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Lily Pagano: Her Creative Story

A little introduction to Lily:

“I was born and raised in London, but have a very mixed heritage – my mother is Turkish and my father is Italian-Norwegian.

I’m in the final year of my Masters course in Physics at UCL, so the past four years have been filled with studying whilst also trying to pursue photography more seriously.”

Do you think living in London is helping you find inspiration for your photography?

I’m lucky to live in a city filled with like-minded, creatively driven people, so there’s always an opportunity to find artists to collaborate with – whether that’s a fellow photographer or a musician. Being around so many people has an incubating effect. 

It’s not as if I see someone on the street and suddenly get a burst of inspiration, but it might spark something that later comes into fruition. The constant hustle and bustle around me means I can strike a subconscious balance between input and output – an equilibrium. 

What inspired you in the first place to start taking photographs and are there any photographers in particular who you look up to?

My grandfather was a photojournalist, but I never actually met him. My father always jokingly says that I inherited the photography ‘gene’. Oddly enough I agree with him; I’ve been interested in photography ad far and I can remember I just didn’t fully realise that interest until about four years ago. 

Jack Davison is a photographer whose work I greatly admire. His style is fascinating, he captures the ordinary is such a unique and surreal manner – it encourages me to question and explore my own creative process. 

Who do you mostly take portraits of?

I started off mainly photographing models, they’re fantastic to work with because of their experience and comfort in front of a camera. I’m a fairly introverted person, so can find it hard to reach out to people and ask about collaborations. As a result, I would often use the people around me as the subjects of my photos instead. 

I found it much more real to shoot with friends and family. I got to capture the innocence and inexperience in their portraits, as well as catching them in their most vulnerable moments – the moment just before they realise I’m about to take their picture.

There’s a certain level of trust people give you when you take their photos. It’s a vulnerable moment, people are stripped back and you get to capture them existing in their own definition of the world. 

A lot of your photos are taken on film, why do you decide to shoot mostly film instead of digital?

I started off shooting only on digital. I was very trigger happy and I found that I wasn’t thinking about the photo as whole. Film forced me to not only become more familiar with the technical side of photography, but it meant that I took more care with each frame. I think about the composition, lighting, the subject and whether I want to use up a frame out of only 36.

It also creates a more intimate feel to my portraits. There’s an almost rough texture of the photo, colours are more vibrant. It’s like having a personal stamp or fingerprint of the world. 

How would you describe your creative growth? Your instagram feed really shows your progress and how your style changed over time. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned over time that improved your photography skills?

Patience.

It’s easy to feel trapped and like you need to churn out content regularly

I find that there are a lot of ‘copy-cat’ shoots. You often see see a beautiful model as the subject, with the next latest photographic trend or aesthetic. After a while, that kind of photography didn’t feel genuine or enjoyable for me.

Now I try not to force out ideas. I allow myself to mull them over, just letting them simmer in my mind until they form into ideas I felt I wanted to try and execute.  Having a less rigid structure meant I was able to discover new methods, and new vantage points in my work.

It was encouraging to open up that new side of my photography. It helps pull me through those moments when I start to doubt myself and my ability. It shows me that I should keep going, and pursue my passion – if I stop, who knows what I’d miss out on uncovering. 

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