You never really know who or what people do unless you communicate-it’s a big thing right?
#itchysilk met Lauren Rooney at a gym where she happened to be a trainer but it was through the power of conversation that her other life as a talented and dynamic photographer was unearthed.
At the time of writing this, Lauren has left the sweat of personal training to pursue her blossoming career at full speed. Still in her 20’s she recently became the proud owner of her own studio where she revels in the ‘process’ of photography. It’s her ability to explore subjects like death in her Mourning Series without morbidity, imbuing each of her pictures with an inquisitiveness that is engaging and allows her work to be distinctive and powerful. It’s this innate ability that has already seen her blessed with a runner up spot at the renowned Getty Images Gallery for The Renaissance Photography prize.
With such a talented photographer, #itchysilk had to get some time with her to discuss; death, her own personal experiences and the power of the darkroom to bring happiness and catharsis.
FAMILY AND PHOTOGRAPHY
I have a bit of a past with photography, my family loved capturing moments particularly of happiness and family moments we have copious amounts of albums in my basement. Back then it was film photography, we had a family camera a Canon 35mm which I remember my dad teaching me how to snap on one family holiday. However my main aim from a young age was to go into forensics, the aim was still dealing with death maybe not so much in a different way (as I still analyse death) but it would have been in a different field.
PHOTOGRAPHY, FATE-‘MY FATHER’
When my parents split up, I moved away from my beautiful home in Scotland. I began failing in science, while photography was becoming more and more influential to me. I went to visit my father in the month of August for my birthday, he bought me my first camera a little Sony DSLR. In those couple of days I took photographs of my old farm where I used to live. A month later my father passed away, I still own this camera until today and when asked what item I would take if there was a fire it would be that camera a picture of him is still on it. I was very close to my father and his death left me heart-broken but I really felt I had to be strong for my family, so at that time I never really expressed my emotion fully.
Going back to school the only subject that I really loved was photography, especially having the last item my father gave me as a way to still feel connected to him. I went to college where I continue my growing love of photography. At this time I was interested in fashion photography, I produced very beautiful images and had the chance to photograph some catwalks at a very young age. It was here though that I started using other cameras, using different lenses and exploring the field of traditional film photography. Traditional photography actually frustrated me, I hated it, I hated going into a pitch black room and trying over and over to get my film on the roll.
The thing with film photography, is that whole element of a surprise you cannot just look at the back of the camera and see what you have got you have to wait, go through all the processes, it is like receiving a Christmas present sometimes a real surprise. So at college it was very much a balance of frustration and happiness when it came to film photography. I would drop it on the floor, you could get to a certain point winding your film on and then it would stop and you would have to start all over again so I would be spending half an hour in a pitch black room shouting at this film roll. Once the film is on and you see the images appear after processing it there is no better feeling!
DARKROOM BRINGS LIGHT AND CATHARSIS
My favourite part of it all is printing! It’s amazing- the type of mood that you are in, really affects the type of images that are created as well (little fact) darker more contrast sometimes really conveyed the type of day I was having. The rolling of film or processing became second nature, no longer half an hour in the pitch dark a roll would take 2 mins if that, large format had to be dipped in tanks with this I would dance in the pitch black and sing songs. It was through the process and photography that I realised I had been expressing my emotion’s about my father’s death.
DEATH AND BARTHES
I actually stumbled into the field of the funeral industry and started by photographing the undertakers there but I started exploring the interiors of the funeral home. I became transfixed by the chapels of rest, it is something close to my heart it because I remember my last memory of my father was in the chapel of rest where I last viewed his body. I started looking at the interiors of chapels of rest, the past literature of the rooms, the way in which they were decorated and the cultural associations behind them. Now I have photographed a lot of projects around death, I feel like it is something in our society that is just not discussed enough and it still a massive taboo-so in a way I want to open up this discussion through my imagery.
With my work you never see the full form of the body, only parts, only slight hints that death is embedded in the notion of the image. My purpose is not to capture the dead, I would say I capture the notion of death and the questioning of ontology. All photographs are capturing death really it’s just no one ever thinks of photographs in that way. Barthes said that every photograph contains the sign of death and that the essence of photography is the implied message: ‘That has been.’
PROJECTS EXPLORING DEATH
I have explored death in three projects; His Three Ladies: are intimate portraits of my mother, my sister and self-portrait taken when questioning about my father’s death and how it affected us as well as a reflection on the good times. This was the first time that we all sat down together and properly spoke about it together in the 7 years of his passing.
In The Mourning Interiors: I really enjoyed shooting the interiors and still shoot today. There is so much behind these simplistic interiors both in the idea of the history of the funeral industry and past literature on funeral homes and in a personal sense.
My most recent exploration is the Widows project, which started out in India. I met some of the most beautiful women in the Ashrams in which I photographed, the way in which widows in India are treated and the history behind some of the traditions-again it’s this picture of history and personal notions mixed into one that draws me to this subject-more to come from this series.
LIVING-NOW AND FOR THE FUTURE
Well in less than two weeks I will be attending a Conflict photography course, it is possible in the future that I would like to work in the conflict zone photography and journalism. July and August I will be going back to India to continue working on my Widows Series for a month or two and then I am hoping to do a series out in a couple of other various locations that I cannot currently disclose.