Fine art photographer Fiona Louise Larkins (@fiona_lark) is from the Lake District, in the United Kingdom, which is a mountainous region in North West England. It is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells), and it is associated with the poet William Wordsworth, children’s writer Beatrix Potter and the painter John Ruskin. Most of Fiona’s work is shot in the mountains and around the lakes near her home.
She has a very distinctive black-and-white style and shoots mainly self-portraits, but her portraits are the antithesis of the usual filtered fare of Instagram. She embraces the imperfect and creates photographs that are atmospheric stories, which she calls Dark Souls Poetry.
Fiona started showing her photographs of the mountains and the countryside around her home, on Flickr about ten years ago. She noticed that when she included her own silhouette in her shots, the photographs elicited much more response.
She says, “There aren’t many models that I can drag up the mountain at 5 o’clock in the morning, in the pouring rain, in subzero temperatures. That is why I started taking self-portraits. I’ve got to get on with it and do it myself.”
The United Kingdom has a reputation for unpleasant weather, but for Fiona dark and gloomy skies are an advantage,
“I love shooting in the rain and mist. I don’t set out with a plan. I go up to the mountains, climbing high with only the essentials in my bag. I don’t take a tripod. I look out for fence posts, rocks and dry stone walls where I can place my camera.”
Fiona has a Canon 5D Mark III, which she bought three years ago, partly because it was shown in testing to be “Fiona proof”, very sturdy. It can survive being burnt, dropped or crushed. Shooting in rough terrain, Fiona says,
“It’s horrible to see your camera rolling off down the mountain. It’s very heavy and gathers speed disturbingly fast”.
When assessing a scene, she looks for the light, small points of light, with one focal point and simple backgrounds, often with the layers of distant mountains and mist behind her. Most of the time she says she is shooting blind and can never be sure of what results she will get. She takes dozens of shots for perhaps one acceptable photo or none at all. She prefers to edit her photos on her iPad, so that she can do it anywhere and take advantage of times that might be lost when waiting in her car or for an appointment.
She doesn’t always feel confident about her work,
“I go through a cycle of thinking that my photos are rubbish. Then I think that I’m okay, that they’re fine. Then I think that I am being terribly self-indulgent. But it’s something I’ve got to do, a need that is deep inside.”
Fiona’s creative practice takes her away from every day concerns and allows her to recharge,
“The camera and the mountains are, and have been, my sanctuary through bad times. When I come back down from the mountain with my camera, it’s like having a reset button. I’m ready to face what the day will bring.”
As her aesthetic evolves she goes back to old photographs to re-edit, she says that they are never finished,
“It is an ongoing process. I don’t think I’ve taken any good photos yet, but I know that one day I will, so I’m going to keep on trying.”