FFO: MODS, MODS, MODS!
Who are you and where are you currently based?
My name is Billie-Jay Lynch. I grew up in Bow, East London and currently based in London/Essex area.
What is your current photographic work about?
I am about to finish studying an MA in Photography at Portsmouth University. My project during this time is one I have been working on for over 8 years, and has developed into a piece that not only reveals a youth subculture but exposes myself more clearly than before.
The project is called ‘Mod Girls’. I have focused on women within the mod culture to document a confidence of belonging, whilst maintaining their personal identity through their chosen location and particular style. Mod Girls explore strong women who convey originality, youth and vibrant style, but most importantly it reveals their independent persona with a sense of isolation and belonging.
What got you interested in photography and taking images?
I always remember my dad having a camera or a video camera in his hands when I was younger. My dad is very creative and imaginative. My parents allowed me to use their cameras, just point and shoot cameras or old 35mm cameras we had. This allowed me to start capturing the mod scene, which I was involved in because of my dad attending rallies and ride-outs.
For these reasons, I continued to develop my photography into A-level. What made me want to take photography further into higher education and a career was down to the art department at my school. My teachers were full of knowledge about artists, skills and most importantly to me experimenting with analogue photography and alternative processes.
Who are you inspired by?
The stories of people around me. I am interested in who people are and how I can symbolise some of that identity through a shot. While photographing my current project, I have been collecting stories from the sitters to gain an insight into their way of life. Personally, the stories are my inspiration when capturing a sitter. People can be interesting and open to expressing a particular time, place, or happy moment, which is important information when capturing your time with them.
Other artists to have inspired me too. The work of other artists is a great way to gain inspiration in many areas. For example; Billy Monk’s work ‘Cape Town Nightclub’ series photographing original 60s mods and their behaviour with other youths, to me demonstrates a direct inspiration of what I strived to capture in my first 35mm black and white shots. I would capture my friends in all places to capture moments in time of belonging to a group. Whereas, Jason Evans inspired me through his clean and consistent structured portraits and the combining of fashion and documentary photography. He explores not just the style of men but explores the identity of politics and social issues to gain thought-provoking imagery.
Would you say you have a personal interest in the Mod scene? If so, do you think photographing something in which you take a personal interest in makes it easier to create work about that subject?
I have been obsessed with the mod scene since I was 13 years old. This was all because of my dad, who just missed out on the ’79 revival. My dad had scooters and we used to go to the local pub for meetups and rideouts with all of his friends and other scooter clubs. I loved it all, it was a sense of freedom at such a young age. It was first the music that appealed to me and I grew up listening to The Jam, Madness, Small Faces etc. Next it was the scooters, I was fascinated by the structure of a Vespa and always going on the back for rideouts. Then later, aged 15, I became interested in the late 1960s fashion when my nan showed me her photo albums from the 60s and I realised she was an original mod. Luckily, my nan kept a lot of her clothes, shoes and even handbags. So, I was bought up by lovers of this subculture and the obsession just got bigger and bigger for me.
I think with every project you create there must be some personal interest in what you are exploring. To capture a strong image the enthusiasm and fascination someone has for their project should enable a deeper connection with the subject and even your audience. I was told by a teacher, at school, to continue this project since I was an insider of the group and that would allow me to capture a more authentic document of the subculture. However, it has been difficult to separate myself from my personal interest of being involved within the scene and staying focused on capturing the right moments for the project. It was very aware of people’s behaviour within this group-knit group and how they create their personalities for this scene. I suppose, someone who is an outsider of the group may not have been able to document the life of the subculture in the way I have previously. Yet, even that outsider can have an interest in a subject they choose to photograph. It may be different from what I would document, or it could be the same. Artists reveal what they want you to see through their own fascination of a subject.
Have you got any ideas for future projects?
I feel the mod subculture projects have reached an end for me due to financial circumstances. If I could, I wanted to continue this project outside of the UK to show this subculture in other countries. To finish this project, I am going to collaborate with my dad using his archive images to demonstrate to the audience my inspiration for the projects I have created so far.
I have a few new project ideas lined up. I do not want to stop contributing to the art world once my MA is completed. I will continue researching and developing as a practitioner to ensure my students observe and can use this knowledge. I have some ideas surrounding family photography outside of my own, as well as political/social ideas in connection to equality and feminism. These projects will hopefully begin in October 2018.
What are your future aspirations?
I have always wanted to teach and thankfully, I have had great opportunities teaching in colleges and schools in Havering, Greater London, for four years. My ultimate goal is to become a university lecturer, so I can teach at a higher level and further students’ knowledge in Photography. This would also give me an opportunity to work on new projects in an environment I can push my skills and level of research. I went into teaching to promote learning to others and help people of all ages develop their skills. I struggled a lot at school and the only teachers that encouraged me were my art teachers, and I hope I can make that slight difference too in someone’s education.
You say that your ultimate goal is to become a university lecturer after teaching in several different academic environments, why do you feel its important to educate photography in 2018 and what motivates you to do this?
It is so important to continue teaching photography, especially today with the increase in digital photography. I would like to slow students down a little and encourage them to explore their own ideas through the lens. Photography is everywhere, one image can tell a story to millions of people and change their perception of a particular subject. Photography is a way for many to express themselves or show others what is happening in this world. For me, photography was a release from all the pressure and struggle I faced at school. Photography enabled me to express myself through an image rather than words.
I am motivated about educating others because I found something I enjoy, and I want to pass this motivation onto them. I am extremely lucky to work with my collages and other artists, including my students each year. They all motivate me to continue educating myself and developing my practice as a practitioner. Teaching is hard, and the paperwork is awful. But every time a student is amazed by what the camera can do or they choose to take photography further, that’s what motivates me.
What advice would you recommend to young photographers today?
Network! Build contacts with everyone you can while studying because you never know when you may be able to collaborate with someone else. Go see exhibitions, talks and anything you can to help you build your understanding. And go for every opportunity you get!