Lilli Waters is a photography artist whose works are filled with intrigue and mystery. Lilli’s latest project ORPHEUS, is an immersive experience which combines the female form and underwater still life imagery.
We chat with this incredibly talented artist about the ideas and magic behind her works and discover that one of her pieces ended up in Christian Grey’s apartment. Yep, we’re talking 50 Shades of Grey.
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With her dark colour palette paired with an exceptional eye and talent for capturing perfect light, the story behind the ORPHEUS collection is nothing short of extraordinary.
“ORPHEUS is made up of images of the female form which were photographed in nature battling the elements,” explains Lilli.
“To capture the images of the female form, I planned a week-long trip to Wilsons Promontory National Park, southeast of Melbourne. My subject and I spent our days driving, scouting, waiting… then shooting, during the small windows of the right light.
“We would work at dawn, rising at 4am to venture out when there was no one else around. Then again at dusk when all the tourists had finally gone home.
“I like to work intensely for many consecutive days, to fully immerse myself in the process. I find the combination of pushing my mind and body to the limit with no distractions and building momentum, takes the work to a different place. It helps me create a deeper, more focused place which wouldn’t happen if I shot a day here or there.
“ORPHEUS was the first time I was also working with the ocean tides. So it added a whole extra layer of challenges, as we had to ensure we didn’t get trapped when the tide came in. Camera gear and rising water don’t mix!
“Many images were abandoned throughout the process (there always are). But in the end, the strongest work really made itself apparent and shone through.”
Shot during an arduous year full of lockdowns, ORPHEUS emerged as a thing of beauty during an intensely difficult time.
“After the first few lockdowns in Melbourne, there was a small window of time where we were relatively Covid-free and life returned to some kind of normal.
“The ideas behind ORPHEUS emerged from a feeling of excitement, optimism and gratitude to be able to make work, be creative and get out in nature again. Being able to visit these incredible landscapes was a beautiful and surreal experience,” says Lilli.
“I really wanted to combine photographing the female form and still life underwater flowers to form the one body of work. It’s a theme I’ve been experimenting with for years now, but have never combined both into a series.
“When planning this collection, I was unable to go to the shops to source new materials due to lockdowns. I dug the gold netted material out of my fabric box. It became the thread that tied both the female form and underwater still life images together.
To create the underwater still life images, Lilli used an intriguing process.
“The still life’s involved creating intricate underwater vignettes that came to life in my living room,” explains Lilli.
“I set up a large water tank in my house, adding different lights and using a disorderly, random system of bolts, wires, weights and fishing line. These helped hold the floral sculptures down and I then littered them with pieces of cellophane, beautiful fish and the same fabrics I used in the river.
“The process couldn’t be more different to the female images! Although there is still the same search, looking for that feeling of magic in the work.”
While one of Lilli’s works has appeared on the big screen as part of 50 Shades movie franchise, it’s seeing people fill galleries and being able to exhibit her works in person that brings her the greatest joy.
“It was truly wonderful to see ORPHEUS finally come to life. To see my works printed in large-scale, beautifully framed and hung on the walls of the gallery space,” smiles Lilli.
“After the show was postponed in 2021, I was incredibly relieved when opening night went ahead. It made me so happy to see so many faces and be able to hug people again after such a challenging time. I was proud that we had such a huge turnout. The gallery was a full house!
“My hope is that ORPHEUS is able to bring some joy and beauty into peoples lives after such an arduous and overwhelming few of years.
“We are living through an age where our lens on the world must constantly shift and refocus as new ideas, crises, social movements and the natural environment rapidly change. We require a level of poetic consciousness and presence to navigate this new world.”
The ORPHEUS exhibition runs 2 — 26 February 2022 at Metro Gallery in Armadale. We hope you enjoyed uncovering the dark waterscapes and ethereal visuals captured by the wonderfully talented Lilli Waters. To discover Lilli’s full body of works, visit her website or explore her Instagram.