011 / 01 September 2014 / FEATURES
Photography by Daniel Scott
In Conversation with Jayne Lies
When Daniel met Jayne...good things happened. We asked two photographers, Volume I contributor, Daniel Scott and Hong Kong native, Jayne Lies ("LIES"), to meet and talk...in cyberspace. Much like his vibrant aesthetic and images that often critiques our societal status quo, Daniel has a lot of energy and opinions – a perfect match for LIES, whose raw, yet undoubtedly feminine perspective is anything but passive. Below is a transcript of their gchat encounter, in which they discussed everything from lookbooks, to horror films, to ghost money. (We'll let Jayne explain that last one.)
Jayne Lies: Hey, sup Daniel?
Daniel Scott: Hey! Let’s do this. So you are a photographer too?
JL: Yeah, I take photos and I do visuals. I just started doing videos too.
DS: Video is amazing. Hoping to do more of it soon. I just hate being tied down in general.
JL: Yeah same, being free is my ultimate goal in life.
DS: Haha, yeah I can definitely relate.
JL: Are you working on any projects right now?
DS: Recently I’ve kind of been like a mad scientist, researching and coming up with really exciting and innovative concepts… and just a lot of reflecting on my own artistic perspective. I’ve been shooting some personal work and fine art recently, but I haven't been producing as many shoots as I'd like to. I have a plan though—and I will make a new series soon. It'll happen!
JL: Yeah it takes time and has to be the right time too. I was exploring my direction and shooting a lot last year with my 35mm and a new series has been in the works for a couple of months. Last year was my turning point. 2013 was a crucial time that I found what I really should be doing and refined my style.
DS: Finding your unique point of view is the key. And there's always so much pressure to produce a shit ton of work. But I think, as cliché as it sounds, quality over quantity. There is a lot of premeditation when it comes to my process so I don’t shoot every day / all the time. I am more focused on building and creating a specific world for me to escape to, and that doesn’t necessarily exist in my every day circumstances.
JL: Absolutely – the work is a baby of you as an artist; it's a journey and an evolution that represents you as a whole self.
DS: How would you describe your style?
JL: That is probably the hardest question to answer especially nowadays, and I feel like my work is constantly evolving. But I’d say I am a hybrid. I grew up with multiple cultural influences and was as a teen when internet didn't quite exist yet. I love to stick to the “classic photography” point of view, but remix it with fresh stuff. What about you?
DS: It is a very difficult question, but it's always good to remove yourself from your work and connect the dots. Aesthetically, my work is sort of like a child’s nightmare… there’s a youthful playfulness about it, but also a looming horror. A lot of Crayola colors – really fun, hypnotic hues. But there's always something a bit off in the content. Growing up I had really intense nightmares, and I still do (all the time), and i just have a general interest in horror and things that are frightening or unsettling to me. But I'm also drawn to spectacles and all things wacky and weird. There’s definitely been this world occupying my imagination since boyhood that I’m trying to translate into my images.
JL: We have common ground I see – like the horror visions and wild imaginations – but I have to say my work comes out from my vagina: every piece of my work is a part of me – body mind and soul. They all represent a specific dot in my universe. I have to say, being in NYC for a few years now has an influence too. I experience a lot of social decay, not to be cliché, but especially being an Asian female, and I want to incorporate this into my future projects.
…But what's your ultimate goal?
DS: I have so many goals. I want to help escort people out of reality, mostly. I want to entertain and raise questions about society.
JL: What have you done in the past few weeks that was remarkable for you? The past week I've been running around, trying to cope with weather... but then I realized, living in NY is really not for everyone. I am very glad to be here and grinding and creating beautiful things with beautiful people, but it does torture one's soul...I guess everyday I’m trying to experience rebirth again and again.
DS: I understand that — NYC can be suffocating at times.
JL: But then that's where inspiration comes from. Because I have accumulated so much anxiety and... I wouldn’t say “sadness,” but all these feelings attack me. So I always need to express it through creating.
DS: That's why artists do what they do... it's an outlet. It shows that it's coming from a genuine place.
JL: Definitely, it's a very unique kind of playground, but to enter you need to get tested and tortured and be ready to ride that hell roller-coaster!
JL: You said your inspiration comes from nightmares and wild fantasy. Are they anything related to what you experienced when you were growing up on a personal level?
DS: Yes, definitely. I was exposed to a lot of dark childhood books and movies – forms of entertainment for children that had something twisted about them... I think my father is to blame for that. It's a good thing though! I wasn't really interested in watching Pocahontas; I was more interested in something a little bit more… bizarre. Movies like The Phantom Tollbooth and Little Nemo (not Finding Nemo) are just some quick examples that I can think of. Also, I had this unhealthy obsession with Roald Dahl – he had this way of writing for children that was so cleverly tainted by his experiences of corruption and adulthood. I also was constantly performing, whether it was just making up skits for my sisters or singing and acting on an actual stage. I was just obsessed with escaping into another world.
JL: That’s interesting, very unlikely references for childhood. I have never watched any of these movies. Now I would love to check them out!
I’m always very excited by the thought of escaping...
DS: They are just very colorful, and pretty eerie/trippy. I remember how scared I was watching Little Nemo. It made my sister cry. I couldn't stop re-watching it though. I loved feeling uneasy.
JL: I was raised in Hong Kong and people in Asia are VERY into the underworld and very superstitious. You would love that.
"Frequently pursuing the feeling of discomfort" is our thing, Daniel. It's all dark fantasy. My dark experiences are like Chinese vampire movies, watching people burning ghost money all the time, and even family members always talk about seeing ghosts and talking to spirits!
I remember one time I picked up a piece of ghost money after school and I brought it home, my mom freaked out!
DS: That's amazing. Ghost money. I'll have to look that up.
JL: I have captured a ghost hand on my "selfie" on 35mm one time (back then selfies didn’t exist, I was 14, in Cebu a hotel room). I came back to HK and developed it, and going through these photos, I saw a giant hand on my shoulder..............that shit is real!
DS: What? That's amazing!
JL: My mom then burnt the negative... but I still VIVIDLY remember how the whole photo looks like.
DS: You should do a series!
JL: For real… maybe a collab! Western + Eastern spiritual experience collaboration… that’s how I see it.
DS: I’m down!
JL: "Comfort the disturbed/disturb the comforted" is so right.
So, let’s talk about creativity in the photo industry… I want to know your thoughts. I can go on and on about creativity in the photo industry. I have A LOT of mixed opinions.
DS: Creativity in the photo industry definitely exists. It does. The problem that I have is that the creativity isn't entering the commercial market. The sector of photography that reaches the masses. In the fine art world, of course. In the fashion world, somewhat. But in advertising, it's still so bad. So boring. It's made to be simple because advertising is so much about playing dumb, sticking to formulas... they want things to sell. But I find it ironic because wouldn't images that are more visually striking and conceptually innovative make people look longer? Ponder the product longer?
In fashion, I see new magazines featuring really progressive work. I still do find the creativity to be somewhat trend-based... it looks cool, but I still find it rather derivative of what is being done now, what is “hot” now. I wish there was a bit more variety in the aesthetics, and more narratives. But fashion is mostly trend based, so that's not really going to change. I definitely see some exciting work, though, especially in some independent European publications.
JL: I feel the same, well, the fact is that you really need to feed the audience in their mouth with a spoon, otherwise they really don’t get it, and people want to make money and that's a bad, sad cycle.
But I also see a lot of trend making progress in a lot of magazines! They are very innovative and hopefully people from the mainstream market can pick up on it so then more photographers will take more risks and ease their creativity in the mainstream or commercial area. We just have to keep trying and get the best outcome to "change" this situation.
JL: So can you tell me about your past and future work? What's the difference/transformation of your future work compared to your last project? Or a "lesson learnt" that you’re gonna apply on your next from the past one?
DS: I don't know, I don't really work like that. Maybe it's a bad thing. I think technically there are things that I will learn every time I shoot. In terms of the end product, It's all pretty organic and comes from the same place so it's hard to look at it so mathematically.
JL: But what about mentally? What's the next project?
DS: I think next, I want to start shooting more actors or unexpected characters. I think that's where I want to expand my vision – much of my work ties back to fashion photography, which is fine... but it really is more than that. I have this world I want to build, and I want to photograph the characters and narratives happening inside this world. Using an agency model is a safe way to get a pretty picture.
JL: Time and experience shape who you are as an artist. You have to go with your heart to search for what's best for you, but the whole growing process is such a blessing.
DS: It's important to not get carried away looking at what's around you. I think it's best to look at influences outside of the medium, outside of fashion, outside of what you’re literally working in to bring something completely new. Otherwise it's all recycled information. Why do what's already been done?
Anyways so sorry to cut this short but I have a meeting I have to run to. Keep me posted on your work. Can't wait to see your path!
JL: Thanks! Good luck, Daniel!