Lilli Waters (born 1983, Armidale, NSW) is a fine arts photographer whose work explores the human condition through dramatic images of the female form in haunting, windswept landscapes. A Lilli Waters image has a painterly quality, evoking the Pre-Raphaelites with macabre, foreboding elements, a jewel-like palette and a sensitive use of light. Waters makes use of translucent fabrics and long hair to obscure the identities of her subjects, suggesting that the image might be just as much a mirror for the viewer, as it is a portrait.
These images initially appear to represent a romantic idea of beauty and an equivalence between the fertility of the female body and the landscape. Yet in the era of ‘Me Too’ and ecological crisis, Waters’ work offers a critical feminine gaze. Her portraits allude to the conundrum of simply being in a woman’s skin: of how to express physical agency and ease in a society that constantly objectifies women and irrevocably wreaks damage on the environment. These are images that convey complex emotions: the interplay of darkness and luminosity, strength and vulnerability, and the possibility for new understandings based on an awareness of our dependence on the earth.
An ecological concern also finds expression in Waters’ underwater still life series which reference Northern Renaissance paintings in lighting and composition. Coral Lands (2018) features live marine creatures amongst rocks and flowers to evoke other-worldly landscapes with a palpable feeling of space and slowed time. Waters’ representations of luxuriant, yet fragile beauty are a reminder of the imminent loss of whole species and ecosystems as a result of climate change.
Lilli’s work has been widely exhibited both in solo and group shows in Tuscany, Frankfurt, Tokyo, London, Sydney, and Melbourne. Her work has appeared in Vogue (Aus), Belle Magazine (Aus), Art Aesthetica (UK), The Opera Magazine (Germany) and has featured in the films Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed (USA). In 2019, ‘Utero’ was a finalist in the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, ‘As the World Falls Down’ a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize, ‘In Dreams’ finalist in the Incinerator Art Award, ‘Metamorphis’ finalist in the Perth Centre of Photography Iris Award, ‘Dark Matter’ finalist in the NOW Contemporary Art Award, ‘Dawning’ commended in the Mono Awards and photographic series ‘Others Dream’ highly commended in Australasia’s Top Emerging Photographers Award.