Interview by Sam Desmond
With her portfolio spanning three major categories of photography, Lexi van Valkenburg, has built her work on connecting with her subjects by translating their vision through her lens.
Your portraits of women capture and convey so much dignity, even when there is nudity, how do you do that?
I think having a 16-year-old daughter makes me, even more, attune to the idea of photographing a full person, not a body part. There’s a humanity in nudity. It’s distressing how young girls are conditioned to do near-naked selfies, but boys aren’t. I think photographers have a special responsibility not to promote exploitative nudity.
So how would you promote dignified beauty through your artwork? Can you take out the sexual aspect?
I think that’s a false correlation. I have portraitures of women who embrace their sexuality—even with a sense of playfulness, but never fall prey to the “Instagram” posturing. I would love to do an exhibit featuring my portraiture of women. It’s something about capturing the duality of confidence and vulnerability that translates to an artistic instead of an exploitative piece.
Any particular models or subjects that stood out in having the ability to “own their narrative”?
This one woman, a former model, great clothes, fabulous apartment. She was able to convey different times in her life when she was emotionally accessible. It was like photographing through a window what kind of person she was in that moment of recollection.
There’s a lot of coaching involved in portrait photography, how do you handle your role of Director?
On the day of shooting it is all about making that person feel comfortable with you, getting to know them and them you, developing trust. Always listens to your instincts and always be honest, when you’re shooting people. If you don’t like how they are styled, tell them, and then work with them or their team until you’re happy with what you see. They may disagree with you but in the end the goal is for the best photo, you’re the artist and that’s your responsibility. My study of dance and theater definitely helps me as a photographer, there are aspects of shooting that are similar to being the director and a choreographer