// Li is an Irish born, London based photographer and artist. Li’s passion for photography started at a young age. She now works as a freelancer for the arts/culture and fashion industries, documenting backstage life, events and exhibitions, but she also engages creatively with (self) portrait photography. We share a set of artistically rendered self-portraits.
“Art is anything you can get away with.”
What draws you to art?
“It’s an escapism into another world that isn’t bound by rules.”
What do you like best about making these self-portraits?
“It allows me to be creative and break traditional photography rules and conventions.”
Today we are proud to present a set of Li´s creative self-portraits. Fashion and Pop Art are two major influences and themes in her portrait photography. Some of her photo art is inspired by the 1950s/60s fashion illustrations of Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. “I love the vibrant pop artworks of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and I try to incorporate their influences in my art. I also find inspiration through the works of William Shakespeare. While my portrait art is stylistic – I do try to include some sort of storytelling element too.”
When she is working on a new project she always starts the process with a brainstorming session. “I jot down a few ideas on paper and decide on a theme that works best. Sometimes I do a bit of research on costume design as styling is a very important element in my portraits and I want to get the details right. I am methodical when it comes to the creative process. I like to plan and work to a brief from start to finish.”
Li gets her ideas from television shows, films, art, literature, graphic design and fashion. “Those are the things that inspire me to create. Whenever I see something that interests me – I make a note in my scrapbook of ideas.” Her setup is simple, done in her home studio for portrait photography. Li tends to shoot against a plain background with lamps. Shooting against plain backgrounds makes it easier to “cut out” the image in post production. In terms of costume and styling she wears whatever she has in her minimalist wardrobe. She tries to keep makeup to a minimum too. “A swipe of lipstick and a touch of blush to the cheeks is enough. I’m not taking a selfie. I am making art,” she explains. (We agree!)
There are two stages to Li´s post production process. First she selects and edits the portraits in Lightroom before importing the images into Photoshop. “Photoshop is where the magic happens.” She begins by creating a new blank canvas, then digitally “cuts out” the portrait and pastes it on the new canvas, experimenting with layers, colour/tones, textures, shapes, and fonts. Occasionally she uses Illustrator to digitally draw vectors (illustrations). These vector illustrations are placed on to the portrait at the end. As she puts it, digital photo-art is similar to painting on canvas – adding layers upon layers to form the final masterpiece.
The whole process of planning, shooting and post production can take her a staggering two to four months to complete. “It is a long and drawn out process, which I do enjoy because I find it both intense and soothing. And I can be creative and limitless with that creativity.”
We previously featured Li´s documentary series about the exhibition “Chicxulub” at White Cube Bermondsey in 2020 and invite you to go back and have a look (see link), as it is quite different work.
Click on the photos to see the full image.
All photos © Li Mullen
To see more of her photography visit Li´s Instagram page.