Through The Lens

Lily & Lilac

April 26, 2010, by Chelsea Coyle

The amazing photography team of identical twins Lily & Lilac create the imagery that awes and inspires us. Lily is older than Lilac by a mere five minutes. Coming from a family with three sisters myself; I know that the bond between them is incredible. Someday I hope to work alongside my own sister in this industry, so I wanted to share this interview with the fun duo that I had the great joy to speak with.

Toronto and Montréal

  • (article continues below)

    Lydia Nyilasi (Next), by Lily & Lilac for Women X Women (2009)

    How is it that identical twin sisters each with their own individual desires and dreams ended up coincidentally having the same common goal of wanting to be photographers?
    Lily: I don't think it was coincidence. Coming from a very artistic family, we both have always been inclined towards the visual arts. Also, having had a lot of influence on each other growing up, we have naturally steered each other towards this direction.

    Lilac: It has always been very natural for us to work together. We share the same interests and goals, so it was never a question of whether we would work together. It's also great to share the experience together as photographers and entrepreneurs.

    What moment was it for each of you that you realized photography was going to be your career?
    Lily: Growing up, we were always drawn to fashion, magazines, and photography. We always knew we wanted to somehow take part in this field, and one day shoot for the magazines we loved looking at. There was no specific moment that made us realize photography was going to be our career. It was a gradual, natural, and almost subconscious decision.

    Lilac: We've always been very much in tune with what we wanted to do. When we were twelve, we started a ‘magazine' and attempted some fashion shoots at home. At fifteen, we were attending Montreal fashion week and working with designers and artists to collaborate with us for our magazine. Although the magazine never really took off, we took those projects quite seriously!

    (article continues below)

    Sarah Richardson (Elmer Olsen), by Lily & Lilac for [Dress to] Kill

    How would you describe your individual shooting style?
    Lily: Our vision is very alike, so more often than not we will not remember which of us photographed which shots. We never feel like we are shooting individually, since it's always about the team work behind the scenes and not just the work of the person behind the lens. As one of us shoots, the other person is still close by, working with the model for the best pose and refining the lighting

    Lilac: Our styles are very similar. We both like to make our subjects look bold, yet elegant.

    Describe the process that you both go through in selecting a model for a shoot and what do you look for in casting?
    Lily: Depending on the concept of the shoot, we will aim for a certain look that we've decided on ahead of time. Then we will try and find a model that is most suited to the look we are after. It really helps when the model is not afraid to go to great lengths in order to get the perfect shot. We definitely have a lot of respect for models who really work hard at keeping a positive energy when they're faced with difficult conditions. Their job is so much harder than people know!

    Lilac: I like to shoot girls who have distinct features that make them unique. They can be "imperfections", but what others might consider a flaw in a model might be the reason we are compelled to use her. A great model is comfortable with herself, and is not afraid to move or make mistakes.

    (article continues below)

    Philippe Brisson (Montage), by Lily & Lilac

    Where can we see some of your work?
    We have had our work published in magazines like Fashion, Glow, and Dress to Kill. Most recently, our work was exhibited at Women x Women.

    What do you love most about this career?
    Lily: It allows me to be creative and gives me the freedom to explore new ideas. We have had the privilege of meeting so many great and interesting people, and working with such talented artists and incredible designers. It's also a joy for us to be able to work for ourselves and pursue our passion in life.

    Lilac: I wake up looking forward to working, because I love what we do so it almost does not feel like work. This career can be tough, but it's the challenges that keep things interesting and keep us going. The whole process of doing a photoshoot is very exciting. At the end of it, we get to see the finished product published in a magazine, and that makes all the hard work worth while.

    (article continues below)

    Stephanie Shiu (Next), by Lily & Lilac for Glow

    How do you compare shooting in the studio to on location. Any preference?
    Lily: We like the studio because we have the ability to create sets out of an empty space. We have full control of the lighting so we can create the atmosphere we want. We can choose to let our imagination take over and make it a surreal environment. Outdoors, you deal with more obstacles. However, you have the magic of available light, and beautiful architecture or unique spaces that you just can't re-create in the studio.

    Lilac: I personally don't have a preference. There is definitely more control in the studio, and we love lighting a set from scratch. On the other hand, a location can be so inspiring, and that makes for something different each time.

    Lily, I heard you like to cook. What is your favourite meal to make? Perhaps you can make me something sometime?
    Lily: Yes, it would be my pleasure to make you something and you are always welcome over! My favorite things to make are our parents' recipes, a lot of Vietnamese home-cooked dishes that you cannot find in restaurants. Lots of stews and braised dishes.

    (article continues below)

    Jenna Judd (Ford), by Lily & Lilac for Strut

    I understand you have some pretty good dance moves Lilac. What is your favourite form of dance?
    Lilac: I dabbled in tango not too long ago, but my favorite form of dance is salsa. I'm nowhere near being an expert, but I take classes and enjoy it very much.

    Where do you see yourselves in five years?
    Lily: In five years, we will still be pursuing photography. We would also like to spend more time traveling around the world to absorb the different cultures... still so much to see!

    Lilac: We don't always like to plan too far ahead. We'll see where life takes us!

    Lady Gaga or Madonna?
    Lily: I like Lady Gaga's bold and daring fashion tastes, but it will always be Madonna's classics for me.

    Lilac: I gotta give kudos to Lady Gaga for always pushing the envelope. I have a lot of respect for people who do things differently and who are not followers. However, nothing will take over my love for classic Madonna. Her old tracks are often played on set.

    Just recently your work was featured in the Women X Women exhibit at Toronto Fashion Week, can you tell us about the experience?
    Lily: It really is a great honour to have been chosen to participate alongside so many amazing photographers that we respect and whose work we have admired for a long time. Women X Women is such a great idea for highlighting female talent in photography.

    Lilac: It's another amazing experience as always, working with the talented and hardworking Advocates. The event has grown so much since its beginning, garnered so much attention and been covered so extensively in the media. We are very thankful to all the organizers, sponsors and volunteers who make it the great event that it is.

    Who was the model in your Women X Women exhibit and how did you both decide whom you were going to select?
    Lily: We photographed Katrina from Next Models. Katie Beaudry, one of their agents, often emails us photos of their new faces. She sent us raw photos of Katrina, and this was before Katrina was even on the agency website. Her unique and timeless beauty caught our eye and we immediately knew from her polaroids to book her for our project.

    Lilac: We had envisioned a certain woman for our shoot and she really fit the bill. Her distinct features - her porcelain-like skin, copper hair, and intense stare - really left an impression on us!

    Having three sisters myself, how do you separate work from sibling rivalry?
    Lily: We have very strong family values. We don't compete with each other. Instead, we do our best to help each other.

    Lilac: We are both striving together as a team so there is no such rivalry. Our focus is to improve our skills, not to outdo one another.

    Any advice for young photographers or our readers?
    Lily: You need a lot of motivation and persistence. You also have to really love fashion and photography if you decide to pursue this career. To master your craft and to refine your business skills, you have to just go out there and gain the experience.

    Lilac: Do what you love. You will work harder and excel better when you are doing something that you are passionate about. Never give up, and do not let other people discourage you from following your dreams!

    Thank you so much and what can I say, I love your work!
    Lily & Lilac: Thanks so much! We've always been big fans of Modelresource!


    Blogs We Follow

    Cailin Hill (The Model Burnbook)

    Models x Models (Models x Models)

    Liis Windischmann's (14+ LouLou blog)

    Laura Kell (A Model Life)

    Madison Schill (Chic Greek Geek)

    Kathleen Burbridge (Kathleen in Wonderland)

    Ania Boniecka (A n i a . B)

    Shawn Dezan (motivated//ambition)