This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography magazine, Ones to Watch, delivered direct to you with an 1854 Subscription.
Featured in our latest issue’s Member’s Corner, Louis Bever reflects on his artistic practice
Currently studying a Masters in photography at the Manchester School of Art, Louis Bever brings a personable and honest approach to portrait, documentary and fashion photography. Bever’s practice is rooted in the relationship between nature and well-being, as he navigates landscapes in order to further understand mental health and relationships. His latest project, Chez Oim, reflects on the photographer’s metropolitan childhood, and a deep desire for a natural environment. Meditiave and warm, Bever uses these images to demonstrate the meditative and “stress remedy” found in the natural world.
British Journal of Photography: How did this project begin?
Louis Bever: I moved to Manchester in 2018, and started venturing out into the countryside and whimsical with my camera. I started to notice nature’s fantastic effects on my mental and physical health. For a long time I found it difficult to find a technique to calm myself down when I was anxious. Slowly I started to feel relaxed being surrounded by beautifully-formed trees, golden hills and mysterious passages. The more relaxed I felt, the more I used my camera. I came across the psychologist John Suler who wrote an article on using the camera as a form of meditation. From that one article I started to use walking as a form of therapy for when I felt stressed. I had tried medication and conventional therapy in the past but my camera and woodland trumped both previous techniques.
My childhood was spent in France and my parents used to drag my brother and I around art galleries in the city. My mum would ask us to draw our favourite paintings and I was drawn to these dramatic and powerful landscapes from the Romanticism period. Growing up in Paris, I had always enjoyed the photographic processes of Cartier-Bresson, Ronis, Doisneau and Capa. Their enthusiasm and passion for taking pictures had hugely inspired me as a child. Coming from an army family background and moving around, I wanted to document my life in a creative way. I was too impatient to paint, photography was instant and I found it thrilling. This idea of being able to capture a split second in a physical form drew me in instantly.
BJP: What is your artistic process like?
LB: I feel as if I can be quite stubborn when it comes to my process. From loading the film to scanning the negatives. I enjoy being part of every step towards creating the final picture. I only shoot film because I find digital cameras overwhelmingly complicated. With film it’s simple: know your shutter and know your light. My Grandpa gave me his Pentax film camera when I was 14, and I never switched to digital. I enjoy the film process far too much to switch to digital. I am impatient so having to wait to see a picture that I have taken makes me appreciate it far more. Also, only having 10 pictures on a roll of film is a helpful restriction. It slows me down completely and makes me really think about the scene that I am trying to capture.
BJP: What’s next for you?
LB: I would like to make the project into a physical book. I have never made a book before therefore I am hugely looking forward to giving it a whirl. I would just like to keep taking pictures of things that I enjoy.
I keep changing my mind with the name of the project too. Steidl said that it is common for photographers to discover the name of a project whilst the work is being printed physically. I have my fingers crossed that he’s right.
I try to add as much of my photographic identity to my fashion work too. I would like to keep doing this and strengthen my visual identity and signature. Most importantly, I want my work to influence more people to open up about their mental health, normalise the stigma of talking about it and seek help if necessary.
Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.