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Interview with picture editor Lynzy Billing

Ask the Experts

20 April 2017

Posted by Ana Maria Nica

Hi Lynzy, tell us about yourself in a few sentences - who are you?

I was born in the Himalayas in Pakistan but spent most of my life growing up in Jerusalem. I moved to London to study photography at university and I have been working as a picture editor and photojournalist in London ever since. I am interested in world content and sociocultural themes and I am interested in political and conflict photography. I am also interested in the subject of women and the work that female photographers and journalists are producing right now.

What led you to becoming a photo editor?

I received my first camera at age 6 and I have been quite literally obsessed with photography ever since. I think growing up overseas and travelling so much has brought about my interest for people and cultures across the world and I quickly learnt that I wanted to share this interest through the medium of photography. I was once told that the UK audience did not care for world content. I disagreed and have spent every day since trying to disapprove this statement. If a photo series has a universally relatable theme in it such as family, mental health or relationships, then people find meaning in it and share it. If a photograph contains humanity, then it is globally shareable.

I am constantly in touch with photographers and researching new photo essays both for work and as a personal interest.

My passion in its most simple form is keeping the conversation of beautiful and important photography going.

If you had to define a perfect shot, what ingredients go into it?

Above all, there needs to be a story within every photograph. This is the heartbeat between all the other variables that make up a photograph. I want to see a photograph that forces me to react in some way. Does it make me uncomfortable, exposed, curious, enticed… Does it make me feel reality or fantasy? I love a photograph that leaves me confused, it means that there is still an ending for the story, maybe an ending that I have the answer to.

What is the hardest/best parts of a picture editor's role?

I think every photo editor wants to source the most unique content. We are all battling it out for that original and exclusive photoset, this can be a challenge, it is a competitive arena. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose out but every day I get to go home and talk about the stunning photography I got to work with that day.

It can be difficult to stay true to yourself and your own tastes. The more places I work, the more I have to remind myself about what kind of photography I want to promote. My advice is, go with your gut, you know exactly what photography you want to work with and publish.

The best part is the relationships. As a picture editor you are dealing with a photographer's hard work, something they have put a lot of time and feeling into. It is important to respect how they want their work shared. If you invest in photographers and their work, they will respect your job of delivering it in the best way you see fit and they will continue to share their photography with you.

Name a few photography trends we can expect for 2017 and beyond?

I think mixed media is really changing how we share photography on social platforms. We all want to see a new way to create a crossover between video and photography. With the amount of time that readers will spend on an article decreasing, we are all thinking of new quick ways to share visual content. How do we fit as many photographs as possible into a video that is as short as possible, while still keeping their quality? Then how do we share that video across multiple platforms in a completely unique way? And finally, how do we get this video shared?

Subjects on gender, migration and privacy still rule supreme and I think people are going back to analog photography and fine art mediums to create work around these themes.

What’s the strangest or most memorable set of images you’ve ever worked with?

I have worked with incredible photographers and projects, from Magnus Wennman’s Syrian children to Johan Bavman’s Swedish dads. But one of my favourites that I have been thinking a lot about this week is Sarah Wong’s project documenting the lives of cross-gender children in the Netherlands. The project spans 9 years and the amount the children have changed in this time is remarkable. This article sticks with me as Sarah and I went back and forth for so long seeking permission from the children, discussing their privacy and translating large amounts of interview text from Dutch to English. Almost every project I work with takes care and sensitivity, but Sarah’s project in particular took a lot of time and attention and it paid off.

Another one of my favourites was one of my commissions on men who pay to be beaten up by female wrestlers in London. I mean, how do you get that perfect photo of man being beaten up by a beautiful woman? Does it only exist in the idea I had in my mind?

Your #1 Tip for visual storytelling.

The camera is a tool that is in your control and it takes work to get the photograph you want. Sometimes you get lucky and a one in a million moment falls straight through the lens of your camera. But sometimes a photo does not turn out how you want it too and my advice is, spend time perfecting it. Grow your skills and achieve the photo you envisioned from the start.

What are three images you love on Picfair?

"Working at Night" stock image

"This is a commanding photograph, with the subjects facing away from the camera but frozen in the lights of the digger. There is a powerful story in this photograph of night workers."

"Police Dog" stock image

"What a wonderfully captured moment. There is so much intensity and atmosphere in this image."

"School’s Out (Palestine)" stock image

"I just love this photograph. It is from where I grew up and I can feel the breeze that photographer describes. It is such a recognisable time of day and a relatable moment of peace."

"Sweden, Stockholm - Boat Party at Hornsbergs Stranpark in Summer" stock image

"There is something very Martin Parr about this photograph, the colours just pop."

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