Lou Mora is an observer of the human spirit, his imagery connecting with the viewer through moments of intimacy in day-to-day life. The Los Angeles-based photographer finds beauty in the details: through layered images of window reflections, hair fluttering in the wind, or the sunlight catching the spokes of a bicycle in the late afternoon. The people he photographs have a familiarity to them and bring the viewer in to share their space with them, as if you’ve known them for years despite never meeting. “Life inspires me,” Mora says. “I know that’s a broad statement but I love being in new places, getting lost with my camera and wandering. I’ve always been an observer, watching how people act, how they move, their expressions and mannerisms. These are the things that inspire my lifestyle work, the little nuances that distinguish one person from the next.”
Creating a world for the viewer to inhabit is the gauge of a great body of lifestyle photographs, and Mora does this effortlessly. He became a photographer in his early 20’s while living in Sweden and discovering an old darkroom in the basement of the home where he was staying. Since then he has strove to capture natural moments that reflect the human experience in an honest and approachable manner. Now based out of Los Angeles, Mora’s career as a portrait, lifestyle and advertising photographer has garnered him projects for Sony, Asics, Hard Rock Hotel, Taylor Guitars, Intel, Shure, BMW, Jacuzzi, Qualcomm, Pfizer and more.
One of his favorite recent personal shots is of an older man, looking out at the sea in Milos. “The photo is a really sweet moment and feels completely timeless,” he explains. “It’s impossible to tell if it was taken in the 1970’s or yesterday – I love that about it.” Mora has been drawn to older subjects as of late, influenced by the full lives they have lived before him. “I learn something from each of them,” he says.
Mora aims to photograph his personal work in a more candid and natural manner, but on set for assignments he has to generate this feeling of spontaneity. He finds the best approach is to get to know the talent as much as possible in a short period of time to learn their mannerisms and personality traits, and to get them acting comfortably and naturally. Mora lives for the “in-between moments” when his subjects are less aware of the camera. “When we start shooting I can catch those moment when their guard is down,” he says.
For photographers who are building a lifestyle portfolio, Mora says it’s best to find the direction most suited to your interests early on. “When I first started trying to build up my lifestyle portfolio, I would over-think and over-produce test shoots,” he recalls. “I'd go through the images and realize that I liked the in-between moments, not the highly concepted and staged images I'd worked on creating.” He realized he didn’t need to go over the top, and began to simply ask people he found interesting if he could photograph them. “Go into a store where you've seen a face you're inspired by and introduce yourself, ask for 10 minutes of their time and see where it takes you,” he suggests.
Mora’s personal style of shooting has translated easily into his professional work, and his client list has grown substantially from the effort he has put into his portfolio. “A common thread in my personal work is layering within the images,” he says. “I like shooting through windows and utilizing the reflections to create abstract shapes, or shooting through objects in the foreground to create depth.” New York agency Sequel Studio hired him for this technique, asking him to photograph the Bank of America Annual Report in a similar way. He also has an ongoing project for Ford with Team Detroit, photographing portraits of Ford dealership owners in this style. The best collaborations are often born when personal interests translate to client assignments, and Mora excels at bringing his perspective to meet his clients’ needs.