Future Watch: Luna Lopez
Luna Lopez is Danish-born photographer who’s been on Team C-print’s radar for a while. Having interviewed her already last year for a feature online, then together with her artist boyfriend Erik Gustafsson, we check in with her about her practice that in our opinion brings a freshness and aesthetic that is internationally potent but greatly underrepresented in Sweden.
Luna Lopez, Out of Reach, 2019.
C-P: Looking at your body of work, you strike me as an artist whose photography is marked by a visual aesthetic and a "youthful" contemporary gaze that is very in tune with positions you would find at major festivals and photography publications. I'm thinking of photography for which the online realm of photography blogs and the likes have been paramount. It speaks to me greatly, but I often tend to think it is underrepresented both commercially and institutionally in Sweden, where a lot of your peers from school will be seated in a “earthier” documentary realm.
What I'm getting at with this is the feeling of a lack of a "scene" here, as opposed to other places in the world. What is your take?
L.L: Having lived in Sweden for 2,5 years I think I’ve been in my own bubble for most of the time, creating, without really paying attention to what is represented or not, or maybe just didn’t want to think about it, so it wouldn’t influence my flow of creation. Although I have of course observed "the style" of photography at school (Valand Academy) and at galleries in town, which seems to me as either documentary or most of all conceptual photography where it’s not the image, the technique or the aesthetic that is in focus, but rather the concept itself that comes first. I believe this mind-set is developed already at school where you most of the time have to explain every step you take in the process of creating a picture and almost have to know the end result before even starting. For me this prevents the playfulness, spontaneity and the risk of failure which I believe are important ingredients of creating.
Luna Lopez, Untitled, (Intimacy and Violence), 2019
C-P: Your work strikes me as informed by and departing from community, where the narratives seemingly revolve around the social intimacy of private circles. What importance does community play in your making?
L.L: I think that community and intimacy are key words for my work, especially for a project that I'm doing now which is based on the borderland between intimacy and violence. I’ve taken most of the pictures in my private circle or my circles' circles, which I believe have made it possible for the moment to be so intimate and present. Although I think there is something really interesting about entering other communities, (which can be super intimate as well) and being let into people’s lives and getting to know and learn about communities that before have felt closed or mysterious. That’s the magic about a camera. A cliché comment, but it’s true! So, without community, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in photography at all.
C-P: Your work is seated both in fine art photography and fashion photography with your work having appeared in heavy-hitting publications like Vogue. Even if a distinction is still often made, the division between these have become increasingly blurry over time with photographers successfully working in both fields. What are your thoughts on this?
L.L: I think this is absolutely great. Fashion photography has become more than just showing clothes on good-looking people. Yes, the traditional way of doing it still exists, of course, but as you say, the genre has been blurred, especially with influences from documentary and fine art photography. I think the fashion industry can be really involved in what’s going on in the world and especially brings attention to diversity and activism. You meet fashion photography everywhere you go, it’s hard to avoid. Therefore I see it as a good opportunity for visuals artists to have a say and showcase their work to a bigger and different crowd. I think it can be a great way to survive as an artist. Honestly, I don’t understand why it’s not discussed more in school? I don’t think that you necessarily have to sacrifice your art to work in the fashion industry. Goes without saying, you’re then not the only one in charge, but that doesn’t have to be entirely bad. If collaborating with people who share more or less the same mindset as you, new and interesting work can be created.
Luna Lopez, Split Tree, 2019
C-P: You’re currently studying for your BFA at Valand Academy in Gothenburg. How have you found your time at the school so far?
L.L: I have really mixed feelings about my time at the school. I think it’s an amazing place for photographers to be, since there are extremely good facilities for analogue (and digital) photography. My practice has developed a lot because of the opportunity to constantly work and learn from the teachers and other students. I believe that an art academy should be about encouraging, inspiring and teaching the students about their medium, not just historically and theoretically, but actually teach, in this case, the practical part of photography. Instead I have experienced how it’s been more important to be able to problematize and explain yourself before having even started taking pictures. This has for me been really frustrating and has taken away a lot of energy and desire to create.
C-P: And what are your thoughts on the city itself, as a place for art professionals?
L.L: I think Gothenburg has both pros and cons as a city for art professionals. It’s a nice place to work, since both Göteborgs Bildverkstad and KKV (Konstnärernas Kollektivverkstad) are present here, where there are good working facilities and memberships are fairly inexpensive. There’s a handful of nice galleries in town, but after living here for a couple of years, I’m longing for a city with a bigger, more international art scene.
Luna Lopez, Untitled, (Drinking Water), 2020
C.P: What might be some of the practices that have influenced your own?
L.L: The first photographer that really struck me was Sally Mann. I was around fifteen when I first saw her book Immediate Family and it completely made me fall in love with photography. It's still one of my favorite books. Rineke Dijkstra and Katy Grannan's Model American have also had a big impact on my practice from early on. Now I find inspiration in so many other things than photography. Lately I've been really inspired by sports. The way the athletes move their bodies, what they wear, the look in their eyes - such compassion. My mom's a dancer and when I as a kid brought friends home from school, she would make us try out her latest choreographies. I thought it was so embarrassing, even though my friends seemed to think it was fun. Despite the fact that I as a teenager tried to become anything but her, which I (luckily) didn't succeed at, her fascination with dance got passed on to me. I often look at dance to find inspiration for how I want people to pose in front of my camera. Pina Bausch is great.
C-P: Given the times, has Covid-19 impacted your practice and plans and what might be ahead of you this year?
L.L: It really affected me the first half year since school was completely shut down and my productivity was challenged. Under this period of not being able to work as I used to, lots of new ideas came to me. This was both really frustrating when not being able to pursue them, but it also reminded me of the importance of not overworking myself all of the time, so that new ideas could come to me. Besides that, the access to communities as we talked about before, has been limited, so under this time I’ve mostly been photographing the ones I have at hand or a few people at a time. There are certain projects and pictures that I’ve been wanting to do, that simply haven't been possible under these circumstances. I’m holding on to those ideas for a while but now I’m working on what I actually can do instead.
In about 3 months I’ll graduate from school, which means that I’m currently working on our graduation exhibition at Röda Sten Konsthall, which for now, seems like it will happen despite everything. In August I will have a solo show at Gallery Møn, Denmark, which I am slowly preparing for in my head. I’ve always been too afraid to exhibit because of social anxiety, but I feel like it’s my time to shine now. I’m hoping to go to Paris after the summer to work as an assistant, but we’ll see what’s going to happen. I will also be working on a book, which I hope will be ready to be published next year. I have great expectations for this year!
This feature was originally produced for C-print's The Future Watch Issue in print, a close collaboration with the BA3 Class in Graphic Design and Illustration at Konstfack, and released (May 2021) and sold at Index Foundation in Stockholm (our main distributor).