Clare Lyons

Interview by Ellen Tannam/Photos: Clare's Own

We spoke to Dublin-based photographer and artists Clare Lyons about her work.

How did you first get into photography, and when did you decide that it was something you wanted to study?

I actually started by photographing horses! I rode horses for a really long time, 15 years or so. I would spend hours and hours at the stables taking pictures, asking people to pose with their horses, tagging along to various events and horse shows to take photos. I very quickly became just as obsessed with taking pictures as I was obsessed with horses. As far as deciding to study photography, I think I figured out that I wanted to do that pretty early. I came across a prospectus for IADT in 3rd year of secondary school, and that was that. 

What influences your work the most - your upbringing, mental health, class, colours, feelings?

It's no secret that my mental health has a massive influence on my work, my graduate piece 'room 3' is entirely about my mental illness and the treatment I receive for it.

That’s kind of how I make work though - whatever is happening in my life, be it good or bad, I navigate myself through it with a camera.

I've made work about breakups, I've made work about body issues, I've made work about death. It's definitely my feelings and emotions that dominate my work the most.  

How would you describe your work?

My work is very, very personal. Sometimes when I put it out there I wonder if I'm sharing too much. Sometimes it feels like I'm opening the pages of my diary and just letting anyone and everyone have a look.

From: room 3

From: room 3

I think my work is defiant and unapologetic, it is so open and honest that it almost forces people to engage, and I hope that the viewer feels something, or takes something away from it.

Who are some of your favourite photographers and why?

Sophie Calle is my number one. I wrote my degree thesis on her and everything. She's a French artist who makes very emotive and performative work about her relationships, or sometimes even imagined relationships with strangers she meets on the street. She is the master of pairing personal textual pieces with (arguably) impersonal photographs, so she has without a doubt been a massive influence on my work, especially during the making of projects such as 'disposable' and 'room 3'.  

From: disposable

From: disposable

What do you prefer in terms of how you shoot - film or digital? What camera do you use?

There’s something very special and precious about shooting on film, and I try to do it as often as I can. Being limited to a certain number of frames makes you stop and think more, as opposed to just snapping away on a digital body

When I do shoot digital however, my camera of choice is the Fuji X-Pro 1, as to me it feels compact like a 35mm, and it can also simulate a handful of films to create the lovely feeling of film but on a digital camera. Apart from the X-Pro, I don't have any other digital cameras - I do have an absolutely ridiculous amount of film cameras though. I'm a bit of a camera hoarder.  

Is there anything cool you're currently working on?

At the moment I'm finishing up working on a photo essay for Junior magazine which is an Irish documentary photography journal and I'm really excited about it. The work is kind of different to anything else I've done, but I'm super happy with how it has all come together. The issue launches in May as part of the PhotoIreland Festival, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for that. 

What are your dreams in terms of future projects?

I've just began working on something quite personal (surprise surprise) which I think may end up as a book, so that would be cool. I'd like to get a book out in the next year or so, I've been wanting to make a proper photo book for a good while. 

What do you love/hate to photograph?

I still really love photographing horses, even though I never really get to do it anymore. Same goes for people, I wouldn't mind getting back into doing some portraiture, because I always really enjoyed it when I did it in the past. I don't think there's anything I hate to photograph, except maybe events or things like that.

I once somehow got roped into photographing Prince David of Georgia when he visited Ireland in 2013, and it was actually the worst thing - far too much responsibility, far too many fancy people. 

Do you ever find it hard to be inspired to create new work? How do you combat that?

Almost every day. Sometimes I am able to push through it but more often than not I can get caught in some awful slumps. It can be very hard when you suffer with mental health problems to keep yourself motivated and keep yourself going, but I guess I just have to remind myself that I've done it before and it's always worth it when I end up making something I'm really proud of. 

Keep up with Clare's work on her website or follow her on Instagram