With a combination of vulnerability and strength, Lulu Lovering is one of the most compelling photographers working today. Her photographs are instantly recognizable – and not only because she is so often her own subject. They have a unique emotional density, clear focus, and serious whimsy. As with all the best photographers, her images capture something essential and innate.
She is one of those rare and luminous humans who approaches the world with a childlike wonder and appreciation for the fantastic. This she balances with an authenticity and emotional deftness that belies a deep introspection and wisdom. And this fine balancing act is what really sets her work apart.
But really, her incredible work is only one part of why we’re honored to feature Lulu. We also draw so much strength from her dedication. She’s really a hustler, in the best sense of the word. She’s working so hard, every day, to follow her passions and create the life of her own imagining. (You may be familiar with some of her thoughts on the subject, as she wrote a guest essay for us last year.) As a freelance photographer, model, writer and one-woman business owner, she carries the weight of her dreams every day. It’s a beautiful weight, to be sure, but a weight nonetheless.
We’re beyond thrilled to share with you the words and work of the lovely, inimitable Lulu Lovering! Let’s get to it.
- Age: 26
- Location: I currently live in a little village called Putney in Vermont
- Education: I attended a fantastic small college called Landmark and have an Associate’s Degree in Arts
- Field of Interest: Photography and Writing
- What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? My favorite thing about myself is my huge smile due to my enormous front teeth hehe! And a little more seriously, my favorite thing about myself would have to be my love and zest for life and other people.
- What Inspired You Today? I love to start the morning curled up in a sunny window listening to music. It always makes me feel ready to tackle the day!
- What Are You Currently Listening To On Repeat? I shouldn’t admit this, but I became addicted to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” song. If I even play the intro, everyone in my house starts groaning and yelling for me to turn it off. But it’s too late now for me to say sorry.
- What Are You Reading That You Can’t Put Down? I just read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson and I laughed so much that I cried quite a lot and had to take several breaks. I also can’t look at the cover or I’ll go into hysterics. That little raccoon is my favorite.
- What Are You Currently Involved In That You’re Really Excited About? On March 1st, I’m leaving my home and job in Vermont to travel around the U.S and Canada with my beloved boyfriend for about 5 months! We’re planning to blog and create a huge collection of new photography, as well as launching a community for artists worldwide called Light Keepers. It’s going to be so fun!
Questions + Answers
Today, you’re a well-known photographer with the unique ability to convey dense emotions. Could you explain your journey into photography, and why it continues to capture your interest?
Thank you so very much! I stumbled into photography almost completely by accident, in so many ways I still feel a little in shock that I’ve become a photographer for really real. Something that I haven’t shared very much about in my social media presence is that my Mum suffers from severe schizophrenia and strongly disliked and was somewhat afraid of cameras. So I never was able to take courses or workshops or until I was much older and more independent, since it upset her so much.
But when I was about 21, I decided to buy a lovely Canon Powershot camera. My Dad’s girlfriend had the much-bigger Canon Rebel DSLR and asked me if I would possibly want to trade camera’s with her because she was having trouble figuring out how to use it.
At the time I was writing and drawing in secret just on my own, but I had no artistic medium that I was serious about. But being gifted that lovely Rebel changed everything for me! I slowly started learning how to use it and fell in love with it more with every shot I took, until it eventually took over my whole life in the most amazing way imaginable.
Now my love for it has only grown stronger and stronger as I try more techniques and learn as much as I can about all the endless possibilities within this medium. I love the way photography plays with honesty while also lending the photographer the ability to express a dream or fantasy.
I’m crazy about the way it can tell entire stories or show whole worlds in just a single frame and the way it can lend to what might seem like an otherwise ordinary place, or flower, or person, an otherworldliness. It makes everything it captures special.
When you look at a photograph you’re able to truly see a subject because it’s held still so that you can deeply connect in that moment. As I grow, I feel that I become only more and more interested in ways to convey that feeling and connection.
Your photos explore a broad emotional range. Which emotions or sentiments are your favorite to photograph and why? Which tend to resonate most with your audience?
My favorite emotions and sentiments to capture so far have been somewhat tranquil or peaceful scenes or portraits that have an undercurrent of power to them. Especially when creating self-portraits, the theme that I come back to over and over again has been the feeling of harmony within nature or within oneself, but also with an overarching emotion of hidden strength. So far those subtley emotive photographs have seemed to resonate the most with my amazing audience.
Often I find myself trying to photograph emotional ranges I don’t know how to otherwise describe or the feeling of being filled with several emotions all at once. I love when those images seem to connect beautifully with people.
Like the photograph world, the emotional world and it’s expression are so endless and limitless. I love being able to even hint at the presence of a current of feeling that almost goes above or beyond words, encompassing every person or thing that it touches – the feeling somehow of the entire range of human experience, if someone could feel it all at once and be swept away by it a little.
I’m a big daydreamer and tend to have a naturally wistful expression, so many of my self-portraits seem as if you were to stumble across a person lost in their own thoughts or nostalgias. I’ve always wanted to be able to share the sentiment of a person who at their core is simply and truly in love with life and all its little details.
Your social media presence is a big part of your professional and even personal life. A prime example of this is your partner, photographer Ben McKinnon, who you met via Instagram. How has social media influenced your work and perspective on relationships?
Oh, this is such a good question and something I’ve been thinking about a great deal lately! Social media has risen to such a huge part of all of our lives and I’m completely blown away by the connections I’ve found. Meeting Ben through Instagram was the icing on a cake that was full of strangers who became the best of friends and whose worlds I get to be a part of every single day, albeit through a screen most of the time.
I’m someone who dearly loves social media. I’m crazy about the people I’ve met through it and I’m constantly hungry to meet even more. As a very visual person, social media is almost always a feast for my eyes. The inspiration and joy it’s brought me are incomparable. I genuinely wouldn’t have the things that I love most in my life without its help and I love it for that with all my heart.
But as with all things in life, it has another side that I think one has to take with a grain of salt and be practical about. For the 10 incredible people you meet online there will always be a handful that are unkind or unfeeling towards you or your work. And I think that haunts a lot of artists in the back of their minds when they’re creating. You can’t help but think about what kind of response each piece will get on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr.
In that way, it can begin to affect your work a little negatively if you let it into your process too far. While I treasure the influence social media has had in my life, there are some places I can’t let it reach into or it will spoil all the fun. Comparison is truly the thief of joy and it’s all too easy to become poisoned by over-comparison in the social media realms; there’s a lot of fantastic work out there.
Words are an essential aspect of your presentation. Do you have a favorite book or poem?
Oof! I’m completely obsessed with books and poems! My all-time favorite book is The Secret Garden and my favorite poem would have to be “The Messenger” by Mary Oliver.
An almost tangible joy, earnestness and vulnerability is evident in your work and writing. This is rare (and beautiful)! How do you preserve this quality?
Oh my goodness, thank you so much! I think one of the most important things in my life has been to look at the whole world with a huge amount of attention. I’m easily entranced by details and light and other people and have always held inside a massive emotional world that I’ve never tried to rein in.
Sometimes it’s gotten me into a little trouble, but most of the time allowing myself to feel everything as deeply as possible has given me incredible joy and left me feeling a part of everything I see or experience. This is where my overwhelming feelings of vulnerability have always come from.
It’s a powerful thing for me to look closely at my environment or at the people in my life and to try to experience them as fully as possible and that makes me incredibly earnest and eager-seeming. But I’m an unabashedly romantic soul who wants to feel as genuinely connected to God and to life as possible, and that’s the place where almost everything I’ve created comes from.
Is there an image or series of images that feels monumental or transformative for you (either that you took or that are of you)? If so, could you explain why and even how your physical, intellectual and emotional reality at the time are visible in the image?
Oh yes! There’s a series that Ben took of me this past spring of me on a rainy summer afternoon interacting with him just in my room that really shook me monumentally. As someone who has created a huge body of self-portraits, I thought that I could never see myself in a new light – but I was completely stunned by the images he created because of how honestly and transparently he had captured me in those moments. The emotion in them was incredibly powerful to me.
Whenever I take self-portraits I take a series of them and of course they’re posed and composited a certain way and then the best image is selected. But to have someone you love with all of your heart present to you the way they see you was the most moving and transformative experience imaginable for me.
I can see myself in those images as my best self; a soft person who’s brimming over with love and powerful emotion. There’s especially one image in particular where I was resting my face on Ben’s hand and looking directly at him that I almost couldn’t believe was of me; I had never seen myself with that expression and I couldn’t help but feel that shot was almost less of me as a physical person and more of a glimpse at my soul.
You recently started Light Keeper’s. For those who may not be familiar, what is it and why did you create it?
Light Keeper’s is something Ben and I are so, so very excited about! Our intention for it is to create a global community both online and in real life where artists or creatives working in any and all mediums all over the world can come together and support, inspire, and encourage each other while learning new skills, making new lifelong friends and creating together.
We’re planning to launch themed events that artists can attend, almost like creative day camps for grown-ups! There will be different peers at each event such as photographers, illustrators, digital retouchers, models, filmmakers, writers, florists and painters, and throughout the day or weekend there will be different adventurous and artistic experiences and learning opportunities for the group to share.
Our hope is to have these amazing experiences that could positively inspire and jumpstart the creative heart of anyone in attendance. They would be able to create new work alongside new friends and peers in a warm and supportive environment for any skill level. We also plan to blog as the Light Keeper’s, interview and promote other artists, and create new storytelling content as Ben and Lulu that is centered around the Light Keeper’s underlying message of striving for positivity, personal and artistic growth and caring people looking out for each other and helping each other along.
We wanted to create this kind of community because of the wonderful impact that workshops, camps, meet-ups, etc. have on the artist community. We want as many people as possible to experience a loving, kind community where they feel welcomed and empowered to create whatever they can alongside others who are doing just the same!
We also wanted to create experiences that were creatively liberal; so a photographer could enjoy drawing inspiration from journaling or illustration or learning more techniques in Photoshop for example, or a writer could attend and learn photography or filmmaking skills to supplement their written words. We want everyone to leave the Light Keeper’s with a feeling of carrying away an inspirational treasure chest that they can draw from. And we also just want to provide and host fun, engaging, incredible new experiences for people all over the world to enjoy and learn inside of alongside other artists.
You’ve created a successful business through your modeling and photography. Do you have any business lessons to share with aspiring photographers and creatives?
I must confess that the business aspect of all this has always vaguely eluded me.
The truth is that running a personal business is incredibly difficult and can even be a little scary and overwhelming, but it’s entirely worth it and with patience and a willingness to work hard, opportunities that you could have never imagined will come your way!
1. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. It helps immensely to ask questions, email profusely (something I’m admittedly dreadful at so far), meet with other creatives and to really saturate yourself in your chosen field. I know it’s easy to feel shy or uncertain but reaching out to others can literally change everything for your business and for your life. Politely asking to collaborate, intern, assist, second-shoot or any other element that will involve going out and doing your beloved and beautiful work will do complete wonders and more and more paid work will follow it.
As a relative beginner in this area I’m doing this right now; just trying to create work for myself. Sometimes it means making something up or emailing complete strangers and saying ‘Can I take photos for you?’ and occasionally it might even mean working for free which is hard but can be incredibly worthwhile if you carefully choose projects that will repay you in experience and higher connection.
2. Also, do not to get frustrated and beat yourself up if things move slowly at first, but be persistent. Give yourself projects and put them out there for the world to see and your client base will build and build. Ask other creatives to work with you, design styled shoots and ask sweet buddies to model for you.
3. My strongest advice both for myself and others is to just throw yourself fully into your passion and let it guide you. Don’t be too discouraged if things don’t take off right away or if you inevitably are sometimes rejected because it takes all professionals years to become peers in their field, but just let yourself fall in love and keep falling in love every day with what you’re doing. Always create things that are true to yourself and your own personal visions, and the rest will follow suit!
4. And I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to just put yourself and your work out there, on any platform or in any way your heart desires. Let people connect with you and be available to work and create and play until you’re living the dream, which is to be paid to do what you would do for free because it’s who you are and it’s what you love.
+ Are you as inspired by the incredible Lulu as we are? Let us know what you think of her work in the comments below!