Artwork Spotlight

Artwork Spotlight: Lauren E. Allen’s “Multitudo”

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:

A photo of the artist, Lauren E. Allen, behind string. The artist works with photography and vintage cameras. 

She uses art to heal and process. Neurodivergent. Neurodivergence. Art to address mental health - art for mental health.

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:

Layered photograph. Holga camera. Arrow camera.

Art for mental health. Mental health through the arts.
Lauren E. Allen, “Multitudo.” Photograph(s). Summer 2022.

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. 

Lauren’s work “Spiritus” was featured in The Shallot and The Layered Onion’s exhibition at Hodge Podge. You can see more of Lauren’s photography on her Instagram – @leallen_art!