In the Artwork Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights a specific work by an artist in the community. These works range from short stories to visual art, music, and more! Today, Lauren E. Allen (she/her) will share her work “Multitudo,” a unique piece of layered photography.
Before we delve into the art, a little more about Lauren:
Currently residing in Denton, Texas, Lauren E. Allen graduated Cum Laude from Texas Woman’s University in 2014 with a concentration in photography before enrolling in the University of North Texas to pursue a master’s degree in 2021.
Lauren’s work focuses on translating and reconstructing memories of their experiences as a neurodivergent person. She utilizes abstracted photographic imagery and fiber structures, and viewers are forced to confront ideas of weakness, fragility, and disposability while experiencing familiarity.
Lauren participated in a Q&A with The Layered Onion, expanding further on the work:
What medium did you use?
This piece is two photographs that were digitally manipulated and turned into one. I shot the original images on Cinestill 120 film.
When you are photographing, what do you find most inspiring? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I have two main streams of consciousness when shooting. The first one is a purely intuitive one, where I walk around with my camera and just fire. The other is specific imagery that my brain suggests to me when studying neurodivergence or recalling my experiences that I then recreate to be able to capture.
How would you describe your artistic style (today)?
I always hesitate to assign words to my artistic style because I want the freedom to move between aesthetic choices. However, there are words I consistently chase when making art that I hope will come to people’s minds when they see my work. The words ethereal, dreamy, and surreal always float around during my process.
How did you set up the overlay?
I use a third-party service that develops and scans all of my film. I then sort through the shots and pair up pieces that I think complement each other or would like to be together. They are then manipulated in photoshop to create a singular digital image. The digital manipulation of the film images lets me control what parts of the image are more apparent. Still, I am very dedicated to keeping what I like to call film surprises.
I love that phrase – “film surprises” – do you have an example of this, or can you elaborate on the concept?
Because I use vintage and toy cameras, there is a lot of variety of what can happen during the shooting process. Using double and sometimes triple exposures also heavily alters what the film can maintain, which can create a lot of really surreal imagery. I also love to use expired film when available, which physically alters the chemistry to be a bit unpredictable.
Can you describe the camera you used and what period it is from? I don’t think I understood the full impact of vintage/toy cameras, and it sounds very cool!
The world of film photography is really diverse and rich, with a lot of people fighting to keep the processes alive. I use a variety of cameras, but my heavy hitters are below with a brief description:
- Holga camera: These are the cream of the crop toy cameras. They are inexpensive plastic cameras known for the inherent defects that become a part of them, like light leaks, etc. Mine is quite old and dying, so it gives me a lot of washy blurred imagery.
- Arrow camera: This is another plastic toy camera. I purchased mine from an estate sale. It’s probably from the 60s.
- I use a lot of Kodak Brownie six-20 cameras which were discontinued in 1956. I was able to score a large batch of these in an estate sale.
- My favorite camera is a 1947 Kodak Duaflex camera. It’s in amazing condition and takes just the most dreamy shots.
“Multitudo” has one shot from the Holga and the other from the Arrow.
I think the placement of the tree leaves over the eyes is quite powerful. Is there a message you were looking to convey?
Ideas of displacement within my life inspired this particular piece and its original two parts. Sometimes I feel like I’m experiencing two different realities that have been compacted together. The figure exists between that place of literal ground and sky and that mental grey area.