Creative Collaboration, We.Are

Spotlight / Creative Spotlight
We Are
1127955326
Lauren Catten
Apr 10, 2019
We.Are is a collaboration between art director Lee Coventry-Walsh and photographer Tara Moore. Drawing on the wealth of their experience, they are creating unique content by capturing the optimism and diverse nature of Next Gen creatives in and around London. Their imagery treads a careful balance between spontaneity and consideration, and is bold in its use of color and technique. The project is an ongoing showcase of the qualities that make youth culture in the UK so distinct. By focusing on creatives, they are able to capture cutting-edge trends and creativity directly from the generation responsible for them. 
People watching, nano-expressions, body language, intersectionality, and lifestyle have always been an endless source of fascination for me.
[Lauren Cattan]: Could you each tell me a bit about your background?

[Lee Coventry-Walsh]: I’m an Art Director. I’ve always had a certain amount of bravery when it comes to jumping into a challenge. I discovered a great quote a while back that says, “I can’t do this, but I’m doing it anyway,” and I think that accurately sums up my approach to most things. Growing up in an isolated town on the west coast of Australia was a very weird experience. No one I knew was interested in art or design - or was gay - and I definitely didn’t know anyone that was making a career out of their creativity. My journey to art direction was kind of a miracle, from shooting pictures of used cars for a local paper to eventually landing with Getty Images, where I was an Art Director for 10 years.

[Tara Moore]: I’ve always been interested in the art of observation so I feel photography is the perfect marriage of the two. I studied in Melbourne, freelance assisted for 7 years in London, and got to know pretty much every genre of photography from photojournalism to fashion, still life, cars and celebrities. It was a great way to learn. I’ve always shot people, both for personal and commercial projects. People watching, nano-expressions, body language, intersectionality, and lifestyle have always been an endless source of fascination for me.
 I also think we really listen to each other and check our egos at the door. We challenge each other’s ideas in a really productive way.
[LC]: You’re obviously a great team, what would you say helps you work so well together?

[LCW]: We’re both Australian so we have a lot of shared cultural references, which helps. Maybe we share a similar curiosity about people because we’re both outsiders. On a practical level it helps that Tara is very driven, motivated, and talented. She doesn’t get flustered when we’re up against the clock, she has good ideas, and she tolerates my willingness to give into the cold before she does.

[TM]: I have a huge amount of respect for Lee. She’s intelligent, thoughtful, creative, and amazing with people. That’s exactly what you need in a team. She has a constant stream of ideas, is flawless with casting, and manages to keep it together in sub-zero temperatures - what’s there not to like! I also think we really listen to each other and check our egos at the door. We challenge each other’s ideas in a really productive way.

[LC]: Do you both drive the activity and energy on set or is one of you the silent partner?

[LCW]: We both drive the activity, we both suggest locations, find models, prep the styling, research ideas, and so on. I think Tara would agree that I’m a more natural fit for the spotting the talent and speaking to strangers on the street part so I tend to do that and Tara has the photography expertise which means we always get shots we’re happy with.

[TM]: We drive the shoots 50/50. I really don’t think we could achieve this project separately. There’s a huge thought process behind this body of work and we are constantly challenging and questioning the ethos behind it. We are both insanely busy on set but each time, we manage to come away from it with great shots.
I think a plan is essential, but for this project we really have to make split decisions on what our model’s personality is like.
[LC]: Why Gen Z?
 
[LCW]: Curiosity. So much is written about this generation. Because they’re so diverse and complex, we wanted to find out more about them as a group. Personally, the optimism of youth is very infectious and it’s really inspiring to spend time with younger people, particularly as you yourself age!
 
[LC]: Do you strike at random as an idea comes, or are you more methodical?
 
[LCW]: Both. A lot of the portraits we’ve shot so far have been unplanned. We hit a location and then just wait and see who comes along. Often we only have 10 minutes with someone so we have to be quick and not try to do anything too complicated. If we get a good vibe from the model, we’ll sometimes arrange to shoot them again so we can plan our ideas a little more.

[TM]: It’s a happy balance. I think a plan is essential, but for this project we really have to make split decisions on what our model’s personality is like. Often models give us spontaneous ideas that are simply not ‘plan-able.’
[LC]: What’s the most important mistake you’ve made while photographing and how did it change your understanding of your job?
 
[LCW]: I’ve realised that there’s no reason to be afraid of talking to strangers (as an adult). 100% of people we’ve photographed are totally up for it and enjoy the experience. If you approach someone with confidence, honesty, and a smile, most people will react in the same way.

[TM]: A mistake that I’m still trying to correct is being more open to possibilities that aren’t planned. I have spent most of my career, especially in advertising, making sure that I’ve ‘got the shot’ which can be stifling. With this project, I am trying to let go of that rigidity.

[LC]: What do you do to keep things exciting day to day and keep progressing? Do you look at any magazines or sites for inspiration?
 
[LCW]: We like to keep the door open to curiosity and a broad number of sources. At the moment I’m listening to a lot of podcasts. We look at Instagram, obviously, and are often inspired just meeting the people we photograph.

[TM]: Honestly, the prospect of meeting incredible new people is exciting enough. Magazines and sites are handy and can be helpful for things like poses but we’re trying to do something unique.
Make something that is meaningful to you and then keep doing that until you get better.
[LC]: Is there an image that stands out to you in your own archive as a moment that was extra challenging to capture or feels more special than the rest?
 
[LCW]: The image of Salwa surrounded by the smartphones sticks out. Without being too pretentious about it, it’s a simple scenario that communicates so much. The low angle view makes her an imposing confident figure, her expression is spot on, the framing by the phones is visually comfortable and leads your gaze directly to her, and the powerful red background really reinforces the confidence she exudes. I also love that we managed to get the biggest stock cliché - the mobile phone - into an image where it adds meaning rather than just being a lazy way to get another shot.
 
[LC]: What would you say to people coming up through the process to be a professional photographer?
 
[LCW]: There is literally nothing stopping you other than you. If you’re inherently creative, just get started. Make something that is meaningful to you and then keep doing that until you get better.
 
[TM]: Don’t worry if you want to shoot something and you find out it’s already been done. Just do it and you’ll find you’ve put your own voice to it.

[LC]: What are you listening to at the moment?
 
[LCW]: Music: Lizzo (on repeat), Nubiya Garcia, The Internet, Esther Perel, The Ted Interview, and, embarrassingly, I have started to listen to football commentary on the radio, I don’t know how this has happened.

[TM]: 'LBC'!

[LC]: What is next on the cards for you?
 
[LCW]: More shoots for We.Are - we have an empire to build. I’ve also recently taken part in a program run by the charity Creative Equals to support and facilitate women getting back into the advertising industry after a period of time out of the business.

[TM]: I’m shooting an ad job, the Queen, more of our We.Are project, and some work for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Researcher & Editor, Alexander Strecker