The interview: Award-winning photographer Loriana Cicchini
The home studio of Canberra’s award-winning editorial fashion, beauty and fine art photographer, Loriana Cicchini, is everything that you’d imagine a manic creative space to be – a sealed room of meandering ideas; a beautiful mess and organised chaos.
Adorned in her previous works of art, mirrors, drapes of fabric, miscellaneous props, knick-knacks and twisted trinkets, Lori’s studio encapsulates a central photography set, one which has helped capture many iconic moments in her career.
After discovering an undying love for photography and completing a Bachelor in Photography at the Canberra Institute of Technology, Lori has received numerous industry awards and accolades, and has been published in various art and fashion magazines both nationally and internationally.
Her signature photography work is described as emotive and narrative, some of which can be dark and provoking, yet at the same time peaceful and beautiful.
On this rare occasion, she opened up her studio to let us have a glance at her private creative space, insight into her unique thought process and the story behind turning her passion into a successful career and business.
What is your earliest memory of photography?
When I was about four years old, my dad used to take polaroids pictures of us. Dad loved taking snaps of the family, and he loved his photography because I remember he had all these polaroids and film cameras.
He was also interested in capturing life – maybe it was because he came from such a poor family. There’s only about three photos of my grandparents on my dad’s side, my grandfather loved being photographed as well so they found a way even if they couldn’t afford it.
Can you pinpoint the moment when you knew you had to turn your passion into a business?
It was when I went overseas and had this little point-and-shoot camera. The holiday saw me travel across Africa and Europe and it was only until two days before I came back – when I was in Dubai – that I bought a proper camera. I felt like the photos I was capturing were just the same as what everyone else was capturing, I wasn’t feeling what I did when I was there in the moment from looking at my photos.
I purchased the camera thinking it would make a difference but the realised I wasn’t using it to its full potential so decided to do a short course to get familiar with it. I enjoyed it so much that I enrolled in the three-year course at CIT.
I didn’t get in because I was too late and I REALLY felt disappointed.
But I felt like this was my calling and that I needed to do the course. It was in that exact moment of disappointment that I knew where my future lay.
The following year when I did get into the course it all just fell into place. I was also working full time but decided to leave my job to pursue photography full time instead. The money wasn’t important anymore.
Is it hard to make money from your photography?
Photography for me isn’t about how I make money out of it. I think the money side just happens because I really am in love with it. When money does become too much of a focus it becomes too commercial, and loses its creativity and ability to move outside that square box that people put themselves in when they do a job that they are not very passionate about it.
Do you think that’s the main challenge with creatives and starting their own businesses?
I believe so, creatives sometimes lose sight of why they are doing it in the first place.
If you can make your business make money as well as fulfil your passion, then you can live off of your creative life. If you can make both happen then that’s a match made in heaven.
It’s so true about what they say about the poor artist: if you’re passionate about it, it’s not about money. Whatever money you do make forces you live within your means for the labour of love.
Have you had a mentor throughout your career, or do you have one now?
Not a mentor as such, but I do have a person that I would call a mentor and I feel like I can share my work quite honestly with them and got feedback from them when I had my moments on doubt.
Out of all your photographs, is there one that monumentally stands out in your mind? If so which one and why?
The very last work is always my favourite, but they are all my favourite! I’m thinking of one in particular – it’s in a big gold frame. I shot it three years ago and I love it because I love the story behind it and how it came together.
It was on a taken with a couple of colleagues at the end of a shoot. I had six metres of fabric lying around and just decided to throw it on the model and created this gown out of nothing.
I think that picture really tells the story of what I do – work that looks like a painting – ethereal, fashion, soft, art, lots of different things and I think that piece in particular really encapsulates that.
How have you seen the photography scene evolve?
They digital realm is really playing a significant part. I try and print a lot of my work because I think that that’s the final part of photography: the actual print. I’m not a big fan of keeping everything digital because it gets lost. I treasure old photographs very dearly and frame them.
There’s a quote I read that calls the printing of a photograph, “embalming time”. When you print it, you actually stop time. You look at old photographs and all those memories come back. You can pick one up and feel the time in the paper – aged, going yellow, torn, creased and it’s got speckles all over it. That’s the whole story! Digital is too clean, there’s no life to it.
People capture their whole lives on their iPhone and it’s really sad because the next generation won’t have those memories of pulling the family photo album out, sitting on the couch and flicking through history with loved ones crying and laughing.
How has technology affected your work first hand?
In this day and age, anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer. Social media is huge. Particularly its role in spreading your art for people to see. I post a lot of my nude art and people were reporting my photography to the point where Facebook deleted a lot of my work.
At that point I was so upset because half the year of my work had gone and I thought, well if I can’t show people and share it with the world then why am I doing this?
I realised that it wasn’t about someone blocking my work, but more about what’s happening in the art world now. If social media can’t be an avenue to express nude art because it’s banned then what’s that saying about nude art and the female human body?
So I published a post about it that got a lot of traction, support and engagement. It was then I felt that people do believe in what I’m doing and if this is what I want to be doing I should just do it, and if it labels me then I don’t care because it’s what I love.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
At the end of every year I look back at what I’ve done and think about what will happen next year. I don’t work on the path of striving to win an award or reach an achievement. My focus is about making the work and if you don’t like it that’s okay. I make it because that’s what I want to make rather than be directed by what the public would like to see, because that’s when I will start choking.
Where is the photography scene heading?
Photography is driven alot by what people want to see so there’s less and less of art out there of what people want to actually make, because it’s so hard to make a living from that as well, unless you have a market.
People want to be photographing nude art but then go on to do wedding photography because it provides some kind of income. They are pushed into this hole, but you’ve just got to stay true to yourself.
I say “no” to jobs that pay well all the time, but it isn’t what I want to be doing.
How do you split your time between being creative and the admin side of business?
It’s this constant monkey on my back. I hate it, and I’ve always hated admin no matter what job I’m in.
I put aside a day where I just look at emails and answer them all. It always takes longer than expected because people engage in conversation and there’s all this back and forth that you don’t account for. That’s why I’d just prefer to pick up the phone, also because my typing is so slow!
What sets a good photograph from a great one? When do you know when to stop working on a piece?
I can be looking at an image for hours and hours, and days or even months but just know something is missing, so I’ll have to keep coming back to it to refine it. But there’s definitely a moment when you look at a photograph and think that’s brilliant, that’s done – it’s this amazing light bulb moment where you can finally sit back and be really proud of it.
Evolving as an artist, there’s always things that I look back on and think I could change, but I don’t feel the need to because it’s a visual documentation and timeline of how I’ve grown along with my art.