Lola Mitchell works underwater without breathing. An artistic upbringing and the freedom of trying new things are essentials that give Lola’s art the feel of freedom and lightness. Her artwork is a combination of photography and painting, and her shoots occur “in the moment” with minimal planning. In her interview, Lola gives some insights into her artistic process, and inspiration behind her dream-like images. Lola Mitchell is based in Los Angeles, CA.
Lola, we discovered your art at the LA Art Show 2023. What is your favorite thing about art fairs?
Getting to meet the people who love art. It is interesting to see what people gravitate towards and see what they see in my work. I noticed there is always one photo that seems to be a hit and it is a different one at every art show. Talking to people and hearing what they appreciate and love in my art is crucial for my growth as an artist.
Tell me a little bit about your upbringing and how did you start with photography. How did you find your unique style and voice as an artist?
I had a very unusual upbringing. My mother was a contemporary dancer, and my father was a fashion photographer (I grew up in Paris, France but they both were originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina). I grew up surrounded by artists. My father also took photos of plays (his brother was a playwright and actor).
I was only able to grow and actually get started when I stopped thinking about the outcome. I had just had a baby and for the first time was not busy working. I started with iPhone photography and was watching a lot of photography classes online. I saw someone doing a photoshoot underwater and I was obsessed. My first model was my beloved babysitter. Still consider her my muse. Having fun with shooting and trying new techniques is how I found my voice.
Your work is a combination of photography, and painting. What are the challenges of underwater photography?
The main challenge is to forget that you are underwater. It is not our natural state. I do not breathe but I am sure it is also challenging when using oxygen. But that is also the appeal for me. It puts me in a meditative state. I am an overthinker and shooting underwater is my most peaceful time. The editing and painting occurs (or used to) mainly on Photoshop. Slowly, I wanted to play with paint and gold leaf. I love exploration and learning new techniques.
You explain on your website that you do not breathe while you take your underwater photos, and that you require this meditative state to create. How does this precondition add to the magic you create with the model underwater?
I am only focused on the model and how to capture her. It also allows me to stay open to the possibilities. While there is sometimes a bit of planning, most times I think of a color and a concept, but I allow the moment to dictate the final product. 5. How do you choose your subjects and how long does it take for you to create one of your pieces?
I have a few models I have been working with for a while now. I know their strength and what they bring to the shoots. Right now, I am in the process of looking for more models. I just started shooting men and I would really like to explore this further, too.
As far as the timeline..... My shoots are pretty short. Usually an hour, perhaps an hour and a half. But the processing and editing is another story. I am often editing a few photos at once. Sometimes, I can finish a bunch in a couple of days and some stay put until I am ready to finish them.
In your opinion – how strongly does the relationship between photographer and subject influence the quality of the images?
Immensely. I think a photographer has to be interested in people. It is a collaboration between two humans. When there is joy and trust, it will bring better images.
What or who inspired you and motivates you to keep going?
My kids, I want to show them that I will not stop. Sometimes a great conversation during an art fair can re-ignite the fire, too. I want to keep making images that I am proud of.
What are some of the people you look up to? And is there a specific idea you haven’t explored in your art yet, but you really want to?
I would like to shoot in the ocean and do more painting on my prints, as well.
There are many people that I look up to. I am inspired by the Italian Renaissance, and I love the classics like Klimt. But I love photographers such as Paolo Roversi, Peter Beard, Sarah Moon, Avedon, Newton, and I cannot forget to mention my dad Jorge Damonte.
What is the biggest fear you face when you create?
That my images will just be pretty, that they will all look the same. I like it when I am surprised by and happy about the final image. When I feel like it is different.
What do you imagine your artistic legacy to be?
Oh, I don't know. I think the best one would be to inspire others to make art. I think it is a need that we all have even if we don't realize it. I think every action we take can be defined as art if it fulfills us and we put some grace, kindness, and beauty into it.
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