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In Talks Ep 1: Gavin Li

We’re kicking off our interview series with one of our newly represented artists here at Aseptic; Creative and unconventional, photographer Gavin Li brings focus and light to real people and their stories.


Pleasure to meet with you Gavin, tell us what you do.

Hi! So, I'm a portrait photographer. I photograph people with unconventional lifestyles and creative backgrounds, and people who are seen to be on the fringe of society.

Your photos definitely present something different from what’s usually represented in the mainstream - where do you get your inspiration from?

I get a lot of my inspiration from documentaries. There have been some amazing ones on Netflix recently, but I’m mainly inspired by Louis Theroux. He investigates challenging subjects and has a way of interviewing people in sort of a careful way, but also he can be quite awkward. Which is good for entertainment.


So you’re from Blackpool, right? How has growing up there affected your work?

Ooo that is a good question, that’s tough. How has it affected my work? Ok, so people always come and go from Blackpool. Let's say that people have lost their way, a lot of them move to Blackpool, it has a lot of nostalgia to it and it's quite a cheap place to live. I feel like such a mix of people have gathered there. It has shaped me in a way.

People always say Blackpool is declining, and maybe It is. But it is always colourful and vibrant. It is a place originally built on leisure and entertainment. So it’s a very interesting place. But also very strange.

It seems like there is a real transient nature to the place. In your photography, how has your artistic expression helped you in other areas of your life? Does it at all?

I think it does a lot. I’ve always been quite a shy person and the camera has been a way to help me bridge with reality and connect with other people and communities. Its always given me an excuse to get behind closed doors. I'm quite a curious person so it helps me explore and engage with my reality.


Amazing. So being so curious, I imagine your style has changed a lot throughout your time.

What was your style like when you started taking photos?

When I first started I was interested in video storytelling in my own narratives. So I started on quite a fine art route but then I became much more interested in finding real stories, about real people. I started watching a lot of documentaries about people living on the fringes of society and it was a topic I wanted to explore. So here I am.

What was it specifically that peaked your interest to move from a high fashion environment to the space you are in now?

I have always been interested in people from different walks of life. Some people live one way, and some people live another. I started to send out ads anonymously on the internet, offering to photograph people. I never knew who I was going to be photographing. Every time I would get a response and go and photograph people, I always got interesting results. You just never know who you are going to meet. Some people have their public selves, and their private selves and so you just always get different results. I'm really interested in how people present themselves, and the lives that they live. We all wear different faces.

I love that process of finding subjects - opens up Pandora’s box for what you might find. What would be a dream project or subject?

My dream project would be to photograph marginalised communities, so I could help them visually tell their stories. I would also quite like to photograph the inside of a cult. I imagine there would be many stories there…

Next job for us - find you a cult.

I feel like your style would also be great for capturing decadence in society - have you considered this at all?

Yeah, another dream would be to shoot the 1% of the 1%. They’re on spaceships now! I did this one shoot with a new-age religious group that believes in healing the earth with cosmic energy. One of the leaders of the group, who gave me permission to shoot them, was very controlled about the whole shoot. I just shot in one room. I think they have been a victim of ridicule and so wanted some autonomy over how they were presented. I'm happy I had the opportunity to do that.


The pictures are great. How did that shoot come to be?

I was actually talking to a friend about sustainability. We were talking about new urban agriculture and one of our sustainable solutions was if people started eating insects! They have fast breeding and lifecycles and are full of nutrition and it's already practised in many cultures. I wanted to know who was eating bugs in London and I found an insect farm just down the road from me. I got interested in who was buying these insects, and what kind of people were eating them? So that is when I met the leader of the religion, and that’s how we started!

That’s amazing. I can really see your curiosity coming through! So let’s leave with this then. If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I think that the opportunities should be more spread out through the country, rather than just all being in London. Not everyone has the opportunity and the resources to come to London, and so for some people, the opportunities are just not accessible. There needs to be better representation for artists everywhere. We need to spread some love!


To watch our video interview with Gavin: click here

To see more of Gavins work, and enquire about booking: click here

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