Nachtluftschlösser Posted On 7th March 2023 To Magazine & Stories
Discovering Analog Photography
My name is Dora Lionstone, and I’m a visual artist based in Amsterdam. I have been passionate about photography for a while now, years before I switched from being a software developer to becoming a full-time artist. But it was only in 2017, at the beginning of my studies at the art academy, that I also discovered analog photography for my artistic process. Instead of completely turning to the analog world, I began to embrace it as one element of a hybrid approach. For example, I like working with analog photography and digital collages or vice-versa. This multifaceted process challenges how I perceive and create visual worlds and keeps me open-minded for experiments.
My work Nachtluftschlösser is an example for this multi-angled, experimental approach. The project examines the construction of thoughts and realities as well as the perception of hidden dimensions. I wanted to investigate how to recreate a vision from a dream using multiple techniques such as digital and analog photography, installations and projections at night.
The inspiration for the project was a vivid nightmare: In the dream, I found myself inside a curious home when the walls suddenly became transparent. As I walked through them to the outside, I entered another dimension where nothing else existed. There, only the translucent outline of the building was still visible, glowing like a hologram. I feared: if I lost sight of this house, would everything I know cease to exist?
Step By Step
During a residency in Finland in the winter of 2022, I set out to reconstruct this haunting yet elusive experience of the dream. Wanting to work with analog night photography and projections, I aimed to explore different ways how I could construct an image. I started building the process step by step: I first created miniature architectural models and then set up various larger installations in the Finnish landscape. At night, I projected images I had taken during the day onto the installations and re-photographed them in the darkness.
Shooting Almost Every Night
For these night shots, I used my Hasselblad 503CW and ILFORD Delta 100 and ILFORD PanF 50 films. I worked with long exposures to photograph the staged projections as well as various scenes that unfolded in the night. Shooting almost every night, the conditions were different each time, depending on the available moonlight or certain weather conditions. That made my work quite challenging. Not being used to the Finnish winter nor shooting late into the night, it wasn’t an easy task for me, but I was determined to go out and try again and again.
Next to the analog images I shot at night in nature, this project also includes other methods such as collages and animations. The process grew more complex over time, involving multiple (re-)construction steps and techniques. The project thus interweaves multiple layers: 2- and 3-dimensionality, light and darkness, illusion and reality.
Immersing Myself In The Environment
The remote and quiet location of the residency allowed me to immerse myself in the environment and in this project. The decelerated way of photographing with an analog medium format camera was quite meditative - due to the often very long exposures with minimal light - and allowed me to absorb the surreal atmosphere of the landscape at night. I surrendered to the snow, the wind, and the darkness of the unknown. I was revisiting my dream with each night I was photographing, repeatedly trying to capture an impossible image, and eventually yielding to the uncertainties of this visual and mental experiment.
Nachtluftschlösser has been selected as a runner-up for the OD Photo Prize 2022. It was presented during the InCadaués Photo Festival 2022 and was part of the Prospects exhibition during Art Rotterdam in 2023.
About The Author
Dora Lionstone (*1986, Potsdam, DE) is a visual artist and photographer who graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2020 with a BA in Photography and has previously worked as a Software Engineer in Germany with an Msc in Media Informatics. Her works have been exhibited internationally, for example at FOAM Amsterdam, in Arles and Cadaqués. She is a FRESH EYES European Talent 2021, a Runner-up of the OD Photo Prize 2022 and recipient of the Mondriaan Artist Start Grant for 2022. She is based in Amsterdam, NL.
Influenced by her background in software engineering, Lionstone sees the image as a system that can be cracked, taken apart and reassembled differently. This continuous (re-)construction of reality is explored by the artist’s use of collages and other image transformations. Her process involves a combination of various techniques such as analog photography, digital manipulation and animation next to the creation of objects, installations and text. By using multiple methods and points of view, she aims to extend the boundaries of the rigid binary world, merging fact and fiction, science and art.