The British photographer takes us on a narrative journey into human experience.
British photographer and film-maker, Lewis Khan started capturing the intimate world around him with a camera when he was 15 years old. After achieving a BA degree in photography at the University of West England in Bristol, he moved back to London, his hometown, where he assisted full-time the world leading Swiss architectural photographer Hélène Binet. Lewis started shooting photos and video freelance in 2015 and he has been based at Hotel Elephant since October 2016.
Lewis’ practice is a deep exploration of the human experience with an interest in challenging conventional ways of representation - whether of youth, race, or urban environment. While photographing his local area and inner circle of friends, Lewis soon started experimenting with moving image during his studies in Bristol. His deeply realist approach has appealed to major publications such as The Guardian, Dazed Magazine, The Economist and the British Journal of Photography. Lewis arrived among the finalists of the AOP Awards 2016 and won the 1st prize at the Shuffle Film Festival curated by Danny Boyle. His works have also been showcased at important exhibitions - such as the Venice Biennale, The Photographers Gallery, and the Under the Same Sun artist film screening hosted at South London Gallery organised by Guggenheim Museum, among others.
We met Lewis in his studio at Hotel Elephant, Spare Street to find out more about his practice, his studio at Hotel Elephant and to get his tips for everyone interested in a career in photography.
Hi Lewis! You recently finished a residency at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, where you produced a body of work that is gaining much attention due to its sensitive topic. Could you tell us a bit more about this project?
This project is entitled ‘Love Time’ and explores the concepts of strength and fragility within human beings. It resulted from a 18-month-long residency, where I shadowed doctors, observed operations, talked with patients and staff; documenting their stories. Although my initial idea had a defined political agenda, my final outcome is less direct in this respect. I got particularly interested in the relationship between doctors and patients, and the fact that these relationships are essentially strong emotional connections. The political resonance of the project is still there, as the topic of healthcare privatisation remains huge, this now sits as a context in which the work has been made.
It’s interesting that you haven’t included your commissioned portfolio on your website. Is there a difference in your work approach between personal projects and commissioned work?
Essentially no, at least that is the aim. People commission you based on the work you do for yourself, so it would be weird if the two types of work were stylistically very different. I’ve chosen not to include a commissioned section on my website as I think it is valuable to show work that is wholly ‘me’.
You’ve had a space at Spare Street for nearly a year now - What do you like the most about working at Hotel Elephant?
It’s a nice community to be part of. There’s nice people around and they all are involved in very different things. Being freelance can make your world quite small, it can be a bit isolating if you work from home, whilst here there’s shared social space and a general community of creatives which is good to be around.
Can you tell us a bit about your studio at Hotel Elephant?
Having a studio is really beneficial. I feel like I’m going to and from work every day - it’s a psychological thing I guess. I mainly use my studio as an office, and do all my shooting elsewhere/on location etc. I’ve got a big desk and I spend a lot of time here when not on shoots on my computer, editing, doing admin etc.
At Hotel Elephant we’re interested in creating a creative community and encouraging collaborative working - How important do you think collaborative working is to your industry?
I think collaboration is fundamental for every field, not only photography or film-making. Almost every project I’ve been working on involved some kind of collaboration - whether with other photographers or, for instance, graphic designers. Sometimes it’s necessary to bring people with different skills together to achieve better outcomes, and it’s cool to gather and share ideas in an organic way.
Do you have any advice for recent graduates or those just starting who want a career as a photographer or in the creative industries?
From my experience it’s your personal work that people are really interested in/get you commissions. Your personal projects really show who you are, what you have to say, and your progression as both a person and a photographer - just keep working on that!
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