Chicago born, London based photographer Lillie Eiger was propelled to the forefront of band photography after joining the xx on their “I See You” tour. Her dreamy, intimate photographs capture the vitality of the musical journey. Here Lillie discusses her process and approach to image making in the midst of fashion week.
How did you start photographing bands?
It’s quite funny because the xx were the first band I had shot with. I was doing a lot of backstage shoots at the time and their creative director, who was a few years above me at uni, asked me to come and do some behind the scenes work whilst they were doing their press shots. I don’t even think I said anything more than ‘Hi’ to them whilst the shoot was going on. Anyway, they really liked the images and invited me to follow them around their Night + Day event in Brixton. From there I started touring with them. We’ve since laughed a lot about that first encounter.
Camera of choice? Why?
Depends…. My favourite is probably my Contax T3. It makes really fun spontaneous pictures. Great for street and general life snapshots.
Do you focus on photographic technicalities or are composition and subject matter more important to you?
I’m pretty much self-taught, so definitely subject matter and composition. I think of the technicalities as something appreciated but not vital. I see so many people getting too wrapped up in the mechanics and they lose all spontaneity. I never want my work to be about perfection, there’s so much beauty in the unexpected.
Your photographs have a dreamy, calming quality to them – where does this visual aesthetic come from?
Thank you! I think I just really enjoy that aesthetic. I don’t have enough serenity in my life or personality so maybe that’s where it comes from.
You have done a lot of backstage photography at fashion shows, what do you find most interesting about photographing the collections off the runway?
At first, when I started I loved the energy backstage. It was so manic and fast-paced. Now that I’ve done it for a while it’s definitely evolved. One of my favourite things about it, is that we’re some of the first people to see the new collections. I think some designers are really making fashion history now and it is exciting to witness the mechanics of that and to some extent participate. Who knows, maybe in a decade or so my photos could be an insight to some of the most important fashion shows of our generation. It’s as if I’ve watched history in the making. It’s also nice to know what is happening in the fashion industry. I am involved with everything first hand so I can recognize designers/models/makeup and hair artists, this allows me to build my connections for possible collaborations later on. Also, it can be pretty jokes. I have a lot of fun doing backstage work, it’s quite silly at times. You see the same faces all the time and if you’ve been around for enough time you get inducted into the weird dysfunctional family.
Are there a certain designer’s clothes you would like to photograph? Why?
I love shooting Raf’s Calvin Klein shows. Besides that, I would say I love shooting London designers like Charles Jeffrey and Dilara Findikoglu. The colours and energy are always so inspiring. But I have quite a broad taste and appreciate all kinds of considered design. I shot a Comme des Garcons show one season and it was like some strange religious experience for me haha.
Your tour photographs feel as though you weren’t necessarily working but more part of the team, along for the ride – how easy was it to stop and capture a moment without it becoming staged?
That was actually really important to me. I didn’t want to just be on the periphery. It’s hard to be in such close quarters with a group of people for months and touring can get surprisingly lonely, so we really had only each other to keep entertained. I was the weird little tour sister but also a working employee. It’s actually quite a funny position to be in. It’s tough to invade people’s privacy like that. I had to feel and scope out where the line was when it came to where and when I could or couldn’t shoot. It was a lot to do with learning about how to be sensitive to the emotions around me.
I also started doing video and because I wasn’t used to it most of the footage has lots of my loud voice and laugh in the back. I think I disliked it more then the band did haha. I’m really proud of the fact that nearly all of the shots are real moments.
What music do you listen to whilst photographing, do you fit scenes to certain songs?
I hardly ever listen to my own music anymore really. I’m surrounded by so many people with great music taste, so I’ve been enjoying listening to that. But music definitely does influence me, my mood and my subconscious.
You are originally from Chicago but reside in London, do you change your approach to making images differently when you are in each place?
Good question… I’m not sure If I’ve ever thought about it. I think it’s more about what’s happening in each city and the way people go about their business and create in either place. I’ve only scratched the surface in Chicago. There’s so much going on in the music and art world but not as much in fashion from what I’ve seen. But that’s not to say that the people producing great work in Chicago won’t inspire me even more. It’s just not the same industry there.
Of all your work, what was the series or photograph that was the most challenging to photograph?
I don’t think I’ve made that work yet. I know there are some projects and some subjects that will be hard for me to work on. Stuff that is very personal to who I am as a person. That’s something I’ve been considering a lot lately, as I’d like to start making images and shooting concepts that challenge me and show more of myself to the world (or whoever’s interested in watching). I hope 2018 will be the year I really challenge myself. I also find it very hard to capture photos of close friends, there is just something about knowing the person too well and worrying that I won’t do their character justice.
When do you know you have the shot you were after? Or does that resolve in post-production?
There is definitely a moment when I know I’ve got the shot. There’s a great satisfaction and excitement that I get looking through the viewfinder and I just know.