We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Guiteras and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
I love Nick Cave’s “my muse is not a horse” letter. Especially this part: “My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and if indeed she was, still I would not harness her to this tumbrel — this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes.” As a visual artist, I often grapple with the contradictory nature of my desires and beliefs. I believe that the most important thing in art, above all else, ought to be your own commitment to your own creative values. But I feel just how operative the phrase “ought to be” is when I find myself scrolling through Instagram, comparing my credentials to those of my peers, growing hungrier for laurel wreaths. In a world of algorithms and self-promotion, it is easy to forget that the goalposts always move in the pursuit of acclaim. “My muse is not a horse” embodies the ethos to which I aspire as an artist and reminds me of what I want to prioritize.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started shooting music videos in the Chicagoland area with other students at my college when our access was mostly restricted to DSLRs and paper tape for custom frame lines. Around this time, I was starting to learn to shoot film on an SRII and gained a little experience with digital super 35 cameras, but I found the culture surrounding production to be incredibly intimidating. I felt scared of making mistakes and frustrated that cinematography did not seem to come naturally to me. But when I finally got over the fear of picking up a camera, or really the fear of failing at it, I found that I loved the filmmaking process. And taking those initial steps led me to meet collaborators in 2011 and 2012 who I’d still be shooting with nearly a decade later. As time goes on, I realize more and more how special these kinds of early bonds can become. I was lucky enough to shoot the feature “Ma Belle, My Beauty” in 2019, the directorial debut of one of those early collaborators, Marion Hill. I’m incredibly proud of our work together and I am really excited for people to see the film. I have so much faith in and love for it. And that’s led to more work with the New Orleans film community, which has been amazing. I was lucky to shoot another narrative feature in 2020 and I’m hoping to continue the streak of shooting at least one feature per year. In particular, I’m trying to do more work on opposite ends of a spectrum: on one end, naturalistic narratives focused on the details of day-to-day life and observational docs (I’d die to shoot something like Wim Wenders’ Tokyo-Ga); on the opposite end, stylized, bloody genre films. I love watching and making horror and have been lucky to collaborate with director Alison-Eve Hammersley on short-form genre work. Another important collaborator in my career is Dorian Tocker, who I met at AFI and has really transformed my approach to music videos, especially in thinking about what goes into creating iconography. We’ve collaborated with LA artist Sizzy Rocket several times and I’ve really enjoyed the creative process on her album visuals; we’ve played with VHS, water glass filtration, zooms, super high contrast black and white, all sorts of things that were done partially by design and partially as surprises that we embraced on a shoot day. The past year of course has been really hard with the pandemic, loss of work, everything, but I’m looking forward to leveling up on the skills I’ve built from each of these kinds of projects when things stabilize a little bit more.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In COVID times, options are of course limited, but if I had a week to show a friend around I’d certainly take them on a hike up the Berendo Stairs. It’s a beautiful and quiet walk up to Griffith Observatory from Los Feliz Bl. The observatory is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. Whenever it’s safe to gather inside again, that’s one of the first public places I’ll take visitors to. My other favorite outdoor spaces are Ernest Debs Park (for the view of downtown from Debs Lake, ideal at twilight) and the strip of Elysian Park right across from Casanova St, just north of Chinatown. There are long lawns separated by beautiful stone walls and short staircases, perfect for a picnic. Hopefully, when things are safer, I’ll be able to take friends on public transportation trips again. I used to love taking the metro red line downtown and visiting The Broad, MOCA, Grand Central Market, and The Last Bookstore. A ride on Angels’ Flight, the historic orange streetcar, is always fun, too. Little Tokyo is another one of my favorite spots in the downtown area; I used to love getting dessert at the Japanese grocery stores there and browsing Kinokuniya for stationery. Further west, The Getty is a must-see museum if you’re in town, especially for the architecture and gardens. In Koreatown, I loved Shatto 39 Lanes for bowling and cheap well drinks. The abundance of food trucks in this area also made it a great spot for a night out. If you’re into oddities, the occult, or horror memorabilia, I’d recommend a visit to the Mystic Museum in Burbank. For people watching, I highly recommend Muscle Beach in Venice. Sadly, one of my favorite restaurants in LA, Elf (on Sunset Bl in Echo Park), just recently closed for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19. I’m crossing my fingers that their GoFundMe will help them start up again. They had a great selection of wine, delicious vegan options, and the best haloumi dish I’ve ever eaten. Finally, my favorite theatre in LA is The Vista at Sunset & Hillhurst. I’m looking forward to seeing movies there again and thinking about Final Destination when I have to sit directly under one of the large conical chandeliers.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents gave me everything I have.
Shanley Ellis, Lauren Guiteras