Photographe Extraordinaire
Interview with Tijana Lilic

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Who is your biggest inspiration? Where do you get your ideas?
The first time I saw Guy Bourdin’s work I was absolutely floored, his composition, juxtapositions of colour and storytelling still inspires me. Every time I feel burnt out or bored I just look at his work and my passion is reinvigorated!

How did you first discover your love of photography?
I was at university trying to become a vet, studying biomedical science, when I decided to take a photography unit just for fun to take my mind off failing at chemistry. It just kind of came naturally without making too much of an effort and before you know it I really fell in love with it and couldn’t see myself doing anything else. It sounds a bit cliche but I think it was about the freedom to express my self. I was always quite a visual learner and photography just seemed perfectly suited. That year I quit bio-med and dropped out of the university I was attending, to go to another university where they offered a really good program with teachers, such as Max Pam, who motivated me not only to story tell with my work but also comment on social issues and applying philosophers theories to my work. This was of course before I really got into fashion, I came from a more art photography background.


Are you originally from Australia?
No I was born in Croatia, originally Serbian. Moved to Australia with my folks when I was 11. It does feel like I’m originally from Australia since I spent most of my life here.

Do you shoot exclusively in Australia? Or do you shoot all over the world? Do you ever come to the US?
I wouldn’t say I shoot exclusively in Australia, I have travelled a bit, but not for fashion photography. I spent some time in Bangladesh shooting a multi-media piece about tiger widow’s (women whose husbands have been killed by tigers) in the Sunderbans and I’m sure you will find it if you search long enough on youtube haha. I haven’t been to the US yet, but I would love to! Apparently its really hard to get a working visa haha.


What is it like working in Perth?
I love Perth, Perth is home, but it is like a small country town when it comes to consistent jobs in fashion, not enough demand especially in fashion advertising. However I do work in a studio full-time as a photographer and creative director which I absolutely love! And then also freelance out of work, so I pretty much have a camera in my hand 24/7. Can’t complain!
When you do a shoot, is it highly structured or do you let things unfold more naturally?
This has changed a lot over-time. I used to storyboard a lot and then not be so satisfied if something went wrong. Now I have a general idea of the look, the feel, the story of the images but the difference is I try to capture a moment more loosely than I used to, so if something accidental happens I roll with it, I find that it enables me to capture a more truer image, if you could call it that.


Some of your work is very edgy and bold, while other images are very soft and more romantic. There is a wide variety of moods. Is it easy to bridge all of these different feelings?
Really depends what its for and also depends on my mood haha, but also on the team I’m working with. I am generally drawn to more edgier images. I wouldn’t say softness overly inspires me but if the concept calls for it I feel I can move between the feelings easily enough.


Your shoots are highly narrative. Would you consider yourself a visual storyteller?
My dad used to make up stories for me before sleep time when I was little, I would request ridiculous things, like tell me a story about a rhinoceros and a dog for example and he would just come up with the best stories! Its incredible when I think about it now. So to answer your question I think everyone has something to say or a story to tell… even if it is made up.


You say that you actively follow themes of alienation and other-worldly experiences. Can you give us an example?
I think in most of my work theres a hint of something a little other-worldly, quite obvious examples would include editorials ‘Pseudo-Sacred Psycho Virgin’ or ‘Ethereal’ or ‘In Deep’. Which are based on futuristic worlds or post-apocalyptic characters. ‘In Deep’ I used images of vegetable molecules to project onto the background for example. As for alienation, I think this just happens naturally while I’m shooting maybe I feel alienated deep down or something haha.


Is there something that you hope to achieve or portray through your photography?
Not particularly, I used to want to be a photojournalist and tell other peoples stories but then I found that creating rather than recording is far more interesting for me. There is always something I’m trying to portray but I don’t think I have gotten to the bottom of it quite yet.


Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring photographers?
Just stay true to yourself, it’s quite easy to start doing work you aren’t passionate about because it pays the bills or whatever. But in the long run if you do what you love and what inspires you, you will feel like you haven’t worked a day in your life.

Interview by Emma Lichtwardt


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