Tyrone Lebon, photographer and filmmaker, on a patch of light in his mother’s house in Corsica.
GB Tell me why you chose this.
TL It’s a patch of light that comes in the evening, so normally I’d have spent the day at the beach, and I’d have just got out the shower, or be reading a book and as the sun sets slowly this light will enter and then cross the room. It’s only there for about 20 minutes. The reason I chose it is because it’s an example of a type of beauty that’s temporary, un-solid and fluid which represents how I feel when I think about beauty.
GB I like that it’s such an intangible thing but also something that comes back to you in quite a reliable way on those summer evenings.
TL Yes, I first went there when my mum bought the house in my early teens and thinking back, I can remember being alone in that room dreaming about going back to school or one day having a girlfriend or I don’t know what. Over the years my summer holidays have probably been some of the more memorable markers in my life that represent what was going on my life. I often brought friends, and my girlfriends and I’m was always taking pictures so I’ve documented that beautiful warm light and taken pictures of lots of people in it. So as the years pass by it’s a kind of marker point for what’s going on in my life. I split up with one girlfriend in that room. There are times when the thought of going back there with all its memories has made me want to stay away – but most the time I feel nothing but positive about all my memories of Corsica.
GB Did you notice the light before you became a photographer, or was it after you started taking pictures?
TL I’ve been taking pictures the whole time I’ve been there. I wasn’t yet a photographer but in my early teens I was already taking a camera with me wherever I went. As soon as you go to Corsica you notice the beautiful Mediterranean evening sun. It’s always caught my eye. I’ve got to know all the nooks and crannies of beautiful reflections and tiny slithers of light that appear around the house at different times through the day. Its an amazing place to take photos.
GB Have you ever tried to recreate that kind of light in a studio?
TL Not specifically. Sometimes in gloomy England you have to recreate sunshine in the studio for a commercial job, but nothing can beat real sunlight that’s filtered through the atmosphere.
GB Do your previous girlfriends know that you have photographed all of them in that Corsican light?
TL I’m not sure, its quite creepy isn’t it!? But the thing is its my bedroom and that is the natural light that comes through every day so if I’m taking photos it just happens this way… As a photographer, I’ve always valued every picture and religiously kept them all, and archived all the negatives I have ever shot. Maybe as time passes I’ll be happy I’ve kept them but there’s definitely a period when you should lock stuff away and not really look at it. Especially when it comes to relationships that are in the past. Either friends, or family or girlfriends. Sometimes it can be lovely to revisit old pictures, but sometimes it can be painful. It’s weird and powerful that you can have these frozen moments in pictures that take you straight back to the feeling that you had at the time.
GB Is beauty something you think about much in your work?
TL Yes. In my personal photography I’m as – or more – interested in ugly stuff and images that challenge. I find beauty can be very boring. I especially think about this now, since I have started to do commissions for fashion brands. It’s weird how many people want things to be as boringly pretty and unchallenging as possible. I think ‘beautiful images’ like a sunset or a puppy or a girl in the bikini are the most mundane parts of the image-flooded world we live in, and would never cause us to look deeper or take a second glance. They have no hook. They are just a smooth surface that doesn’t disturb us in any way. They have no humanity because humans and life are not perfect. If an image is beautiful but also real (and hence most-likely also flawed in some way) I think that’s a lot more beautiful than if it’s perfectly photoshopped.
GB So your influences don’t really come from the fashion world?
TL Yes and no. I studied for an MA in Social Anthropology and wanted to make documentaries. – and have slowly been drawn into photographing in the ‘fashion world’ I guess predominantly because it pays.
There can be depth in fashion. It’s also good to be reminded that humanity is all about surfaces (as my dad regularly reminds me). I try to use commissions for fashion magazines as an opportunity to play with ideas and techniques that interest me and help me to continue to develop as a photographer. Recently, I’ve been doing stories that are say 20 pages long, but I’ll shoot each picture in a different way with different cameras and lighting. So it looks like it’s more of a scrapbook.
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
TL I think it’s a mix of things where something is attractive but also has an element of something challenging or repulsive or even sad. Some of the most beautiful things I see are those that I know won’t last – that what I’m looking at and the feeling it inspires is just there for a moment. That’s something I feel is very true to humanity. Time always moves on.