The Dream Life of Chloe Lodge

When I first met Chloe Lodge, I sensed a curiosity in her gaze, and a warmth in her demeanor. When I found out she was studying to become a photographer, my interest grew. (Having worked as a Print Producer in the advertising world for over a decade, I grew to know and admire many visual thinkers, and have developed a love for photography.) With undeniable fervor, Chloe told me about the Masters Programme she was completing in Paris, and her final project, documenting ‘Expat Women in a Foreign Land’: Paris. (And would I want to participate? Bien Sur!) So, how did Chloe arrive to pursue her dreams, in Paris? Her path is a unique and well-traveled one.

It still surprises me, how quickly life can change. If a year ago, someone said to me that I would be at the beginning of a new career in photography, having studied in Paris and been exhibited at the Rencontres dʼArles I would never have believed them. I am delighted to say this is exactly what has happened.

Photography has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl. When asked as a child ʻwhat do you want to become?ʼ for me, aged 7, my answer was always ʻI want to be a National Geographic Photographer.ʼ At fifteen I showed my photographs to my art teacher who said ʻthese are nice pictures but they are holiday snaps. To be a photographer you have to make the everyday appear extra-ordinary and more interesting than its perception.ʼ I had little, or no idea what she meant and felt discouraged.

After a brief spell at Art College studying sculpture, I achieved a BA Honours degree in Art History. Not having a clue what to do with a qualification such as this I fell into the city life of London, initially working in Event Management, then momentarily for the big boys at Goldman Sachs on Fleet Street. However, the creative Chloe gasped for breath inside everyday, so when a slightly unusual opportunity presented itself to me, I grabbed it with both hands. Working alongside Bear Grylls was a fascinating and all-encompassing job. Regardless, my role was one I could tweak and mould how I wanted. It was about organisation, PR, event management and with a little design thrown in. During a particularly intense period manning the 24-hour UK base of Bearʼs 2003 Trans-Atlantic Arctic Expedition I realised that it was about time I stopped sitting behind a desk organising adventures for others and see the world for myself.

My London flat went on the market, and I booked myself a round-the-world ticket. I planned on three months away but ended up being away almost three years. In that time I travelled across Russia, Mongolia and China on the Trans-Siberian, I spent four months backpacking in South-East Asia and finally ʻsettledʼ in New Zealand for almost two and a half years.

The back streets of Valletta, Malta. May 2011

The age of digital photography was upon us and, small compact in hand, I rediscovered my love of photography – capturing the beauty in the everyday. The landscape, culture and texture of life in the ʻLand of the Long White Cloudʼ awoke the softly doozing hunger for the photographic image from inside me. Whilst down-under, I not only fell in love with my photography again, I fell in love with the very wonderful James.

This was almost five years ago, and for reasons unknown to us, we then ended up in England. The dream of any little girl came true and James proposed. It was a double whammy because he also agreed to my fantasy of a small, intimate wedding on an Italian hillside, then the intense organisation began. It was all going to plan, until devastation hit. It was a Saturday afternoon, exactly three months to the day before our wedding, that I received the phone call. My dear and much-loved Mum, had died overnight in her sleep. Aged just 58, it was sudden, unexpected and shattered my world from the core.

Unwillingly but essentially I had to shift the wedding plans to funeral plans, desperately trying to ingest the utter shock of what had happened. We had to decide quickly whether to go ahead with our Italian wedding plans, or not. We decided whenever we were to get married after that she wouldnʼt physically be there: getting ready on the day, smiling at me with pride as I said my vows, laughing with me every step of the way. But she had been part of the planning THIS day, so we had to move forward.

Springtime in Paris, the Eiffel Tower. March 2011

Is it possible for light come from the darkness of utter tragedy? Sitting in the shade of a palm tree on our honeymoon, a realisation slowly dawned on me that I might now have the opportunity to follow that childhood dream of mine. I could go back to school to study photography. After much research and a swift application, I received a confirmation from a school in Paris to study Professional Photography starting September 2010.

Still fragile and in shock from the previous six months, I wondered if it was the right timing for me. Being in my mid-thirties, it felt like it was ʻnow or neverʼ. I had visited Paris as an art student, spending many happy hours in the Louvre and Musee DʼOrsay, and knew Iʼd always loved it as a city and so, swallowed hard and took the plunge.

As I began my studies I felt that the studio was where I wanted to be, ʻmakingʼ pictures and not ʻtakingʼ them. However, as my first semester journey of personal and creative exploration ventured on I began feeling more and more that the outside world is where I wanted to be. My interest has always been in people, within the context of their lives. Understanding how things change and evolve for them over time. I consider myself a social observer and a story teller, and it’s for this reason documentary and portrait photography is the area in which I love to work. Photography is not purely the creative action of taking a picture, it’s about people and their stories, their lives.

Kasia Dietz, from the portrait series 'Modern Women at Home in a Foreign Land' April, 2011

Ten challenging, soul-searching but fantastic months later, I have achieved a National Diploma with Honours, and finished the Masters Programme. Following our final diploma show in May, two out of 68 students were selected to be part of the 26 year celebration exhibition of our school at the Rencontres dʼArles… and my work was one of them. It was a complete surprise, but a fantastic honour so soon after graduating. The same exhibition will be shown in November, during Paris Photo Month, at the Speos Gallery, Paris. A city at the nucleus of the photography world. It feels like the beginning of something very wonderful… itʼs not the start of a new chapter, itʼs the start of a whole new book. A book I have always dreamt of starting, and now I am.

The Residence of the US Ambassador to France, Paris. April 2011 (selected for Rencontres d'Arles)

Congratulations and best of luck to you Chloe, as your ‘dream life’ of visual story telling continues!

Chloe Lodge Photography, will be exhibited at the Speos Gallery, 75011 Paris from November 8th – December 31st 2011. You can also follow Chloe Lodge on facebook as her life soon takes her from Paris to Asia. (Once the traveler always the traveler!)

ʻModern Women at Home in a Foreign Landʼ captures todayʼs Anglophone women making lives for themselves in a country where the culture, language and tradition is often very different to their own. Each following their own dream, in so many different ways. Her self- published book is available for viewing via Blurb.com

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16 Comments

  1. Lindsey August 2, 2011

    WOW!! I love her story and her work is absolutely beautiful. It’s incredible how people are able to find inspiration and drive out of tragedy. Thank you for featuring Chloe!

    Reply
  2. Lindsey August 2, 2011

    ps I particularly love that last shot!

    Reply
  3. Melissa August 2, 2011

    What an amazing story. I love hearing how people have the drive to continue on in the midst of difficulties, and go on to create something wonderful with their lives. Great feature. And…Wow! That shot of the Ambassador’s home is stunning!

    Reply
  4. paris (im)perfect August 2, 2011

    Wow, Chloe’s story is absolutely amazing. Thanks so much for sharing it. What an inspiration!

    Reply
  5. Chloe August 2, 2011

    Thank you Kasia for a wonderful blog post, and ladies, for such kind comments.

    Reply
  6. Chez Loulou August 2, 2011

    What an inspiring and talented young woman! Thanks for sharing this and introducing her to us.

    Reply
  7. Sugar Daze/Cat August 2, 2011

    This is a truly touching story from a clearly talented and amazing woman. I am inspired by Chloe’s determination to move forward with life in the face of such tragedy – I bet a lot of people would get stymied in it. And congratulations on achieving so much in a relative short amount of time. Gorgeous photography – I am marking Chloe’s upcoming exhibit in my datebook.

    Reply
    • Kasia August 5, 2011

      I will be attending the exhibit with you. xx

      Reply
  8. Ah, ditto to Cat’s comment up there! I admire Chloe so very much — I am so glad she came here to Paris and that I had the opportunity to know her as well. I love her story. Thank you so much for sharing more about Chloe: she really deserves to be known about far and wide! Thanks for featuring her!

    Reply
  9. Risamay August 2, 2011

    The last shot is particularly fantastique, but all of the images shown here are wonderful. This is a great story, and an inspiration. I also have a love of photography that I continue to try and develop professionally, on my own. And also in my mid-30s, I feel like it’s now or never. I mulled going back to school – and perhaps in Paris – as Chloe did, but I’ve pretty much decided that the cost is too scary. So I’m trying to find my way – or create my way – without professional direction in the context of classes or a masters degree. It’s a struggle, mostly for time to experiment and develop my work and process, but it’s a joy. Even if photography is never a full-time income stream, it will always be a passion and a part of my life. So I totally get where you’re coming from in your comment that “the creative Chloe gasped for breath inside everyday.” I do a little something creative every day. I don’t think I could live otherwise (not happily, anyway)!

    Reply
    • Kasia August 5, 2011

      Hi Marisa! Happy to share Chloe’s story with you. Keep following your passions, and as she mentioned, keeping taking photos! As I do by designing bags, drawing, photography, writing… we must keep that creative side nurtured and fulfilled. The key is to believe in yourself 🙂

      Reply
  10. La Franglaise August 3, 2011

    Hi Kasia, thank you for sharing Chloe’s inspiring story. I’m curious to know what school Chloe attended in Paris as I’ve also been thinking of taking up a course but hesitant as to where. Would it be Parsons? Cheers, La Franglaise xx

    Reply
  11. Chloe August 3, 2011

    Hello again, and thank you again. La Franglaise, I studied at Speos Photographic Institute in 11th. It is a private school and they do a variety of courses depending on what you are looking for. I would be delighted to share my experience with you if would like more information.

    Rismay, it sounds like we have taken similar paths in life, found similar obstacles and worked round them. Its great to hear that you are pursuing your passion in photography. Many, many of the Greats never formally studied photography, for me it was just a way to elevate my previous love and drive to a whole new level and understanding of the industry which it has done. I also had an opportunity to take the time to do it, which I know its not always possible for everyone. Continue to follow your dreams and shoot, shoot, shoot.

    Reply
  12. nichole August 6, 2011

    What a wonderful story! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    Chloe is an inspiration, and her story reinforces my belief that sometimes you just have to follow your instinct and see what happens!

    Reply
    • Kasia August 7, 2011

      I agree Nichole, so much of life’s journey is about following our instinct. Chloe is a great example.

      Reply
  13. StyleOnTheCouch August 7, 2011

    What a lovely story! I do like that image of you sitting by the river, and I laughed at “once a traveller always a traveller” – I wonder if I might live somewhere else in the US next, rather than return to the UK now I have a bit of the travelling bug! Such a tragedy that Chloe’s mum passed away so young, but how amazing and strong for Chloe to find some light in amongst it all, and begin a new path.

    http://www.styleonthecouch.com

    Reply

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