Photojournalist Lauren Mulligan talks representation and upcoming film on District Six’s LGBTQ community

“I find it hard to tie myself to one description or title, all I know is that I’m not a purist,” says Cape-Town born, Joburg-based photographer Lauren Mulligan, who recently featured in our story 20 Emerging Black Womxn to know, and shot our Newd campaign.

“I’m constantly looking for something different in what may seem mundane, so I am open and excited to be surprised with whatever I am shooting,” she adds. “Features and portraits are what interest me most though – they afford me the time to really get to the crux of the story I want to tell. I have no message specifically, but I do focus on understanding the subject matter or individuals, and portraying it/them in the most authentic way I can.”

Lauren is currently working on a short film for her MA about the LGBTQI+ community of District Six, a former area in Cape Town destroyed during the 1970s by the apartheid regime. We chat to Lauren.

How did you get into photography?
My first introduction was through a video camera that my parents bought in my early teens. My siblings and I would shoot and act in our own TV shows, adverts in between and all. Years later, during my undergrad, I fell in love with pinhole photography – I would spend hours working on one image in the darkroom. I eventually went into photojournalism and focused more on digital photography, covering everything from protests to fashion shows, sometimes all in the same day.

Tell me more about your MA. How are you experiencing it?
Going back to study was one of the best decisions I’ve made and for the first time in my life I believe that what I do can effect change. I am currently working on a film about Gayle, a linguistic practice originally used by LGBTQI+ community in 1950s District Six. My research focuses on its currency and mobility amongst coloured users, and offers a personal perspective around notions of access.

Which camera do you use and whats your favourite equipment?
I work between two cameras; a Canon Mark ii, and a Canon Mark iii. My favourite and cheapest lens is the Canon 50mm. I love it because the technical restrictions force me to make sometimes uncomfortable decisions about my physical position in relation to the participants. In other words, if I want to get close, I cannot zoom, I need to be brave and step forward.

What’s the most fun thing you’ve ever done for photography?
Photography has allowed me the privilege of accessing some of the most interesting people and spaces. The most fun I’ve had was working with my best friend, Pearl Tsotetsi. We would explore topics that excited us and that we could experience together – I mean, a pie craving hit us one morning, so we had an adventure and turned it in to a story about our top pastries around the city.

What do you feel photography has taught you?
The medium has made me aware of my voice, perspective and a sensitivity around representation that I apply to all aspects of my life. Follow Lauren.

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