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Photographic Duos: An Interview with Lola and Pani

25 September 2018

Photographic Duos is a feature from Loupe, exploring collaboration in photography through a series of interviews with creatives working in pairs. We discuss varying approaches to collaboration, considering the issues of shared authorship alongside the benefits of collective creativity.
Interview by Bertie Oakes –
Despite having only formally worked together for 2 years, Lola and Pani are perhaps one of the best-known duos in the photographic industry. Both award winning photographers in their own right, since joining forces they have shot a mix of personal projects, commercial fashion campaigns, and editorials for clients ranging from, Burberry, and Champion to Bloomberg Businessweek and the Financial Times. This interview sees them discuss the challenges of balancing these different forms of work, while providing an insight to the finer details of their working relationship.

Bertie Oakes: When did you meet and how did your working relationship come about?

Pani Paul: We met about 7 years ago. We’ve been a couple for 6 years and started officially working together about 2 years ago.
Lola Paprocka: We started by helping each other out on our individual projects. We travel together a lot and it organically became a collaboration.

BO: Was there a clear first personal project you co-authored?

LP: Its hard to pin point an exact first project which we officially started on. I think travelling across America in 2016 and shooting our book Ed Forbis was one of the first projects.

From Ed Forbis ©Lola & Pani Studio
From Ed Forbis ©Lola & Pani Studio

Would you say you share many similar influences?

PP: We generally share similar aesthetics. But different things do catch our attention while shooting.

BO: That aesthetic is consistent throughout your work. Have you always photographed in a similar style to each other, or have you gravitated closer together stylistically, as the partnership has developed?

PP: I think our photographic style has come closer together but we were generally interested in different subject matter before we started shooting together.
LP: I used to photograph mainly landscapes, textures and abstract incidentals. Where Pani was always photographing more portraiture.
PP: We sort of inspired each other also to try different things. Now I’m shooting a lot more of what Lola used to shoot and vice versa.

BO: You are both award-winning photographers in your own right and continue to create work individually. Do you believe this is important?

PP: I think its important to create individual work to have something that is purely personal. But working as a duo can be equally as rewarding. Its a great feeling bouncing ideas off of each other and coming up with a nice final image.

Byron ©Lola & Pani Studio

BO: How do you find time to do this, while also curating and publishing with Palm Studios?

PP: Lola runs Palm Studios pretty much by herself but she’s an incredible multi-tasker. I work mainly in pre and post production of our collaborative commissioned work.
LP: Palm does take up a lot of my time but I can separate or prioritise when I need to. At the moment between the two of us we can usually manage it all.

BO: As a partnership you shoot personal work, commercial fashion campaigns, and editorials. Do you use commissions as a means to fund personal projects or are they an equally enjoyable challenge?

PP: We try to approach every project with a similar style in mind. They main difference with commissions is that you are required to make a certain amount of images within a limited time frame. We like those challenges too. Its a nice feeling once you finish a tricky job and you know that you can still make nice images in situations and with conditions that you would never normally choose to photograph.
LP: Balancing commissions and personal work can be challenging. Its important to have your own voice and create work which represents yourself the most but you also need to make money to fund personal projects.

Sydney ©Lola & Pani Studio
Sydney ©Lola & Pani Studio

BO: When commissioned to photograph an individual, for instance the Mark Gatiss interview in the FT, how does the partnership work? Are you both photographing him simultaneously, or is one of you directing him as the other photographs, or perhaps neither?

LP: Photographing Mark Gatiss was a pleasure. We had a lot of time to set up so we could chat about compositions and pre frame every shot before he came on set.
PP: We only used one camera for this particular job so took turns. Sometimes we have two and one person can shoot from a different angle and focus on more incidentals.

Amy, Melbourne ©Lola & Pani Studio
Amy, Melbourne ©Lola & Pani Studio

BO: Do you ever have differences in opinion when shooting, and if so, how do you work through them? Can they be constructive?

PP: We rarely disagree on things but sometimes one of us isn’t feeling an image but the other person thinks they can make it work and will shoot it and usually turns out fine, in some cases even the best picture of the day.
LP: In these cases one of us will see something of us might have doubts but will still encourage the other to shoot it anyway. Its important to go with your gut and its usually better to photograph it than just let it go. We have learned this by second guessing ourselves and missing out on great pictures. You never know when that image might become useful or you might end up loving it.

BO: Thanks to you both for taking the time to talk to us.

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