting, photography and sculpture, Lana Eileen’s work fuses abstract elements with fine details, combining seemingly disparate fragments to evoke a sense ethereality laced with the enhancement of magic realism. In 2019, she undertook an artist residency in remote Iceland, then one on the island of Hrísy near the Arctic Circle in 2021. Previously based in New Zealand, Eileen currently at time of writing, resides in Tasmania, where she attends the School of Creative Arts and Media.
Tell us a bit about yourself. You are also a musician, tell us a bit about that. What was your journey into photography?
I was born in Australia, and I have just moved back here after having lived in New Zealand for a long time. I am now based in Tasmania, which is where I lived when I was very young.
Working as a musician is what I have been doing for the majority of my life. When I started modelling for professional photographers on press shots for my music, I became interested in being a photographer myself. In the years since then, I’ve been continually experimenting, but it’s only recently that I’ve become very passionate about photography and started to take it seriously.
Much of your work is self-portraiture. Is the process of photographing yourself different to that of photographing other people? Do you have a process of preparation?
It’s different in the sense that photographing other people allows for more technical control, whereas self-portraiture can sometimes be a gamble. But there’s a physicality to self-portraiture that I love. It feels performative, almost like dancing, and there is a lot of movement involved. I love self-portraiture because it has an intimacy to it, and it is inherently personal.
Your photographs have a romantic aesthetic mixed with a tangible darkness that has a strong presence to nature. How would you describe your work and how do you choose your themes and communicate this to the viewer?
I am interested in moments that capture a sense of intimacy, focusing on gestures, movement, physical form. I love photographing hands, or faces partially obscured. Diane Arbus said a photograph is a secret about a secret — the more it tells you, the less you know — and that quote reflects how I feel about my work. I appreciate the connection between the human body and the natural landscape, investigating our place in the world and how we are inextricably tied to the earth, and I am always seeking to explore that concept.
In 2019, you undertook an artist residency in remote Iceland. Tell us more about how this came about, what was it like, and what did you take away from this experience?
I had been wanting to complete a residency in Iceland for many years, as I was aware of several programs operating there, and in 2019 I finally applied and was accepted. I spent a month living in a tiny village in a remote corner of east Iceland, covered in snow, working at the studio each day. It was sometimes difficult, as the environment was quite raw and isolating, but I also loved it and found it to be life changing. There were artists from all over the world working there at the same time. I would love to return one day.
Where has been your most favourite place to photograph?
I recently took a series of photographs in a lake in rural Australia just before sunset for my series ‘The Language of Water’, where I walked out into the water, and it was one of those special shoots when everything is just right in terms of lighting and atmosphere. That was definitely one of my favourite moments. I also love experimenting, taking self-portraits underwater or under glass.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?)
As someone who is more creatively driven than technically minded, the equipment I use feels secondary to things like concept and atmosphere, but it’s also undeniable that the type of camera I shoot with has a big impact on the result. Currently I am using a Canon 600D, a Canon 5D MK III, and a Nikon F80. I am very excited by the possibilities associated with using film, and that’s my focus at the moment.
What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I want to keep exhibiting my work, publish a photo book, and learn as much as possible. I plan to move to Europe when I graduate, and exhibit and work over there. I can see photography gaining more prominence in my work as an artist in the years to come.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
I am busy creating work for an exhibition at Black Cat Gallery in Melbourne in early 2022 that expands on my series ‘The Language of Water’, as well as a smaller exhibition of my photography at Parlour Gallery in Hobart this September, and I am also directing a lot of my focus towards shooting on film.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
Write music for my upcoming album, sing, play the piano and other instruments, perform at shows, make handmade jewellery and herbal skincare, read, cook, try to write a novel, go on road trips, or simply enjoy being out in nature."