Capturing a Moment: Collaboration with Lauren Ray
By Paul McKay
Our social media followers may have seen a recent collaboration with the artist (and personal friend!) Lauren Ray, where photographers can submit photos to feature in her next music video, as well as the chance to win analogue photography prizes! You can read more and enter your photos here. T&Cs are on the competition page.
Today we talk to Lauren Ray and her videographer Jodie Canwell to understand more about the work they do and how they tie together audio and visuals into each of Lauren's music videos.
Jodie - let’s start with you! You’re a videographer and photographer based in the North-East of England, what brought you to this stage of your career - have you always studied or worked in the visual arts?
What brought me to this stage of my career? Honestly, just saying yes and continuously working until things felt like they fell into place - from creative style, to the kind of people I really enjoy working with. I think those are two really important things you need to figure out as a creative! I've always loved pictures and any kind of escapism. Aside from the typical jobs as a student (like being a waitress) I've never worked in anything else apart from the visual arts. I've always felt it was important to stay entirely focussed on one thing, even if that meant sometimes I'm sat wondering when the next project is going to happen!
Your website looks to have a strong set of music videos - is this an area of work that you’ve always wanted to be involved in?
Thank you! And yes. As I mentioned above, finding your style is so important to set yourself aside from every other creative, so with that you make a lot of work along the way where you're kind of just punching in the dark! I've always loved creating visuals for pieces of music and sometimes you get a song/artist who's sound just blends perfectly with the ideas and images you're making! It's always so exciting when you and the person you're working with are equally as pumped about a piece of work!
Yes and I think that enthusiasm really shows! How difficult is it to match a visual experience to the audio of a song - do you take the creative lead or is it always an open conversation with the artist?
I work off the cuff... basically meaning I really dislike planning too much/at all! I love it when things just happen on the day because usually they're the kind of things you'd never ever imagine. Of course, certain things need planning, like when and where you're going to shoot but otherwise the concepts of my video are usually pretty loose. If I am working with someone who has quite a tight brief/solid idea of exactly what they want as a final piece, I find it quite restricting and my brain just decides not to play ball! I do love collaborating with artists and usually they're the pieces that are most exciting because you're both bouncing ideas from each other constantly. Every video I've shot with singer/song writer EERA (who is also a good friend of mine now) have been some of my favourite pieces of work for that reason - we have both been so excited and passionate about the video making process and nothing else really mattered while that was happening. Those are the projects I absolutely love, when you're just in it constantly with someone else who wants to be there too. So when you're working with people like that, matching a visual experience to the audio of a song really isn't a task at all.
How do you see the act (and art) of making videos versus making still images - what do you need to think about differently?
This is an interesting question because when I see a photographer dabbling in video, I can usually see the still image influence. I guess it can be difficult to go from static images and translating them into something with energy. Lately, when I take a picture I always wonder if it'd look good as a print on my wall and if it tells a story. I used to just take pictures because I thought they looked cool... which is a constant battle with things like Instagram. When I shoot video I just aim to document more than anything! I love movement either from the camera or from what ever is in front of the camera.
We can see that you have several gorgeous film photographs on your website, and that at least two of your recent music videos have involved analogue photography in the concept. How much of your work - either personal or commercial is film - and what draws you to the analogue experience?
I love carrying a 35mm camera around with me for personal use because you just grab random moments and forget about them until the roll is developed. I absolutely love shooting on 8mm for my video work and I'm attempting to introduce it into my wedding film work too - some couples love it and some don't understand why you'd want so much grain and film burns on your video! But I just think film is such a beautiful format. It's also that element of suspense after you've sent the roll off and you're wondering what's on there and if it actually worked, I love that... in a weird way.
We don't think it's weird! And the obvious follow-up...What is your favourite film set-up (camera and film) and why?
I bought a Super 8 camera off eBay about 4 years ago for £20, the Canon 310XL. It's so easy to use (sometimes too many settings are overwhelming) - you literally just shot your film in, turn it on and shoot.
Aaah I really need to start playing with Super 8! So many people who try it rave about how much fun it is. So while we have you - is there anything else you'd like to talk about?
Having a brain that is constantly craving creative projects is a blessing and a curse and it's something I've wrestled with for the majority of my life (and still am) - only recently have I realised that I needed to do something entirely for myself and something that doesn't involve a client. I decided I just wanted to hear people's stories, whether they're creatives or they simply get out of bed in the morning to feed the birds. And I wanted to documents these things visually too. I decided to call this project 'The North', as this is where I'm from and where I've moved back to as an adult - after living in London for a short while I realised the things I was chasing weren't true to who I am and what mattered most were the people who knew me the most and my roots. So tying all this together, 'The North' was born. You can see the first video here.
Wonderful - thank you!
And now we turn to Lauren Ray, the singer-songwriter with two studio albums under her belt as well as recent tours supporting Lucy Spraggan, Anastacia and most recently Paul Carrack. Lauren - How important is the visual aesthetic when you’re producing your music videos, and how did you start working with Jodie?
I came across Jodie’s work via another music artist called Allman Brown who I met playing at the same music night in London. Allman Brown had worked with Jodie on some of his own videos and I just loved the natural, warm and highly professional looking videos she was making and so got in touch to work with her for my first ‘acting’ music video ‘Drive’ back in 2016. I have since worked with Jode on all of my music videos, on tour footage and am now also working on some album promo videos with her. I love working with Jodie because I know that whatever very simple or perhaps very crazy idea I come up with for my videos, she will somehow make it look beautiful and will capture little unplanned moments that I don’t even know are happening which end up being the entire feel of a video. Here is a collection of all the videos we have made together to date.
(c) Focus Photography
You write all of your own songs - where do you find the inspiration for each idea?
I am inspired by the relationships (romantic and platonic) that I experience first hand or those that I experience vicariously through my friends and family. I have always been fascinated by the complexities of our human relationships and writing about them through songwriting has been a great outlet for that interest. I have written about longing for love, finding love, falling out of love, infidelity, grief, toxic relationships and more and everything in between. Luckily this is a subject matter that is always evolving even though it’s essentially the same for everyone so I can’t ever see myself running out of subject matter.
Your latest single ‘Moment’ is more philosophical than the average pop song! Was there a specific thought or experience behind the writing?
Yes and although the influencing thoughts behind the song are somewhat morbid, the song is joyful and upbeat. I am at a point now where sadly a lot of my friends are losing parents and my parents are starting to lose their close friends which has really shifted my mentality when it comes to my relationships with the people in my life. It’s probably somewhat trite to say this but I’d really started to see the fragility of our lives and how important it is to appreciate the moments we have with the people we love because at “any given moment this could all just blow away, coz our lives are as light as a feather...”. The message of the song is to live in the moment and not to worry about this fragility and to remember to tell the people we love that they are appreciated. This is essentially a love letter to my parents and to my family to tell them “I know love because you showed me love”.
(c) Christopher Andreou
You’ve chosen to incorporate a photography competition into the process of creating its music video. While many artists want to involve their fans and the community, it is unusual to see someone open up their creative flow so directly - what prompted the idea?
I liked the idea that the video could be a collection of little moments and was working on how I might work with Jodie to bring that to life but realised I didn’t want the whole video to just be about me because the song is not just about me. I am hoping that people listening to the song (when it is released) feel joyful and feel encouraged to focus on their moments and appreciate the moments they have with the people they love. I think then it was after seeing the creativity and collaborative relationships within your Analogue Wonderland community that prompted the idea that maybe I could ask my community (and then also yours) to be involved and that maybe I could invite people to capture and contribute their moment (or many) to be part of the video.
What I have also always liked about photography is how it can provide evidence for the basic concept that we all see the world through our own lens (pun intended). Our perspectives on a single moment can be so different and this is proven visually through the work of photographers. This is what I love about songwriting too - there are millions of songs about love but because there is an endless supply of unique perspectives and experiences it means we are all still writing about it. The competition has only been open for a week but I am blown away that so many people have already entered and are contributing to the project. I am excited to see what other photographs are submitted.
You’ve partnered with both a videographer and a retailer who have strong analogue leanings - what attracts you to the film photography world and how do you feel it connects to the song ‘Moment’?
I think the draw to engage with analogue photography despite the accessibility and advancement of digital photography is not that dissimilar to music fans re-engaging with vinyl (and even tapes) - personally, I now have a record player and a fast growing collection of vinyls. Whilst access to cameras and music digitally is incredible because it means that so much of these artforms are at our fingertips 24-7, I just think analogue feels different, there is a different value in it. Don’t get me wrong I love having a camera on my phone and as a consumer I love streaming services like Spotify because there is such value in having this access but with greater access has come a more passive relationship with consuming (and creating) these artforms. We can listen to a hundred songs without really listening or knowing anything about the artist that created them and we can take a hundred pictures of the same moment just to be sure we have the perfect one, throwing the rest away.
I think there is a different value to analogue which slows us down and encourages a more physical and intimate relationship with the photograph or record and therefore provides a different experience. For example; I have no idea where the pictures are that I took 7 years ago on a holiday on my old phone - except the one or two I put on Facebook. In contrast I still have photographs in albums from school trips with friends and a trip to south africa I took with my dad when I was 13 and even recently, the polaroid picture you (Paul from analogue wonderland) took of me and Lucy on my 30th birthday on the train into london is still sitting in my kitchen. There is a different value attributed to these physical prints. I think this all ties back into the message of the song which is about slowing down and really focusing on and seeing value in the moments.
What kind of photographs do you hope people will submit for inclusion in the video?
I don’t think I had any hopes for what photographs would be submitted but I was just excited to see people’s creativity and see what they felt was a moment to capture. So far there have been such variety it’s been really interesting. People have sent in moments of joy in their kids faces, an animal yawning, a blossom falling from a tree, a beautiful skyline, pictures of strangers going about their daily lives...it’s all just moments of life.
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