All photographs courtesy of Leon Diaper
Leon Diaper is a 23-year-old very talented photographer hailing from New Forest. Leon graduated last summer from the art institute of Bournemouth where he had studied a BA in Commercial Photography. He is now trying his luck in the big city of London.
Valerie Pezeron: Hello Leon, price how are you getting on living in London?
Leon Diaper: I am trying to make my way with everyone else, doing my own work. I have a day job to earn money in American Apparel at the moment. This is all right. I have a few friends who work there. I needed a job when I came to London and this is better than the bar job I used to have back home, with crazy hours. It does not make you particularly productive.
VP: Why commercial photography?
LD: If you want to make a living, the course I did was more grounded than the other photography BA a few of my friends did. Theirs was a really open-ended and really fine art based course. It wasn’t anything I liked, looked at or ventured towards. With my course, I could do fashion, documentary and you get 6 weeks to do a project in anything you want. I was shown how you could sell your work and get it published.
VP: So you did work for Dazed and Confused? How did that come about?
LD: Just band stuff and portraits, which is always nice to do. Normally I would email them, just annoy people and then call. Most of the time, clients you approach are quite nice; I’m going to meet someone from Tank magazine today. They just said, “Come over and show me your work”. It’s often quite informal, and then you just have to prop them again to go “hey, what do you think!’ and things like that. It was a paid gig, which is always really nice.
VP: So far you have been photographing bands but the rest of your portfolio is quite different.
LD: Yes, because music photography is the easiest way to get your work into magazines. I have so far photographed bands like Siren and Siren. My personal work tends to be more documentary stuff. I enjoy doing narratives, meeting groups and individuals.
VP: What king of magazines would you see your work fit in best?
LD: In Dazed, they have the editorial piece. I would love to do stories for such magazines. I love spending a lot of time building a body of work in order to narrow it down into a piece. Bands are always really hard to make that exciting, to be honest. It’s a really good thing to do but… but here are two guys I have never met and I’ve got 50 minutes to get a picture that is good!
VP: I love the work of Anton Corbijn. Who do you like and who influenced you?
LD: I’m quite traditional. William Eggleston and Steven Shaw…all the photographers from back in the 60s and 70s, these are the people I go back to, that I am excited about. That’s why I do a lot of work in America when I go away.
VP: Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?
LD: I remember doing photography way back at A’ levels and being a little bit unsure where to go. I was doing communications then and did not know what to do with it so I thought maybe I’d give photography a go. I’ve carried on with it since. I don’t come from a family of artists. My step dad played the guitar, that’s about it! My mum is science based and no one took photos around me. I’d say music was always the thing I was into and I am in a band. Film, music and photography all excite me.
VP: What do you play in the band?
LD: I play the guitar and sing. I try to sing! It’s quite 90’s grungy pop songs sort of thing. Louder bands like Sonic Youth and singer-songwriters like Elliott Smith are on my play list, Joanna Newsom also. Things like that are good to listen to when you are reading. I love the nostalgic sound of albums one used to listen to a while ago and you listen to now to remember things by.
VP: What kind of camera do you use?
LD: I use a Bronica medium format camera for some stuff. My favourite camera for my documentary work is the Kiev; it’s got a really nice quality to it for things like portraits..
VP: Tell us about your printing methods? Do you use just colour?
LD: I normally take it somewhere because colour is really hard, black and white you can just do at home. Lately I have popped in a few black and white images in there.
VP: You seem to enjoy manipulating light, light effects such as smoke.
LD: I bring in little props such as powder to make an image such as photographs of people dynamic, less stiff. Things become fun; it brings surrealism and freedom to the images. I pay special attention to colours also.
VP: What is your most precious possession?
LD: Probably my guitar! I’ve been in bands for years and I have had it through the whole time. It’s quite a good electric guitar; I remember saving a lot of money for it. My Kiev and Bronica come next. These two are my main cameras. I have other pinhole cameras that I have used for series with the sort of dreamy sequence.
VP: What do you think of Pentax and Leicas…?
LD: I’d love a Leica camera but they’re so beyond being able to afford them! I’d love to buy lots and lots of cameras, but now that I’ve found ones that I can use I’m sticking with them.
VP: Yes, and these are gorgeous pictures! What would be your dream job?
LD: I’d love to be paid to do the sort of documentaries like this one I did when I went to America for two months, establishing myself as part of those great photographers. It’s that kind of that grand ambition of great adventure, of disappearing and coming back.
VP: Have you read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac?
LD: I have! My pictures of Slab City are a great example; it’s an old military place in the middle of the Colorado Desert. Back in the war, it had been used for bombing then they closed it. The army stayed and lived there for a bit, people started coming there for a bit and in the 60’s, there was a huge commune…
VP: It’s one of the last frontiers, isn’t it?
LD: Yes, and it looks like something out of Mad Max. Have you seen the film “Into the Wild”? They filmed at Slab City this guy; my friends and me helped him paint the mountain at 6 am. Everyone has a dog in Slab City. It’s probably one of the coolest places I have ever been, being there with these people. It’s people on drugs, down and outs and I see the beauty, the freedom. These people are living their own way with their own means, getting by without harming anybody. Some people there have super posh motor homes and on the other end of the spectrum, others live in makeshifts. They live day by day almost for free, gas and food are almost all they worry about. I’d be lying to myself if I claimed I could live like that.
VP: It’s really quite different from Bournemouth, isn’t it?
LD: It’s definitely worlds and worlds away from Bournemouth! I love the contrast of American Pop culture because it’s loud and all quite new, the strange, weird and wonderful.
VP: Literature seems to have played a big part in your development.
LD: Ah yeah, definitely! 50’s and 60’s culture, Beatniks…Faulkner. I’m currently reading Hunter S. Thompson. The backbone of my work is freedom based American culture. Another photo series of mine is in San Francisco, outside of this bookstore where Kerouac and friends used to meet. The first year we drove from New York to LA for two months. We rented a half decent car and did a five a half thousand miles!
VP: There is an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in your work. It’s as if you wish we were still in that place.
LD: Massively! Definitely! I’ve always wanted to go back and we did; we went from Vancouver to San Francisco- the pacific Coast. Why can’t we do this all the time!
VP: Have you watched Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green?
LD: I have but never looked at it artistically.
VP: There is something there about civilisation having been there a long time ago, but then you look back on it. Things have really moved on but there are places, like in the movie where Charlton Heston discovers the Statue of Liberty in the sand…
LD: Forgotten times, yes. I like kind of weird stuff like Harmony Korine and Gummo. The mix of playfulness and the serious: I did some work on wrestling, obviously it’s bigger in the US. I always see images in films and that informs my work. I try to find weird and wonderful people.
VP: What are your plans for this year?
LD: I’d like to go away again somewhere. I’d like to go to Alaska.
VP: Oh, wow! Maybe you could put Palin back in her habitat, which might be good.
LD: (Laughter) Exactly! There is a British Journalism Photography competition I entered last year and got short-listed for. I got some work in their magazine, which was nice- I am not quite sure when I hear from them if I win. You get 5 000 pounds if you win to do a project you propose to them, that’s why I want to go to Alaska o follow the Transatlantic oil line that goes from north to south. It would be reportage on the freedom of meeting different kind of people along the way. I like taking detail shots and landscapes.
VP: Any other plans?
LD: A Masters Degree one day but not any time soon. I’m doing a group photography exhibition called “Clinique Presents” from the 11th of February at the Amersham Arms. There will be some prints for sale and the theme is loosely based on magic.
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Imagery throughout depicting Frillybylily products, created and photographed by Lily McCallin. ‘Blue Eyes’ necklace.
Frillybylily is showered with as much love in production as it deserves in wearing, and with a keen eye for hunting down the kind of pieces most of us would take a lifetime to find, Frillybylily takes all the hard work out of becoming a costume jewellery connoisseur. As each day passes and the contents of the high street seems to morph further into one tangled mess of the same drab, rehashed ideas, Frillybylily is a ray of light, a hope of salvaging some kind of pride and enjoyment in affordable but quality designs. What’s more, they come with the added bonus of appeasing the fashion conscience as McCallin is keen to utilise an eco-friendly outlook in her work. Her delightfully girlish website lists the recycled percentage of each piece so you can rest assured that you’re not only ‘doing your bit for the environment’ but are getting gorgeous jewellery and feeling wonderful for it in return.
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‘Junglist Massive’ necklace.
There must be something in the name, because Lily Allen was unable to resist a Frillybylily charm necklace, whilst the brand has been touted by Grazia, Time Out and has even had an exclusive line in Urban Outfitters. But there’s no need to worry about one of London’s best kept secrets getting too mainstream; Lily promises never to make two pieces the same, though if you are inclined to invest in a truly stunning and personal project, you can work together to create your own commissioned piece. These ventures are not limited to jewellery alone and with a foray into chandeliers, bridal accessories and a growing men’s range offering the same humour and eye for detail that characterises its sister collection – Frillybylily could be a more permanent fixture in your life soon. Just don’t hesitate when you feel your breath quickening as you begin to covet her infectiously enjoyable work; once they’re gone, they’re really gone.
Categories ,Frillybylily, ,Grazia, ,Junglist Massive Necklace, ,Lily McCallin, ,Nina Joyce, ,Time Out
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