Sunday, 6 May 2018

People: Lara Platman, Photographer and Tweed & Land Rover Enthusiast

This is the first of an occasional new series which looks at people whose lives are grey only in the sense that they may or may not have a few grey hairs. I start with photographer Lara Platman, whose book, Harris Tweed: From Land to Street, I enjoyed on my trip to Harris and Lewis at the invitation of The Harris Tweed Authority last year. Lara and I also share a love of old Land Rovers; we both own a series 2a Land Rover.


GF: Please introduce yourself and what you do:

LP: I am photographer and author with four published books (Art Workers Guild, 125 Years, Harris Tweed, from Land to Street, Spirit of Land, the Distilleries of Scotland and Through the Night, the Passion of Motorsport) and work with various editorial lifestyle and photographic outlets and appear regularly on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. I am a Brother of the Art Workers Guild, a committee member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and my photographs can be found in the collections Victoria and Albert Museum, London. I am an ambassador for Leica Camera AG and a Getty Contributor. Blimey that was a mouthful!

I embark on projects that inspire me, that instil a passion in me to complete them for whatever reason, regardless of the financial benefit – which does cause some annoyance to my accountants. I have recently restored my 1964 Land Rover Series 2a and drive her as my daily where each outing is an adventure either under or inside the car (more about her later). I am currently writing a radio drama about a woman racing driver from the 1920’s and along with having a motor racing licence I also just passed my motorbike license, so I suppose I am completely ensconced as a petrol head.


GF: How did you come to be a photographer? What do you photograph?

LP: I trained in photography and Fine Art in Newport under Keith Arnott and Roy Ascott, with visiting tutors such as Martin Parr and Brian Eno. When I left university I assisted Chris Nash and David Gamble to name but a few. Went off to New York to work and ended up welding for the comedians Penn and Teller along with assisting a photographer for Rolling Stone magazine. 

Coming back to London I realised I wanted to get back to my roots of being brought up in dressing rooms (as my parents made theatre costumes), I loved (and still do love it) Dance and Theatre, so set to working at the Royal Opera House amongst the many dance venues in London and supplied newspapers with the shots. Soon after, went to work at Country Life. They sent me on their ‘Out and About’ features, where I was sent to Goodwood Revival and then my photographic life changed. I got the petrol head bug and now photograph people and cars amongst my other commissions. 


I used to shoot with a Nikon FM2 and adored my 85mm f1.4 lens, then was gifted a Hasselblad camera, which allowed me to really find the form of the square photo that I love today, and still shoot with it for books and larger commercial jobs. When digital photography came in in 2008 I had moved from my Nikon FM2 to a Nikon D100 for editorial jobs and I utterly hated it. I thought that my chosen profession was almost doomed, until that was, I discovered a Leica M6 kit in a pawn shop window. Complete with two camera bodies and three lenses, one being a Noctilux 50mm /f1 I suddenly fell back in love. Everyone seemed to have been discarding their film cameras and I scooped this kit up, inside a Billingham Hadley Pro bag, I found a lab to process and scan my film and I got back into the editorial swing of things.

These cameras and lenses dictate how I photograph rather than what I photograph. Although I haven’t photographed any wars, weddings or small children, I probably would shoot anything that my camera lenses allow me to.

GF: Your book Harris Tweed; From Land to Street was the result of seven months on Harris and Lewis - tell us about that.

LP: My first publication was commissioned by The Art Workers Guild, to celebrate their 125th year. I visited 125 artists in their workshops across the United Kingdom and made a photo and wrote down what it is they do and how they are inspired to work on their pieces, rather than their biographies which can all be found on the internet these days, I was more interested and thought that people would be more interested in, how they work and why. I shot this on the square framed Hasselblad and it allowed me to really compose each photo and create a scene I was happy with.


The in-depth study of these artists and craftsmen sparked my interest in weaving, of which some of the Guild members are, which led me to the Harris Tweed publication. I was commissioned to create Harris Tweed, From Land to Street (Quarto Publishing) which looks at the 100th year of the Orb stamp and the industry of Harris Tweed, from the sheep and crofters to the wool sorting, washing and mill workers through to weaving, and finally the cloth produced for upholstery and tailoring. I lived up on Harris for 7 months whilst photographing and writing part of the book, which allowed me to shoot the book by each season, look at how the people on Harris and Lewis live and produce a book that was more than simply a tourist’s account of this historic industry. I lived in a croft and also camped quite a bit. 

Staying up in Harris and Lewis really changed my outlook on how I live as a city dweller and when I returned to London I almost immediately needed to leave again, (I soon put in place an escape route and began the idea of moving to the countryside). I started to understand the whole concept of sustainable existence amongst your surroundings, where as in London my life seemed to be on tap and very needy. Making the Harris Tweed book gave me so much more than just photos and words. There are some photos from this book on my website. Again, these are shot with the Hasselblad and I loved the pace of the camera on tripod with both portrait and landscape. The whole process of using a Polaroid is something that makes me fall in love with every click.


GF: You have just completed restoring an old Land Rover yourself. Tell us more.

From an early age I was always interested in making something from nothing (probably from being brought up with people who made costumes), and my ex boyfriends had Land Rovers. Knowing that I wanted one, I set to on finding one that was fairly decent and affordable. I bought Big Red from photos and went to see it in the dark in the rain and fell in love with her straight away. Little did I know about many of her individualities that needed changing. I started on repairing her chassis - well my wonderful historic car and Land Rover specialist, Adrian Wynn, started changing her chassis - and he suggested I actually give her the whole restoration treatment. 


So that is what I did. There is a whole article on my website about how I restored her. It took me almost 2 years, knowing I would never sell her, I was soon realising that she was costing me a huge amount of my working time…meanwhile, she is my adorable Big Red and I love her more and more each day. Off to find another one now to do the same only this time I will sell the new restoration and always keep Big Red. I have had many offers for her, but no way is she going anywhere.

GF: What dreams and plans do you have for the future?

LP: As you read earlier, I wanted to leave London and live in the countryside, but near to London still. So I moved to the Cotswolds which allows me to pop into London as well as having some space and natural landscapes around me. I was really only trying it out but seven years on, I am still here in the Cotswolds and have really put down roots with buying a plot of land. 


Over the next few years I shall be building my house which will have a garage and darkroom so I will be able to continue my passions of photography and car restoration. I am currently researching different ways to make the house as passive as possible and create a carbon footprint that does not affect the world too much. I am by a mill race so would like to utilise the water in an efficient way. 

My interests as a photographer and journalist, from dance, theatre and art, to automotive may now be moving to architecture, engineering and sustainability… I think being a photographer and journalist allow me to investigate a whole variety of crafts and trades, of world issues and situations, that perhaps I would never have known if I had chosen another trade. In fact, I have no clue as to what trade I would have chosen other than the one I am in.

GF: Anything else you'd like to mention?

Well, I suppose, I would like to say, that now that I am nearing 50 years of age, the photographs that I took in my twenties, might be less technical or well printed (remember we all printed stuff back then) but the subject matter is becoming more and more relevant, so I think I could start to look back at the archives and create a retrospective of sort. I photographed a team of In-Line skaters from Texas to New York, I photographed well established actors and dancers, cityscapes that no longer exist, architectural artistic masterpieces, so perhaps the work from my past might pay for the work in my future? Which in one respect is quite a positive thought.

With many thanks to Lara Platman.

Twitter: @photofeature
Instagram: @photo.feature
All images: Photofeature/ Lara Platman
Read more about her Land Rover on her website.

Other Links:
Billingham bags
Leica Store UK
Harris Tweed Authority

1 comment:

Juan Manuel Ballesteros y Allué said...

Great article-interview indeed. Thanks very much! And great new series.
And... I'd say I wouldn't mind owning an 'old' Land Rover, no...

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