We featured Lorna Freytag in the last issue of Small (in our ongoing small photo project which looks at how different photographers interpret being small). We were intrigued by her image and wanted to find out more vbaout her work. Thanks for talking to us Lorna
Can you tell us a bit about your background? Have you always been interested in childhood as a theme in your work?
I studied Visual Communication at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland which is where my love of photography really started.
I met my husband whilst studying there and after graduating he was offered a job in Dubai so I followed. I worked as a photo assistant for two British advertising photographers out there for a couple of years which was an amazing experience. I learned everything i needed to know! Then my husband got an opportunity in New York so again I followed and worked for a year as an assistant for a great fashion and still life photographer. Another amazing experience! Sydney happened the same way but by then I started trying to find my own style, coming up with childrens story ideas and working on my portfolio. Four years later we moved back to the UK and found ourselves in London. I got myself an agent and started working on editorial commissions and my folio got bigger and better from then on. I've now worked with most of the kids fashion magazines including Junior and Collezioni Bambini and have done some great projects for Harrods kidswear and other childrens fashion boutiques.
I find that you can be more free with your ideas for kids pictures- the sky is the limit and you can really let your imagination go wild. I enjoy working with kids too as you're never certain as to how they will act and that's a breath of fresh air for me as i'm quite a control freak. You just need a lot of patience and a good sense of humour! I like to make the kids look quite independent and mature in my images like they're on their own and can manage perfectly well. I'm a fan of old classical "Victorian" pictures with strong poses, controlled expressions and muted colours.
What inspired your most recent series?
My trip to Tasmania was my starting point for the Feral series. The amazing landscapes which are still so wild and untamed. It's actually very similar to Scotland but has more of a "wildness" about it. Nature inspires most of my work- sun dappled woods, dark forests, dramatic skies.....
Then I spend a while day-dreaming and conjuring up ideas and sketches before working out the shoots. I have sketchbooks filled with ideas!
The process for all my shoots is very similar. Working from my scribbled sketches I shoot all the background elements (eg. landscapes, props, skies etc) and usually do rough layered mock-ups so that i can visualise how and where i want the children to be. Then i spend a day or more with the kids and shoot them against a white background in the studio. After editing i begin my retouching and that's when the images start to come alive.
The children you depict are very different from the technologically savvy well dressed kids we all know. Your last series about an imaginary tribe of feral children in Tasmania seems to comment on children's diminishing independence over the last few decades. Do you think some independence and danger might be positive dimension in childhood?
Compared to children nowadays I feel that I had a lot of freedom as a kid and my parents generation probably had even more free rein. I think it's an important part of growing up, becoming independent and finding out your limits. There are risks and dangers all through life and if you start to manage and overcome small dangers when you're younger i think you're better equipped to deal with real life!! There's no fun in playing it safe all the time!!
There are quite a few photographers who use children as models and show a side of childhood that adults might be less comfortable with than a more sanitised disney depiction. (for example Polixeni Papapetrou, Sally Mann and Bill Henson) Do you identify with their work? Do you have any experience with the kind of criticism they have attracted?
I love all their work and I can see how some of their images can be uncomfortable and at times controversial but so far I've never experienced any criticism on my themes. Most of my work is dreamy and "nice" so it was a refreshing change to work on something slightly darker and depicting a bit more danger with the Feral series.
Photographers, maybe more than other artists, often have a conflict or tension between their commercial and creative work. Can you survive off your creative work or do you need to use your artform more comerically to make a living?
I would love to be able to survive off my creative work but unfortunately it just isn't possible. I do enjoy most of the commercial and editorial work I do though and it's always nice to try and work my style into someone elses concept. I also do private portrait commissions of children (Lorna's Portraits) and can create bespoke images for people depending on their childs personality, hobbies etc
Also my first childrens picture book for Walker Books (in collaboration with author Jeanne Willis) will be out in January 2012 which i'm really excited about. It's called "Wild Child" but it's very different to the wild kids in the feral series.
Working on a childrens book was a dream come true for me so i'd love to do another one. I'm developing some ideas at the moment......
I also have another series in the pipeline with a more technological, futuristic theme which i hope to work on before my first baby is due in October!