On this episode of The Photography Lounge, your host Alastair Jolly has a conversation with Lou Noble and they dive into the history of Lou's photographic journey.
They discuss Lou's love of Polaroid photography and how the format is instrumental in the stories and the experiences he captures in his Portrait Photography.
Also hear why Lou, for the love of his photography, has deliberately never made it his career!
Lou has been an active Flickr member for fifteen years, and, as editor-in-chief of The Photographic Journal, publishes interviews and photo essays with both those up-and-coming in the industry and those with successful decades-long careers.
Lou Noble takes pictures, saves lives, surfs, eats pumpkin-related products...occasionally there's ice cream.
Learn more about Lou:
Find out all about the features SmugMug & Flickr have to offer at:
Alastair Jolly: On this episode of the podcast, I am joined by someone who I think epitomizes the spirit of what it means to be a true artist. Create for the pure love of it and the wider personal wellbeing that is achieved by practising one's craft. A wonderful portrait photographer. He has been an active flicker member for 15 years.
And as editor in chief of The Photographic Journal, publishes interviews and photo essays with both those up and coming in the industry and those with successful decade long careers.
He takes pictures, he saves lives, he surfs and loves to eat pumpkin related products.
It is Lou noble.
Lou Noble: Hey Alastair. How are you?
Alastair Jolly: There's a lot in that intro. I don't know where to start. I feel like I want to go straight to the pumpkin related products, but there's,
Lou Noble: you can never go wrong with pumpkin related product.
Alastair Jolly: Is that just a seasonal thing or do you find them all year round?
Lou Noble: I can find them all year round. During the pandemic, I started making my own ice cream.
So now I can just make it whenever I want some pumpkin ice cream here. Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Alastair Jolly: That's the end of today's show.
Lou Noble: I'll send you some,
Alastair Jolly: do you think it would survivor a 6000mile journey?
It’s all about the packaging? Yeah. Oh, definitely. Can you ship internationally ice cream?
Lou Noble: Probably not.
Alastair Jolly: Probably, probably not. thank you so much for joining us today.
I really do appreciate it. And, yeah, maybe we should rewind and start at the beginning because I'd mentioned there that, you know, you have epitomized to me, what it means to be a true artist and that you don't do this as a career. You do this for the love of the art. Is that correct?
Lou Noble: I mean, yeah. I never really considered becoming a professional.
When I started doing this as a serious hobby, I already had a job. I really enjoy it. So, this was just something I could do away from all that. There was always either an escape or a separate part of life that didn't have to be a job. Didn't have to make me money. Didn't have to pay my bills.
Alastair Jolly: And what is the thing that pays your bills?
Lou Noble: So, I guess when I started on Flickr, when I started, which was around the same time I started taking photography seriously, I was an EMT in the United States. There's no such thing as a medic per se, there are different levels. I was the first level. So, an EMT as an emergency medical technician, I drove an ambulance around LA, worked for a private company that had contracted with our local fire department.
So, we ran 911 calls. We ran calls that were not emergency calls. Yeah. I did that for six years before transitioning or beginning the transition into what I do now. Which is work as an EMT on a film set.
Alastair Jolly: Oh, interesting. So, providing the kind of medical cover on to the film industry.
Lou Noble: Yeah. We, in California and I think pretty much all States, you are obligated to have a medical professional on your work site.
If you are working outside of a building. And more than five minutes from a hospital. So, every film, every, every union film set has a medic.
Alastair Jolly: And how many medics would there be on a typical production? Just you or is it part of a team?
Lou Noble: Just me usually. Yeah, the larger productions will go up, but usually for each kind of film, shoot, one is normal.
Alastair Jolly: And do you get called into service a lot on film sets or is it a lot of standing around making sure nobody gets hurt?
Lou Noble: Yeah there are very few emergencies. If a set is run well, good. So, what I tend to handle are more medical issues. People not feeling well, people, small injuries. People with various ailments.
Alastair Jolly: It's like a, this could be a whole different type of podcast.
The Photography Lounge, medical centre.
Lou Noble: Well, I have heard of carpal tunnel in the photography field, a lot of back injuries. Yeah,
Alastair Jolly: I had a neck injury during my career with constantly using a shoulder bag full of way too much gear. Do you know when they tell you a camera bag can hold like X amount of pounds or kilos and it can hold all these bodies and all these lenses and you think that's great?
And then you realize, well, Yeah, I can’t actually lift it. So how does someone who's entrenched in this medical world? Either in the, you know, the extreme environment of being in an ambulance in LA end up being such a creative photographic artist.
Lou Noble: Oh, I that's a question I've never really thought about, I don't know. Did you hear that?
Alastair Jolly: I heard a beep.
Lou Noble: Okay. For our sound. That's my email, which I will now turn off.
Alastair Jolly: It's not a pager? Like you're not having to burst out the room and go save someone's life.
Lou Noble: You can conveniently edit this whole section out. Okay. Back in we go, I was always mildly creative, but never really considered photography an outlet until probably my early twenties.
And even then, it was very much just. A matter of having picked up a Polaroid camera and enjoying taking it to parties or taking it out and about with me, it wasn't until I got on Flickr to help promote a blog, I was working for that. It became something I started doing more often more regularly.
Alastair Jolly: Right. So, it wasn't some conscious escapism from the medical world it was just a hobby.
Lou Noble: Yeah. I was never, I wasn't looking for something to be creative with or some kind of artistic endeavor throw myself into while on Flickr, I met a whole community of people who were also into Polaroid and that really stoked flames of passion.
Alastair Jolly: So, Polaroid was the catalyst, I guess, for, for picking this up.
So, when did you, or why did you decide to go the Polaroid route and not the digital, the 35 mil.
Lou Noble: Been carrying a Polaroid around since I was 18. I found one in my mother's closet was attracted kind of to the, even back then. This is the late nineties. It was already kind of obsolete compared to regular film cameras.
And I enjoyed it. How weird it was. So, I would just carry it around forever. And then when I got on Flickr and I was taking Polaroids, the only pictures I took. So that was how I thought, or photography was through the lens of Polaroids. And then when I met a whole bunch of people who were also into it, it really validated my weird little hobby at the time
Alastair Jolly: There's a weird theme going on here. You like the weirdness of Polaroids. You like to do a weird little hobby,
Lou Noble: I probably like the weirdness of life.
Alastair Jolly: You mentioned Flickr, there was this place that you were sharing your work, but you have an analogue system, right?
You're taking Polaroids. Yeah. How were you getting your Polaroids into a digital sharing platform?
Lou Noble: Oh man, I'm trying to remember back then how I scanned them. I know that I had bought a scanner, maybe a
Alastair Jolly: Some kind of flatbed scanner
Lou Noble: a cheap one. Just so I could kind of preserve them past any possible disaster. We do have fires and earthquakes out here.
There is always the small risk that the earth is going to just open up and swallow my building while I'm not here.
You know I am trained for crisis.
So, I did buy a cheap scanner and was scanning my Polaroids. And I've always actually been fortunate that I would find the scanner that scan Polaroids very accurately, which is sometimes a problem getting the colors right.
Or being able to eliminate some of the reflective issues that happen when you scan Polaroids. For sure. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I remember it, it was a very kind of funky, it was a scanner that was separate from its stand. So, you could scan something on a wall. Technically with this thing, it was probably the size of a regular.
Tiny flatbed, but it was a very weird. There it is again,
Alastair Jolly: Attracted to the weirdness. That's great. So, you met this, community of other Polaroid photographers. Were they all into portrait photography?
Lou Noble: They were right for the most part, thinking back. You know, a few of them were aspiring professionals who wanted to do portrait fashion photography.
A few of them like myself were just hobbyists. Probably 70% of them were taking portraits with the others taking kind of just environmental shots or landscape. It's something I've actually been thinking about recently in thinking about Flickr is. How my experience of photography is so geared towards portraits.
Whereas there's a whole other world that I don't engage with all too often, that has nothing to do with taking pictures of things true.
Alastair Jolly: But what you're known for in the work that I love, and your portfolio is all people. And that's the type of stories you want to tell. What, what is it about people that makes you want to photograph them?
Lou Noble: I think it comes less from a direction of what about them I wanted to photograph and more what my intent with photography was initially. I was much more shy when I was younger and taking a Polaroid especially as somebody was a very successful way more successful in saying nothing at all, a successful way of bridging that gap of shyness was a way of opening a conversation with somebody. Can I take your picture is a much easier way of saying, can I talk to you? So, my goal was always to talk the people to engage in some kind of conversation, to engage with some kind of interaction. Now. You know, what attracts me to a person is not too dissimilar from that idea.
It's this person in some way, engages my curiosity. I want to know more about this person, based on, maybe what I've seen of them in the world or what I've seen of them online. Always a curiosity about the personality. Over person as much as anything else.
Alastair Jolly: Real interesting. So, it's more of a tool to break down some of those personal boundaries and get to know these people that then has an artistic outcome at the end.
Lou Noble: Yeah. Yeah. Very much. So, the pictures have always been as much evidence of a good conversation, a good interaction, a good engagement with someone. I think
Alastair Jolly: evidence, evidence of that communication. That's a great way to think about a piece of art. I guess a lot of artwork. It's just evidence of the existing
Lou Noble: Evidence of the experience,
Alastair Jolly: the existence of someone, the interaction, that that's a great way to think about work.
Lou Noble: You know, I have this thing where I, put up a lot of Polaroids on the wall. I have a hallway now that is basically covered in probably about 1200 Polaroids.
Alastair Jolly: Yeah. Very familiar with it.
Lou Noble: It's all kind of a physical memory palace. I can go into that hallway and remember. It triggers all these memories of these experiences,
Alastair Jolly: Physical memory palace, man, you're dropping some incredible lines today. One of these days, I'm expecting to see this Polaroid room with lots of strings connecting one picture to another one to the, to the ultimate goal the central point where all that comes together.
Yeah. I guess they are all are connected. When, when you do find someone.
That you want to strike up this communication with and create a piece of art or create a piece of evidence. what is it, what is it you're looking for in that person? Or is there, is anybody a potential subject to yourself,
Lou Noble: Especially where I am now? I think more and more, most people are people I want to photograph.
Most people. Are interesting to me, it's really, there's always the challenge with any person of, can I take a good picture with this person? And that can be as difficult for people who are conventionally attractive as those who aren't, because you know, someone who is, let's say photogenic would probably be the best way to put it. It's easy to take a pretty picture, but it's still difficult to take a picture that is interesting. That is engaging. That reveal something about your subject that doesn't get any easier. If a person is more photogenic and that's, that's kind of always the challenge I set for myself now.
Yeah. Where I am today. Definitely in the early days of being engaged, online and being on Flickr, it was very much more about what's photogenic. What's pretty. That gets boring. After a while. You want to figure out something with a higher difficulty level.
Alastair Jolly: You're trying to reveal something in someone. What are the stories?
What are the emotions that you're trying to convey? Do you go out there with something in mind or do you just wait?
Lou Noble: It's always based on the person. What is it about what I have seen in this person experienced in some way? What is it somebody's ability to be serious or to be happy? Someone's ability to portray cynicism about my, the challenge I set for myself and capturing that, and then not only capturing it, but being able to convey it to my audience for that, that ends up being the real trick. It's easy to see something and another person it's hard to capture it in such a way that your audience can see that.
Alastair Jolly: Let's talk a little bit about the Polaroid itself. We've had a conversation before we, you specifically mentioned one camera that really kind of changed your, your life, your photographic art
Specifically, that it was at the Polaroid 680.
Lou Noble: That's it? Yeah.
Alastair Jolly: Tell us a little bit about that camera and why it was so instrumental in your progression.
Lou Noble: Yeah, well, at the time when I joined Flickr, I was using a peel apart Polaroid camera. It was not very good.
A weak plastic lens. You couldn't actually tell whether the camera wasn't focused or not. and so, after a short time on Flickr, another Polaroid enthusiast recommended the Polaroid 680 said, you're trying to get something. I can see it. And I think it's the camera that's holding you back. So, I picked one up, I believe it was on eBay at the time.
And instantly it was taking the kind of pictures I want to take. I could get closer. The pictures were sharper. I could see what I was trying to take a picture of through the lens it is a SLR. The autofocus made it so that the pictures that I was previously taking blurrily were now in focus. I had control over my shutter speed.
It just ended up being a better camera all around. So being able to take Polaroids with a better, more sophisticated camera really allowed me to then just start running wild. In terms of taking pictures all the time and having them turn out, not even turn out great, but just turn out. Oh, it's in focus.
What a picture
Alastair Jolly: A step forward, just to make them turn out. Oh, so this was,
Lou Noble: I can take. And then all in with some focus, what, what did I can do? What kind of weapon I now have!
Alastair Jolly: but that's interesting. Cause obviously you've kind of honed your eye with a tool that was kind of holding you back a little bit. Suddenly when you, you have the right tool given to you that has the operational features, the functions that allows you to manipulate it as an artist in the way that you want to.
And you have that creative control over how the pictures have being taken, it just projects, your, you know, puts you on a trajectory that's we quicker than yeah.
Lou Noble: Yeah. That'd been held by us still with significant constraints, you know, so versus something like digital, where I felt completely Unbound in terms of how many pictures I could take and how much experimentation I could do with my subject.
You know, the Polaroids still gave me considerable limitations, which I really enjoyed. It really fostered a certain aesthetic that I wasn't initially even conscious of.
Alastair Jolly: What are some of those constraints or limitations and how do they, who do they kind of communicate themselves in the image with?
Lou Noble: With Polaroid and this is of course my opinion. You know, I, I found that the Polaroid I'd taken from far away. Isn't as interesting a, the limitation of course, of how many frames you get per pack that you're limited by the film, how much film you've got in your bag. The fact that with a Polaroid, you know, the color is going to be a little interesting.
The, you know, like it's, they, especially back in the day when you were using the original formula. They had a very specific, unique palette, a palette I've actually, I don't think anyone's ever been able to replicate digitally. There was a warmness to the tones that was just very unique and that's not a limitation necessarily, but yeah, it is a very specificity about the Polaroids.
Right. But more, it was yeah, like the main limitation of Polaroids that you're dealing with film. And you're also dealing with a very limited number of shots, but on the other hand, you can see those shots right away. So, there was, there were elements of the more modern digital experience. Yeah.
Alastair Jolly: You mentioned there the distance to your subject and the limitations you have, or the limitations in the kind of outcome you have. If you're too far away from your subject. It's very clear from your portfolio that you're not afraid to get close and personal. Your portfolio has, you know, a lot of closeup, especially in your Polaroid work. When, you know, you've already mentioned, you're not the most confident with people.
So, you've given yourself a tool that means you need to get close, but you also, are very, very fond of that closeness in your artwork. So, tell us a little bit about who you get closed, but also why you like that visual impact of the closeness?
Lou Noble: You know, how is really about how successfully I'm able to create a rapport with my subject.
You know, if, if I've, if we're having a good interaction with the experiences is positive for both of us, I've created the environment where I, they will allow me into that personal space. I try not to force it. You know, I, I tend to be, or attempt to be sensitive to how my subject was feeling. I tell them that if we're not having a good time, It's not a good shoot.
The, the process, the experience is far more important to me than the outcome. The result, if I didn't have a good time, it's not really worth it to me. So that's okay. You know, how is basically creating a positive environment for my subject, where they feel comfortable letting me into their space? The why, you know, it was initially that being able to get so close, I became intoxicated by the ability to get so much closer.
In an image than I had been able to previously that by the time I started kind of evaluating my own work and trying to see what kind of style had come up that was just staring me in the face, the pictures that I was taking, where I was getting as close as possible, that camera with the pictures that I enjoyed the most partially because it is evidence of that rapport that at least some level of comfort, but also because I just didn't see it all that often.
There was maybe one other photographer I knew who was taking. Kind of closer Polaroids and portraits of any kind. This guy, Jim Lucio, the fact that he had created, he had crafted his own style. That was very identifiable. That appealed to me.
Alastair Jolly: How do you describe your style? I introduced you as a portrait photographer, but you know, that's such a wide subject matter just in that one, genre. If anyone hasn't seen your work before. How would you describe your style?
Lou Noble: I'd like to say, you know, emotionally open portraits. Of subjects who are active participants in the experience, willing participants. I would hope that my portraits are in some way revealing of my subject. In a way that maybe isn't easily describable. Yeah. You can feel
Alastair Jolly: That’s why I asked you to do it.
Lou Noble: yeah. you know, based on what people have told me, there's a certain vulnerability in my subjects, a certain lack of artifice in my better pictures. So yeah, there. I hoped to take portraits that are physically close, but also emotionally close.
Alastair Jolly: You said they're the style conveys this fact that the models are a willing participant. What do you mean by that? You mean willing to showcase the emotions that you're wanting to capture? Is that what you mean by that?
Lou Noble: Yeah. You know, I, I look at it very much as a partnership between myself and my subject. There are so many different ways you can go with portraiture, even, you know, I think of street photography as it is a form, you know, it's, it's not quite portrait.
And I think one of the elements that separates it is that your part of your subjects are not willing participants. They're not engaged in this process with you. I want to make it very clear that my subjects are engaged in the process with me. That the both of us together are creating this photo.
Alastair Jolly: Is also a case that you're, you know, hiring a model to capture a certain look.
That's kind of pre-determined. You're going into the shoot. Not really with any, you know, pre-determined look in it. It's up to both of you to, to get that this is actually part of it.
Lou Noble: Right. You know, we, all I want is to know more about the person through the shots we take. And that's another great reason for myself, for why not to do it professionally is that the goal remains simply to, you know, discover more about another person through the pictures.
We don't have to sell anything. They don't have to pretend to be anything in particular. There is hopefully. Less artifice. I've actually, you know, I would contact the model, have them show up to the shoot. And at times it would be a difficulty in them being able to drop the level of artifice they normally come to the shoot with that would become the challenge.
And some people were actually very resistant to that idea.
Alastair Jolly: Lets visit that idea of not doing it for a living, which we've mentioned a couple of times know, you know, some of the greatest photographers, greatest artists I know keep this clear separation between what they do to pay the bills and the art that they love. And, and you're one of those people that keeps that completely separate.
Why have you decided not to turn something you're so proficient at and incredibly good at what, why have you decided not to try and make money from it?
Lou Noble: I think initially, I, it wasn't even something that was a consideration back when I was taking, started to take photos more seriously. If you went to school, then you became a professional photographer.
Everyone else was a hobbyist. And I was very happy in that, you know, as the internet became more popular and it became much more encouraged for people to make a career out of their hobbies, more generally. I very much bristled at that idea. I had this thing that I loved that was in its way, perfect.
You know, it provided me with a creative outlet. It was a way making me more social. There was nothing more I wanted from it. I had a job that I enjoyed that was completely separate. You know, there's no photography on an ambulance. This was a part of my life that didn't need any of that. So especially talking about it now, it was less that I needed a job, and this would have been great.
It was, it was that I, everything in my life was very fortunately set up in such a way. That I didn't need this as a job. And without that need, I could evaluate it on its own terms that this was something I enjoyed without needing to make money. So why introduce that element?
Alastair Jolly: Yeah. Why, why tarnish it? Why risk, what you love?
Lou Noble: Yeah. I mean, I,
Alastair Jolly: don't the path of adding all that stress,
Lou Noble: right. That's the thing is I don't, you know, I don't bemoan anyone, the urge to make money from something they're good at. Or that they enjoy for me. It was never a requirement. And because it wasn't a requirement, I could look at it and think, yeah, I don't need that stress.
I don't need that added element of someone else's judgment on what the picture should be, yeah. Over the years, of course, you know, people have offered me money, a little bit of money here and there to take a look book, do it, look book shoot or do a wedding. And I've never really felt satisfied with the work afterwards. Never felt a hundred percent because it wasn't what I want to do. Really. It was never about no one's ever hired me to just have a kind of visual conversation with somebody.
Alastair Jolly: That was never the gateway drug, because for a lot of us, you know, many, many, many people I know, including myself, that was what happened, you know, you're good at something and suddenly someone offers you some money to do it, whether it be a family friend or family, or a close connection offers you some money and then suddenly the wheels start going in your head. Like, you know, maybe this is the path I should take and it's the path I took, but I did, after, you know, 16 years really resent taking pictures at the end of the day.
And the last thing I wanted to do was pick up a camera just because it had become such a job.
Lou Noble: Yeah. I tell you, I am really, against work. I don't, I am not a hard worker. I don't like working; I don't like obligation in that way. So, it was never an element I would have been happy to introduce to photography.
You know, sometimes the amount of money was enough to get you to do it, but I was never, and I think that's probably a big thing is I never had a paid experience in those early years. It was kind of formative years that I really enjoyed where I was like, Ugh. I wish I could do this all the time. The money was usually just kind of a balm on a mediocre experience.
And this was not because of the people paying or the job itself, but the people I was photographing, it was always. Kind of internal dissatisfaction.
Alastair Jolly: I love that you just said, you know, you don't enjoy working not a big fan of it. Cause that's kind of the complete opposite of what we hear nowadays. You know, podcasts are full of people saying this is the best career. I can stop working. I'm just, you know, that's all I can think of all the time I want to do more. Social media is full of people telling you how incredible their lives are because they're working so hard and, you know, making all their dreams come true. So, it's kind of the opposite of what we normally hear and, and it's quite refreshing.
Lou Noble: I mean, you know, I, it has to be partly my upbringing, you know, my, my mother was the main caregiver and I could see that she was working. A lot to support me more than she would have on her own, you know? So that kind of tension in my, my father was a man who, tried very hard not to work. So probably it's passed down from my dad's side.
they would use their, you know, my dad, particularly with use his brain to try to get around work. So, I never, I know, and I hope my mother and father don't take this the wrong way. I didn't necessarily grow up with a strong work ethic. Right. Work is not something that I think highly of. Oh, I want to do more work.
You know, work to me is for machines. And I think especially current Western society to bring both America and. UK in together is improperly structured around how much work can we do? How productive can we be? I don't really think that's a healthy way to live. I definitely don’t think it's a emotionally successful route.
You know, I think most people are hustling now because they have to. Because of, you know, financial insecurity or, an emotional insecurity. Work is, is how we define ourselves in a big way. And I don't think that ends up being successful.
Alastair Jolly: Yeah. It’s how we measure our success in life, unfortunately, but we were promised that with the invention of computers and robots we'd have to work less.
That was the, that was the big promise.
Lou Noble: That's, you know, that's not a promise though. That's the, That's the grift, that's it?
Alastair Jolly: The complete opposite has been being true. We work longer and harder now because we can work remotely and at home and yeah, that's been
Its the confidence game, you know, the, the big con of technology is that it will make your life better.
What it does is it makes your life more efficient and efficiency really only benefits work, you know, like having an efficient vacation. Nobody says that we, we made love very efficiently, you know, No.
Well, I'm not going to get involved in that.
Lou Noble: I mean, you know, I'm not here to kink shame if that's your thing, you know, go, go with God.
Alastair Jolly: My wife would ever see that you're very efficient.
Lou Noble: You sure did that quickly, I guess.
Alastair Jolly: And then maybe we should change subjects before we go down a route that has people turning off.
Lou Noble: If there's something you want to talk about or something you need to get off your chest or work out on. I'm here to help. It's what I do.
I help, I help people with their problems.
Alastair Jolly: See, that's you're already breaking down. barriers That's your communication skills and stuff. And that's falling.
Lou Noble: If only I could take a picture right now.
Alastair Jolly: Yeah. You're this is me trying to change subject very quickly.
Lou Noble: Go right ahead.
Alastair Jolly: Drag anything out quick. Just ask him anything. A lot of your work is, based around themes.
in my opinion, I could be wrong, but let's discuss that in itself.
Themes of emotions, the themes of certain stories, or maybe even the themes of the technique and how you took a set of pictures. I'm thinking of the joy I see in a lot of your pictures and it's something you've focused on capturing. In these themes and these little sets of pictures are they done specifically with that emotion or that theme in mind or is it just something that comes together with such a big body of work you can find images that the fit a theme.
Lou Noble: Right? I, you know, I don't really think in themes when shooting. there are times when I want to do a project and the project will normally be revolved, but we'll normally revolve around some kind of idea. I don't tend to be project or theme-based, let's put it that way, but occasionally I will try to think of something to shake things up for myself or to get myself out of kind of a creative rut. my most recent little project was just photographing people while they were jumping on a trampoline. I have an older project where I would photograph people while we were both in a car. I would have one of my old assistants drive and then me and the subjects would be hanging out of windows or I'd photograph in the back seat.
Always just kind of some kind of idea that I could use with each photo. So, the, you know, when I think of theme, I think of like, well, what did that project mean? That meant nothing. You know, it was, it was more of a technical linkage putting people in the same situations and seeing what developed, you know, but I do, I think generally focus more on the positive side of human emotions.
I think those are probably the easiest to convey, but also, you know, to get authentic positive emotions can be difficult in someone when you're taking their picture. So on one hand, it's easy, but on the other hand, it can be quite difficult to get people to drop, say a fake smile or a polite laugh and give you something more authentic, more real, sorry, I'd say, you know, if you look back at the work, there would be.
A through line of authentic joy in a lot of my work, but it's not necessarily something I attempt from a greater thematic sense. Right.
Alastair Jolly: So, you're using, a prop or a technique to, to just kind of kick off the shoot the session, if you like, and then seeing what comes out. But I guess if you're using a prop like a trampoline, then, you know, people aren't going to be most people aren't very miserable on a trampoline.
Lou Noble: You did notice that it's very hard to even maintain a neutral expression on a trampoline. So the, you know, but always a challenge for myself with any situation, with any shoot, with any project is to get my own voice out, get my own aesthetic, to shine through in the image so that, you know, I took the picture versus anyone else.
I became a big proponent of style in that way of a personal style of a personal point of view. That same photographer. I mentioned earlier, Jim Lucio, his photos always struck me instantly because I knew he had taken them. He had created his own visual language. So even within any projects I'm doing, how, like what, how can I make this my own?
How can I, what kind of techniques, composition? Can I employ to make this shot scream Lou took this.
Alastair Jolly: So, I mentioned earlier the, part of the reason why you do what you do is for the pure love of it. But you've also mentioned to me that you do it for this, greater personal wellbeing that you achieve from taking your, your images and that that's maybe the ultimate goal, not just the final piece of evidence.
Lou Noble: I mean, I would struggle to weigh one against the other, but it's definitely part of that suite of goals, you know, engaging with someone else taking a picture that I enjoy taking a picture of that the audience can appreciate. Recording a good experience. These are all part and parcel of the experience of photography for me. Definitely the, the mental health dividends are huge, you know, but I think that's true of anyone who has found a passion that they get to involve themselves in. You know, I love my photography. I love writing. I love surfing. Creative outlets that I think is where true joy can be found. And it's the reason it's probably another on the list of reasons that it never needed to make money because I had already found this great joy, you know?
Alastair Jolly: And found the reward.
Lou Noble: The reward was already there. What more did I need? I've you know, I've been, again, fortunate that since I found for me during the time that I've been in love with photography, I've had a job and I have not been financially insecure.
So, it was never a pressing thing. Oh man, I need, I need something that'll make me money. I didn't have to look around in my life. Yeah. What can, where can money be found? So, I was able to just have it be a joyful experience and really build my passion around that aspect.
Alastair Jolly: So If you're not having to get up every day and take pictures because you need to pay the bills, what is the driving factor other than, well, we know why you do it, but what, what instigates it, how do you, you know, find a subject?
How do you know where to be? How do you, you know, how what's the, what's the process like in Lou getting up and going and taking a photograph?
Lou Noble: I mean, you know, that's a, that's a very interesting question right now, you know, having, I think I've only done one shoot in the past, four months. Yeah. You know, but yeah, it has actually led me to think a lot more about, you know, when, what triggers.
Okay. Now it's time to go shoot somebody. Now it's time to, you know, right now I'm actually, I've been thinking about the past few weeks, photographing a few people who are already in my life, who I know through work, people who I don't, some men, I work with some women. I work with people who I just want to know more about.
One person in particular, I'm thinking of, Oh, I've been working with them for a few years, but I don't know that much about them. And I'm really just curious about them. And that is what stoking that fire that's, you know, I think probably the next few weeks I'll set up a shoot with them. I'm just really driven by my curiosity right now in a way that I wasn't necessarily before, because I'm allowing myself to photograph.
Broader types of people, broader, maybe less conventionally photogenic people. But people I am very interested in.
Alastair Jolly: Yeah. So, this, you have this curiosity, but you've also mentioned there, this conscious effort, you have to represent a wide range of people and your, your portfolio, represents many cultures and many different people.
And I think it has great diversity in it. but you've told me that you're not happy with the amount of representation you have in your images. which makes me feel like after, you know, re rethink about my thoughts on that personally, as we all should be at the moment. but you, you have done certain projects to push yourself to push that curiosity.
you did a project about couples that took you across the country, is that correct?
Lou Noble: Yeah. You know, that was, that was back in 2011. and even, I think back then, I wasn't even as focused on, on having more representation in my photos, more diversity. Back then, it was very much a curiosity aligned with an opportunity.
You know, I had a chance to create a Kickstarter project very early in that website’s history. I knew someone who worked there who was able to kind of walk me through the process and that seemed well outside what I was taking pictures of. Seemed like a good opportunity to kind of expand my horizon. And that's really what I think of, I think of diversity or representation and photography is expanding horizons, not only of the audience, not only of what kind of people they see.
You know, to make it something concrete to dismantle the horizons of the audience in terms of seeing, not just white people, not just thin, beautiful photogenic women, but it expands the horizons of the photographer talking about having experiences with the people I shoot. Talking about the sense of communion between myself and my subject. If I'm just shooting the same people again and again, and again, I'm only getting a very narrow kind of experience.
So, it's really two fold. It's about broadening the horizons in terms of what my audience finds. Interesting, but it's also about opening myself up to different stories, different experiences, to different lifestyles, to more of the world that was always Anthony Bourdain's thing is the more the world you see, the better person you become, the more knowledgeable, the more emotionally healthy.
You become, and I've definitely taken that to heart. So, you know, yes, on a very simple level. Diversity's important because of showing the people that exist in the world. But I think even from a more selfish perspective, photographing all kinds of different people, broadens your horizons, expands your mind, expands your perspective.
Expand your understanding of both people and the world.
Alastair Jolly: Great words and
Lou Noble: That was pretty good. Wasn't it?
Alastair Jolly: We should, we should have been recorded this, you know, there's two payoffs there, you know, there's, there's definitely the expanding, the representation that others see, right? When you take these images, you, you open the eyes of the world, but it's that simple self-wellbeing, growth.
is, is even more important and if we all did that for ourselves. We wouldn't have to, open other people's minds if we're all opening our minds for ourselves.
Lou Noble: Yeah. And, you know, and then thinking about it, you know, they, they play into each other. You know, I'm, I'm reading the last book in a series on kind of the political landscape of America from 1950 to the mid-eighties.
And what I am seeing, right. You know, in a book it's like it's 1978, and there's a, a right-wing reaction to a lot of the more progressive politics at the time. But looking at that for 40 years later, they, they lost all the battles of bigotry. They lost all the battles. They were fighting discrimination.
Are those battles over? No, but I think a lot of that was that LGBT people, people of color, we became more represented in the culture and the more represented we became, the less foreign, the less alien, the less other we became. And. As those things happen, it became harder and harder to deny our inclusion in the culture.
I don't want to make it too simple, but I think there is a large component of when you stop seeing someone as, another, as separate from you, it's a much harder to hate them to be, to have any kind of bigotry towards them and in a small, but I think very significant way representation is putting people on that road to change someone from another part of their group, part of their tribe.
Alastair Jolly: All those photographs that you take, the photographs you want to take, the photographs we could all take, all become this body of evidence that we are all the same, we are here. None of us can be ignored
Lou Noble: seeing it, you know, the, the, think of the idea that, you know, someone doesn't see themselves reflected in, you know, in the most common magazines or in the movies we watch it. It was, it was, a big awakening for me, probably my late twenties. You know, I I've been raised in a very multicultural background and history and experience and to really kind of wake up to the reality that.
Popular culture was not designed with that in mind. It was very, it was a very harsh awakening, an awakening that I think people more generally experiencing now is that the world not intentionally, but the general design of the world is geared towards people that look a certain way. People that act a certain way.
And it's only kind of through the. The work that other people do, that that experience can be brought.
Alastair Jolly: Yeah. There's been many bad parts of 2020. let's hope. One of the huge positives we can take out of it is people waking up to those very things and it will make 2020 much easier to swallow. If that would be the, if that's the only thing we take away from 2020, then it's huge.
Lou Noble: It does seem like there were at an, a positive inflection point. there does seem to be more pressure put on the photographic community as a whole to consider these ideas of, of inclusion, intersectionality, you know, of questioning. Well, why do we shoot. The people we shoot. What am I conveying if I only shoot one kind of person, I only shoot women, if I only shoot, lean women who align with my particular interests.
Yeah. I think I've always believed that what people shoot says a lot about them. That's not something I came up with, but I think that's especially true in portraiture. I don't know if it was at, I think it was Avedon who said that every portrait is a self-portrait, so you can. Always see what a photographer is interested in by who they shoot and by how they shoot them.
It's, it's always been as clear to me is, you know, Clearer than an X Ray.
Alastair Jolly: If people wanted to see your work, where would you direct people to go to see your portfolios?
Lou Noble: Well Flickr? Of course.
Alastair Jolly: That wasn't, that wasn't a leading question.
Lou Noble: you know, I, I keep my website up, at Louobedlam.com I all my interviews.
Are the interviews I've done with others or up at the photographic journal? Instagram of course, I'm, I'm pretty easily found online.
Alastair Jolly: Yeah. But people can’t easily find you as Lou noble.
Lou Noble: That's true. That's true.
Alastair Jolly: So, we need to, if people are going to find you on Flickr, who did they have to search for?
Lou Noble: They got to search for, they got a search for Lou O Bedlam, which was
Alastair Jolly: LouOBedlam and that's the same, on your website or?
Lou Noble: Yeah. Yeah, but if you search for Lou noble, it'll all pop up as well.
Alastair Jolly: Yeah. Should we dive into why LouOBedlam? Cause it's really, it's a really exciting story.
Lou Noble: It's from me. It's from the old days back when you had to have an internet handle, everybody had a handled. So, I found a nice, silly handle based on some old, English hospital, it was at Bethlehem hospital.
And when they closed the hospital and let out all the mentally ill patients, they called those Tam O Bedlams that's right? Yeah.
If I had known that, you know, my, what is it, America online, instant name, instant messenger name would stay with me for 20 years. I probably would have been a little more
Alastair Jolly: really, was it? AOL Messenger name?
Lou Noble: My aim name was like, LouOBedlam. And then Flickr starts up. I'll use that there. Twitter starts up. I use it there and tumblers that stuff.
I use it there. And then when it's time for a website, I go, Oh God, what have I done? I mean, I got a, I got an email from someone two days ago who had been following me for a long time and only through the live interview we did last week. Did they learn that my name was not LouOBedlam? That that was just an internet handle.
That's actually a
Alastair Jolly: Do you get mail address to Mr O Bedlam?
Lou Noble: I've gone on the set from people I know from Flickr, who've hired me based on that friendship and, on the call sheet. My name will be Lou O’Bedlam
Alastair Jolly: calling Mr. O’Bedlam emergency.
Lou Noble: It turns out, you know, it's just close enough to a real name that people weren't sure.
People thought I actually had one person think that Lou Noble was the internet handle. Right. But you know, when I was started on Flickr, there was a guy named Todd Brilliant. So. And that was his real name. There was apparently another guy. Drew Baker, his real name.
Alastair Jolly: I'm Jolly we are all good.
Lou Noble: Exactly. Oh yeah. You understand, you know exactly what I'm saying.
Alastair Jolly: I'm Jolly by name Jolly by nature, you are Bedlam by name, Bedlam by nature.
Lou Noble: Yeah. But noble people, people think noble tends to fit as well. Yeah,
Alastair Jolly: so, go to flickr.com/LouObedlam and you can see the incredible work we've been talking about today. Lou, thank you so much for your time. I really, really enjoy talking with you whenever we can.
Thank you for sharing all that insight with our community and, hopefully you continue to do as little work as possible.
Lou Noble: That, that's the best thing anyone's ever wished for me. Thank you for having me Alastair
Alastair Jolly: Take care, Lou, speak to you soon. Thank you.
Lou Noble: Bye Bye.