Lens On: Liberty Dye

Meet the film photographer capturing analogue moments in our digital age.

Short, Back and Sides (2015)

A firm believer that photography can capture a feeling like no other art medium can, Liberty Dye is the conceptual analogue photographer looking at the intricate details in a fast-paced, digital world. Dye specialises in documenting worlds both outside her own, through projects such as her “Perished Places of Worship” series from a trip to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia, and ones close to home, including the examination of the tranquility and freedom of being a young artist in “A State of Serenity.” Using medium format analogue cameras, Dye explores the underlying values and secrets of lifestyles that aren’t obvious outside those worlds, creating images that are soaked in a hazy, romantic light. Expressing her love of the artful process required when using a film camera, Dye takes pleasure in the little things: the slow pace, the exposing process, and the revealing of the final image.

Using her photography to explore the details that the naked eye skims over, Dye believes that a statement or summary behind a photograph is one of the most important factors when crafting conceptual images. After developing an interest in men’s fashion, Dye delved into a gentlemen’s world with two intriguing and conceptual photo series: “Portraits of Gentlemen’s Backs” and “Short, Back and Sides”. Fascinated by this alien world, Dye dove in at the deep end, adopting a signature look of leather brogues to make herself more at home on the barbershop floor. Understanding the gentlemen’s world and the cultures and habits that go along with it, Dye exposes the reality behind these closed doors. Capturing the intricate but overlooked details of the world, Liberty Dye photographs the rawest feelings and emotions in the most conceptual way; we’re all starry-eyed.

Perished Places of Worship (2015)

Were you into photography from a young age, and did you always know that it was the path you wanted to go down?

I received my first camera when I was seven years old. It was a ‘Che-ez’ camera that had the size comparison to a tea sachet. I documented small moments of my life with a camera that produced photos as big at 0.3mb. It was not until I became a teenager where I realised that my creative ambition was to take photographs and share them as a hope for a spark of inspiration to others.

How do you think photography is different to other art forms, like painting or sculpture for example?

As you look closer to a piece of artwork such as a painting, the brush strokes begin to surface, the detail slowly becomes more abstract as the visual reality is translated into paint. With photography you see more definition than in reality by being able to remain in focus from looking at the surface of a photograph up close. Perhaps a photograph can capture an ambience better than a painting. As an example, sculpture or illustration is not a piece of work that can be created as sudden or vast in comparison to capturing a photograph, the process of eye perceives more expeditiously than the hand can draw or paint.

What is is about analogue medium format film that you love, and why do you choose film over digital?

There is a very personal sensation when using an analogue camera, just by being able to hold the film canister before feeding it through the camera allows myself to think more considerably about how I am going to expose it. The beauty of using my medium format camera is that there is a slow pace. At times it can feel restrictive having a limited amount of film, but I would not want to take any shots until I am certain of the subject and framing. 

What was the starting point for your “Short, Back and Sides” series?

Over the past couple of years I have developed an interest for men’s fashion. I created a small series of photographs titled ‘Portraits of Gentlemen’s Back’ that explores the lifestyle of men of different ages. Setting up a project in Barber shops wasn’t necessarily a continuation but more of the ‘next steps’ of understanding a Gentleman’s world. 

You said that the series, while initially you felt patronised, helped you embrace your “inner masculinity” – how do you overcome those anxious feelings photographing/working on something you’ve never done before?

At the time of the project I wore garments such as tailored trousers and leather brogues. My style evolved during my study of men’s fashion and I felt that my choice in clothing helped me break that barrier of being a stranger in the Barber shops. Many of the Barbers and customers respected my look and interest in their lives, I always try to interact with my subjects considering they are my main act of inspiration.

“A State Of Serenity” looks at the female gaze and personal expression. Do you feel that the female gaze is different to the male gaze and if so, how?

Women tend to look more while they speak to me and men are united by that, they appear to look more at me when they are listening, that is if they are reposed or in a state of buoyancy. Women depict differently from men. Not because of masculinity and femininity, but because the ‘ideal/typical’ observation is assumed to be a male. Just a John Berger said women adjust themselves into “an object of vision: a sight”.

Your attention to detail is remarkable – do you think it’s the details that make a photograph special?

Our eye tends to overlook the simplest detail such as the stitching on a cuff or the texture on an upholstered chair. I try to capture it in a way that can be appreciated by the viewer.

What’s your process for creating a new series? Do you carefully craft an idea, or are you spontaneously inspired?

Sometimes it can be as simple as going to a gallery and walking out with a new idea, but I can always vouch for pen and paper with a good cup of coffee. The starting point could be completely different from my result, layers unravel and the idea evolves.

In what ways did art school help you grow as a photographer?

Unexpectedly the contextual studies in photography have become most valuable to me at my time in UCA. I believe a statement or summary is one of the most important factors in photography. I never thought I would have the ability and passion to write about a piece of artwork before university.

Do you have any future projects up your sleeves?

I have very recently started documenting men working in a feminine environment, the idea sprung by looking at a contrast to Short, Back and Sides.

Short, Back and Sides (2015)

Perished Places of Worship (2015)

Portraits of Gentlemen’s Backs (2014)

Annabel Lunnon
Lens On: Liberty Dye

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