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5th May 2024

Making Manchester #2: Laurent Swyngedauw

Continuing our Mancunian series, Laurent Swyngedauw tells us the best spots for capturing great shots in Manchester, and how make a photograph your own
Making Manchester #2: Laurent Swyngedauw
Credit: Laurent Swyngedauw @ Lozza Media

One of Manchester’s biggest selling points is its thriving cultural industries. Our new feature, Making Manchester, celebrates some of the emerging creatives behind Manchester’s vast and diverse artistic output. For our second edition, we spoke to Laurent Swyngedauw – an Entrepreneurship Activities Coordinator for UoM by day, and a French photographer by trade. He breaks down his vibrant process, and the importance and tribulations of Instagram for modern photographers.

What’s your favourite place to see or make art in Manchester?

When it comes to getting artsy, especially with photo editing and design, I love settling down in chill spots with a bit of a vibe. Haunt and 200 Degrees Coffee near the Central Library are ideal places. Snagging a table by the window – that’s where the magic happens. Those places is smack in the middle of everything, so it’s also perfect for grabbing my camera and capturing some cool street photography.

I’m always checking out new places. I find my creative groove just hits differently in these kinds of environments.

Areas such as Spinningfields and Castlefield also have interesting architecture and hidden areas where you can find some photo opportunities. Most importantly, the light hits really well in the mornings in those areas.

To see physical art, the Manchester Art Gallery is a good shout. I’ve checked out a few photo exhibits there, but I wouldn’t say I’m a regular.

Credit: Laurent Swyngedauw @ Lozza Media

Describe your practice

I’m a photographer who aims to replicate a rich, cinematic undertone into my work. My compositions often have a slightly muted effect, as I like to dial back on the whites a bit to give it that old-school-almost film-like quality. I try to balance it by keeping those colours vibrant and rich. Some may say it’s a bit of a moody style, heavily influenced by colour theory. My style tends to change slightly depending on the season or what I’m shooting. As a former marketing and advertising student, I’m drawn to brands that use mixed media which gives it a certain look that I try to mimic. These include Urban Outfitters, All Saints and surfing brands such as Hurley, Billabong and Quicksilver.

I often find myself wanting to shoot lifestyle scenes, whether that’s a chill day at the beach or the excitement of city life. It’s about capturing the in-between organic moments. I’m all about shooting with the diverse moods of the day, from the bright and cheery noontime to the tranquil hues of sunrise and sunset. No matter when I’m shooting, I always aim to challenge myself by thinking about how I can give my shot more personality, or if this was a frame in a film, what would it look like?

My process… well, I aim to create a story from a set of photos, and I usually kick things off with a wide landscape shot. This gives me an idea of and acts like a warm-up session for how I can start telling the story. It gives me a broad perspective of the environment and sets the mood for the whole series. Then, I start hunting for interesting textures and details to highlight. Because I’ve got a thing for symmetrical or geometric lines, I try to find hints of that in the composition I have in front of me. They just bring so much structure and balance to the composition.

I’m a firm believer that the more subtle details in a picture, the better. They add depth and intrigue, inviting viewers to really dive into the scene. I’m always looking to create a nice degree of separation between my subjects and the background, which is why I rarely shoot above an aperture of f4. It might not be technically correct, but I think it’s these little personal touches that makes me want to look back at my work.

Credit: Laurent Swyngedauw @ Lozza Media

What’s the biggest challenge facing artists today?

I think the most obvious challenge an artist would face is finding paid work for something you enjoy doing. Then marketing-wise, it’s showing the work and services that you provide to your targeted audience. Having an understanding of your audience is important because it helps you think of the best ways you can showcase your work. A good book on this is called Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.

Now, from a creative point of view, the real test is whether your work truly mirrors what you want to express. With Instagram’s growth, for example, photographers are constantly navigating the balance of following trends and creating genuinely original work. It comes down to how much you want to be in the box of fitting in and keeping up with the trends for growth. If you feel like keeping up with the trends isn’t a reflection of what you want to do, then experimenting by standing outside the box and being completely true to what you want to create does well with your audience. Both paths have their merits, and perhaps, you might discover a sweet spot in between. What it comes down to is doing what makes you feel fulfilled and what resonates with you, a by-product of this is what helps in finding your style.

One challenge I faced when I started photography was that I felt stuck in a stage where all my photos looked the same and didn’t feel like I was improving. One solution to this was switching up the lens’s focal length or depth (like a low f-stop). Doing this brought new life and perspective to how I saw things. In order to level up my photography, it was crucial for me to get comfortable shooting at any time of the day. Sure, there are those prime times with beautiful golden light, but let’s be real, eventually, we’re often working on clients’ schedules, and conditions aren’t always optimal. That’s why it’s majorly important to be versatile and able to handle all sorts of light. You can always find ways to work around this, like using shadows or polarizers. Embrace it as a fun and beneficial challenge to shoot at any time of the day, under any weather conditions.

Credit: Laurent Swyngedauw @ Lozza Media

Is there an artist who inspires you or who you’d like to collaborate with?

There are many artists who have inspired me due to my diverse interests and genres. However, for inspiration, I tend to save shots on my phone, whether that’s a scene from a film, a random billboard, a postcard, a book cover, or anything else. I then look back at these later and categorise them into a folder, as I have so many!

For example, for portraits and fashion ideas, I usually draw inspiration from mainstream lifestyle magazines such as Vogue and GQ. Then, when I need to create portraits, I can recall how those saved inspirations can provide me with ideas.

There comes a time when you’ll realise that these saved inspirations help you create your own signature style.

Shout out an artist you love!

There’s this amazing Belgian graphic artist, Laurent Durieux. He’s spent the last ten years creating seriously stunning alternative movie posters. Durieux’s cool retro-futuristic designs have popped up all over the place, from Francis Ford Coppola’s wine bottles to the cover of The New Yorker. His visual references are vintage and art deco inspired. Think Pulp Fiction covers and those cool 1930s travel posters.

Another one on Instagram is Tad Locka. His incorporation of photography with sketching is a big inspiration to some of my work.

For more of Laurent’s work, follow him on Instagram (@lozzamedia) or find his work in issues 7 to 10 of The Mancunion print!

If you’re a Manchester-based artist and would like to be featured in Making Manchester, get in touch with us at [email protected].

Read our previous article here: Making Manchester #1: Anna Marsden.

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