Behind the Lens: Lulu Lovering’s Self-Portraits Capture the Unspoken Emotions of a Shy Woman

Lulu Lovering discovered her passion for photography deep in the lush forests and green mountains of Vermont. Here, she was able to express herself freely through the eye of her lens. Each self-portrait this extremely shy young woman captures is like a visual rendering of entries from her diary, capturing the emotions that lie within and offering a photographic representation of her thoughts. She uses photography as a tool of self discovery, communicating powerful stories through her lens.

Her strong, sometimes dramatic portraits have the ability to touch your soul, and fill you with a familiar, quiet sense of longing. Drawing ideas from a wide range of human emotions, Lulu's cinematic style connects with the viewer on a deeper level, inspiring her audience to follow their own path of self expression. We were lucky enough to catch up with Lulu for a behind the lens look into her portfolio.

Tell us a bit about your journey into photography.

My journey into photography began happily a couple of years ago, when I was going through a phase of feeling intensely shy. I absolutely loved everyone I knew but was having trouble feeling like I didn't know how to express myself. So, at the time, I was nearly silent except for happy giggling. My dad's wonderful partner traded me her DSLR one day for an easier-to-use, little Canon Powershot, which I then used to take photos of flowers and my hiking adventures, and it just completely and suddenly changed my life as I started playing around with it and learning how to use it.

I had just recently joined Facebook and Flickr and fell in love with the incredible conceptual and fine art photography I saw there. I felt like I had finally found a medium where I didn't have to know what to say. I could just pour my heart out in front of the lens sharing my emotions, thoughts, and all that life meant to me without struggling to verbalize it. At first the photos were really just for me and a few close friends but as I delved more deeply into photography, it opened up an entire new world for me and pulled me completely out of my shell. With each photo, I learned more about myself and re-learned how to communicate with my amazing friends as that true self.

What are some of your interests? 

Oh gosh, I love this question so much because I'm interested in just about everything in the whole world. Over the years, I've been fascinated by modern dance, dinosaurs, Star Wars, gardening, fairy tales, travel, soccer, theology; everything and anything! The only things I can usually feel disinterested in are scary movies and potatoes (unless they're french fries).

Where are you based?

I'm based in the lovely Green Mountains of Vermont! But I love traveling all over New England; there's so much beauty and history on the East Coast to explore!

What keeps you inspired? 

I think that what helps keep me most inspired is other people. I really love the huge range of human emotions so much and the way each person is so unique and fathomless. Every time I see a new portrait or meet a new person I feel like a window in life has opened up and I feel so inspired to capture their story and heart, or what makes them who they are. I also deeply love music and poetry. Most of my self-portraits are created from a few lines in songs I love or poetry I've come across. Language has always felt so powerful to me and has fueled me greatly to create emotive imagery to reflect what I've heard or read.

What made you start self-portraiture?

I began self-portraiture really as a way to express myself and also to unearth who I am. When I first began photography I was struggling with a lot of insecurity and I felt uncertain about how to share with the world the person I was, but had hidden for a time. Self-portraiture helped me to reveal who I was and then through the sharing of it, to connect to other people.
Taking self-portraits became like a diary for me where I could pour out my heart and then let other people read it. It helped me so greatly to better understand both myself, and the way that I belong to other people and the world at large. It helped me immensely to shed my fear of sharing my experiences and how they've shaped me into the person I am today. I fell in love with the way cameras capture the truth and how, as a photographer, I could tell my stories through those captures.

What was the first photograph that really made you proud to be a photographer?

The first photo that I ever took where I felt so excited to be a photographer was this one that I took in front of my window on a sunny day when I was 20 and then stitched together in the cute online editing app that used to be called Picnik!

It's very blurry and wonky in places but I was so excited to feel that even in such a simple way, I could share a piece of myself.

Take us through a typical day of shooting.

A typical day of shooting for me is usually a few lovely hours spent outside, exploring before or after my wonderful day job at a local Co-Op. I usually drive to one of my favorite beautiful places or meet with a dear friend to go roaming somewhere new. Sometimes I bring along costumes and props, sometimes I go just as I am and try to create a storyline or express a thought once I'm there. Then, with my trusty Canon remote, I usually shoot for a couple of hours, trying out different poses and spots and ideas. Then, once I'm home, I go through them in Lightroom and choose the one image that speaks to me the most, to share!

What is your favorite shooting location?

My absolute favorite shooting location is a very simple one but it's so dear to me! It's a wonderful series of fields just above my house in Vermont that I can run up some hiking trails to access. Morning, noon or night they have the most beautiful soft light and are always filled with birds and butterflies and wildflowers. The sun seems to set directly into them in the evening and it all turns into a golden heaven.

What challenges have you faced while creating?

The challenge that I face most often while shooting, I think, is translating ideas into real imagery. It's so easy for me to get swept away by a song or a powerful line of poetry or an emotion and then feel unsure of how to best express it. It often takes me quite a bit of trial and error to really feel that a pose perfectly captured the feeling I was trying to put behind it. And then trying to match up the lighting, location and wardrobe can also be a bit tricky as well! But the wonderful feeling when it all comes together in the end is always worth the self-doubt I can often feel while out shooting.

What's a must-have in your gear bag?

A must-have in my camera bag is a fixed focus lens. I remember the feeling I had when I first shot with a 50mm lens! I use them for almost every portrait that I take and just love them to the moon and back. I almost must have cookies and band aids for when I inevitably trip over fallen logs and my own feet.

How much post processing goes into a completed photo?

I've really just begun diving more fully into post-processing; beginning to learn the fundamentals of Photoshop just these past couple of weeks! I always adjust for enhanced light and color in Lightroom and often aim to create a film-esque look through minor adjustments there. I'm extremely excited to be slowly learning the Photoshop skills to incorporate outside elements or really enhance my original vision but in the end I usually only lightly retouch each image.

If you could define your style, what would you call it?

Oh gosh, this has always been the most tricky question for me! I think maybe emotive or conceptual portraiture would describe it the very best.

What would be your dream location?

I would love so much to shoot all over the whole world but I think my all-time dream location would be the Lakes District in England. I've always been happily obsessed with Beatrix Potter and the British countryside and it would be my idea of heaven to go wandering all over the moors taking photos in the heather and wildflowers and little country lanes in Yorkshire or also the Cotswolds.

What are your plans for the future?

I'm so excited for all that's coming in the future! I'm currently working on a 365 project of self-portraits–taking one self-portrait a day for 365 days–but I also hope to grow much more as a photographer and begin working with models and other creatives. Next year, I'm hoping to launch a project with my best friends which will be a global collaboration with other female creatives to tell stories through photography, writing, and illustration, and share them with the world! We're hoping to inspire and empower other women through the creative arts and also host and cultivate meet-ups worldwide for photographers and film-makers! I'm hoping to begin to move fully into a life and career as a photographer and to have the honor of working for and with my peers. I love collaborating with other artists with all my heart so I'm hoping very much to start making that my full-time career and to dive even more fully into the world of photography and modeling. I feel as if even if I took photos all day every day, there would still never be a shortage of new things to learn or try, so I'm thrilled to be standing at the threshold of a life full of endless people and stories to capture!

Thank you so much Lulu! You can check out more of her work on Flickr.

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