In this week’s Student Spotlight, the Union’s Kariim Case sat down with Level 6 Fashion Photography student, Lauryn-Alexi Ipinson-Fleming; aka GullyGolden and co-leader of the Afro-Caribbean Society 20/21 (ACS) and asked her to shine a light on her work and its impact.
STUDENTS’ UNION: First of all, tell us about the type of work you produce?
GULLYGOLDEN: I primarily focus on creating work centred around youth and nostalgia, with an emphasis on seeking to blur the lines between editorial and documentary photography.
STUDENTS’ UNION: So what would you say has pushed you to do that?
GULLYGOLDEN: Image-making to me is putting out into the universe what you want to see. As a black female in particular who is the eldest of four, I want my siblings to be able to see themselves represented in the world. More importantly, I want them to see that they are beautiful and they are recognised.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Representation really does matter and it’s so important, especially for the younger generation, that there’s images out there that they can look at and see themselves in. All you have to do is look at how Chadwick Boseman’s representation of the Black Panther invigorated a generation of black youth, or even how Edward Enniful in his position as Editor in Chief of British Vogue has pushed to have more representation on his covers. What further message do you hope your work conveys?
GULLYGOLDEN: It would be that black beauty exists and the importance of diversity. Through my work, I want black beauty to be more widely recognised and normalised and within this, I also want to get across that vulnerability is beautiful and empowering.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That in itself is beautiful. I guess we’ve seen a large resurgence in modern years of a black power movement and within that, a resurgence of the ‘black is beautiful’ movement which started in the 60s. Black beauty is often ‘othered’ but there’s no reason why it can’t be acknowledged as equal to other representations of beauty. It’s the same with vulnerability, the media often portrays black people to have ‘hard exteriors’ and therefore feel that they must adhere to that stereotype, whereas in reality, we’re just as vulnerable as anyone else. Who would you say inspires you?
GULLYGOLDEN: I would say it’s my family and friends. Through my work, I am constantly seeking to capture the romance of the black diaspora and the people that I have surrounded myself with, which feeds into that need to depict black beauty.
STUDENTS’ UNION: That’s really nice. I’m really sensing that giving back is a really strong theme throughout your work, whether it be to the diaspora or to your community. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process and how you got into your work?
GULLYGOLDEN: I always think about the colours I’m trying to get across to the audience first and in turn how that will make them feel, from there, I choose the subject and buy my film (which depends on the shoot) as I shoot analogue. Once the location is chosen, I always have my friends with me as support and we just pray that the shoot goes well. There isn't much else to the process. Once the shoot is done I just get the film developed and choose the best images. Oh and I always have to have good music playing, throughout the whole shoot. Lately, it’s been a lot of Frank Ocean.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Music is number one, you’ve got to make sure that the vibes are right! It’s a pretty straight forward process you have there. Not everything always needs to have all the bells and whistles attached to it. I imagine that being in the right mindset is something which is really important for your shoots, hence the music, but when do you feel at your most creative?
GULLYGOLDEN: I feel most creative when the sky is clear and blue and the sun is shining. There’s something about a golden sun that pushes me to go out and try to create, which I feel links hugely to why my work is described as dreamlike. I like the sun as it’s something which amplifies beauty and joy, which isn't necessarily always the case in life, but definitely is something that should be captured.
STUDENTS’ UNION: 100% agree with that. There is something about the sun that leaves you feeling invigorated and inspired to do something, whether it’s something big or small. Just to go back to your process, when do you feel like a piece of work is finished
GULLY GOLDEN: For me, a huge thing with any work I produce is that it’s never really finished; so what I do is I give myself a deadline to push myself to come to a quicker decision and endpoint, because once that deadline arrives I can’t go back on the decision.
STUDENTS’ UNION: Nice, I like that. It can always be hard to say, ‘yeah, I’m done with this now’ so by giving yourself that deadline it makes you think I’ve done what I can and I’m happy with it. That’s a good discipline to have for yourself. Finally, tell us about the last piece of work you created for pleasure and how did it make you feel?
GULLY GOLDEN: The last piece of work I created for pleasure was a birthday video celebrating one of my best mates' 21st birthdays. As my practice is to do with youth and nostalgia, I found the process of going through all of our memories that I had shot throughout the year on my camcorder quite cathartic. Moving imagery is something I really enjoy, so to do that for him and document our journey together was a really fun and emotional experience and it’s something he will have forever.
Thanks so much for that! If you want to see more of Gully’s work, you can follow her on Instagram at @gullygolden and make sure to follow @lauacs20 to stay up to date with what they have in store this year!