Student Spotlight: Livi Holbrook
Student Spotlight chats with former Mango Lab students. As we are preparing for our busy Teen season we thought we’d catch up with sixteen year old Livi Holbrook to hear her reflections on being a young ‘person who takes pictures’. She talks about her aspirations of working in film, being a street photographer in Camden and the calming effect of taking pictures.
What initiated your interest in photography?
My mum had all these really old cameras – Polaroid and old film cameras – and I used to take really childish pictures of random objects. As I grew older I became more interested in photography, landscapes and abstract stuff such as lighting. When I went to secondary school I started doing practical-based art. We did photography and art and I found it quite interesting experimenting with lighting and composition and the different techniques you can do. My mum set me up with The Mango Lab course a few summers ago and it was really interesting.
What subjects are you studying at school?
I have my GCSEs next year. I’m doing Maths, English, and Triple Science. I have chosen to do Geography, French, Art and Textiles.
What courses have you done with The Mango Lab?
I did one of the four-day summer courses for the first time. Then I did a few months for my Duke of Edinburgh, which was the Saturday Club where we focus on a different topic each month.
What were the most enjoyable elements of it?
I really liked the summer course because it focused on developing things over a few days. I think my favourite has been the Saturday Club because you get a taste of different subjects over time so it’s quite interesting and engaging.
What were you doing at the Saturday club?
We looked at several different subjects. One was night photography where we went into central London in the evening and stayed there until it went dark. We experimented with lighting and how to make light look really bright in dark.
We also did street photography in Camden. We were looking at different photographers and applying their work to the way we were thinking about our photographs.
Are there any photographs that you are quite proud of?
There have been a few that I thought were, not quite professional, but looked very good. One street photography picture I took in Camden of people looking at records in a shop window I really like because of the lighting.
What kind of photographer are you? Do you think about the photograph before you take it?
If I’m out I normally carry a camera with me. If I see something and really like it I will take a quick picture of it and look at it. Then I think about how I could make it look better or if I need to change the shutter speed. I normally take several pictures of one subject; if it’s an in-the-moment thing I will normally look at it afterwards on Photoshop and edit the lighting.
How often are you using your camera?
I use a form of camera almost everyday whether that’s my phone or Polaroid or DSLR.
Is there anywhere in the world you would love to photograph?
I’ve always loved the idea of going to Peru and going on the Inca Trail and taking a picture from the top of all the ruins and the mountains. I really like mountainous landscapes- I went to Norway a few years ago and took loads of pictures of mountains. The shape, silhouettes and landscape imagery is really interesting.
What are you feeling when you’re holding a camera?
You feel a bit withdrawn. You feel like you’re an observer rather than in a situation, you’re in the background watching everything else. You are less self-aware than you would be in everyday situations because you’re seeing it through a camera and thinking about how it would be on the camera.
Other than the technical skills you’ve gained from photography, what else have you learnt?
I’ve learnt how to use photography as an art form and including it in more artistic ways and having collections of pictures to create an effect or mood.
Do your photographs have an online presence?
I have an Instagram and Flickr account, but I don’t use them that much. I’ve been meaning to get more of my pictures online. I’d quite like to get a collection of really good photographs. Sometimes I do post my photos somewhere, however at times it’s quite causal and I’ll take a picture that’s not really intended for anything. There are a few pictures I’ve been meaning to put up somewhere – that might be another project for me!
Do you call yourself a photographer?
No. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to myself as a photographer. I say I take pictures. I know lots of people say you’re a photographer if you take photos, but I feel like a photographer is someone who does it as a profession. I do it because I enjoy it.
What’s your career aspiration?
I’d like to go into film and cinematography. I’m also interested in editing and post-production. Visual stuff is very important to me and I really like film.
How do people respond to your photographs?
A lot of them are amazed. People ask me how I took a picture and I say I just pick up a camera! Sometimes if I take a really nice picture of a landscape people comment that it’s a really lovely picture or ask me where I got that picture. And I have to explain that I took it!
Is there a particular genre of photography you like?
I really like portrait photography. I like looking at portrait photography rather than actually taking it. I have taken a few portraits. However I feel like all the portrait photography I’ve taken hasn’t quite captured the mood I had hoped to, whereas there are some photographers who do it really well – they capture an expression that really shows the mood. It could be something I develop in the future.
Where do you see your photography going?
I think it will probably stay a hobby. I have thought about making cards – birthday cards etc. and selling them. I did make cards for my mum, which were quite nice and everyone was really impressed with them. I’ve been thinking about doing that, but that’s as far as it would probably go.
Are there any photographers you really like?
I looked at a lot of Man Ray – I really like a lot of his work because of the artistic tones and composition of his work. He’s quite a key photographer that I really like.
What does photography give you that nothing else does?
In a way it’s quite calming when you’re actually taking a photograph, especially if you’re taking a landscape – you feel relaxed. You’re in your own space and figuring things out for yourself – there’s no one else involved, it’s a nice feeling.
Will you continue to do courses?
I think I will keep doing the Mango Lab courses, particularly in the summer because I do enjoy them. I think there is always space to develop and improve photography and look at other photographers to see what their work is like. It’s constantly developing. Often the courses share things that I haven’t thought about.
If you’re interested in doing a course similar to Livi’s click here