Interview with Lara Zankoul

Lebanese Photoshop prodigy and creator of surrealist dreamscapes Lara Zankoul is here to answer your questions.

SoB: Lara, it’s great to have you. Could you briefly tell our readers about you?

Lara: I'm a 27 year old Lebanese fine arts photographer with a real obsession for chocolate and for creating surreal and conceptual images. After juggling a career and economics along with photography for about five years, I know work full-time with the latter. On a more personal note, I'm a big fan of fashion and have four wonderful siblings.

SoB: Looking over your body of work, I see otherworldly creations and dreamy landscapes. How would you personally describe your art?

Lara: My art follows the surreal/conceptual style. My photos are staged and include a lot of set design work.

SoB: Your photoshop manipulation work has captured the imagination of an international audience. You were even featured on Vogue’s blog. What do you think makes your art stand out in an ocean of competition?

Lara: My series "The Unseen", specifically "The Zoo" image, went viral on the web. People everywhere reacted to it in a very positive way. I didn't expect it, seeing as the image was an extra in the series, and meant to be an experiment. In addition, this series received attention because it was not manipulated on Photoshop, and I had released a behind-the-scenes of my process, which made it even more interesting to the audience. I think the fact that most of my work is based on actual set design makes it stand out. 

"The Zoo" by Lara Zankoul garnered international attention for its originality and use of original set (i.e. no Photoshop was used in the making)

SoB: Making a name for oneself in the digital age can be quite a challenge for up-and-coming artists. What tidbits of advice do you have for aspiring young talent?

Lara: My advice is to be perseverant and determined, and to work very hard to achieve your goals. Also, an artist has to use social media channels smartly to reach a wider audience, while actively seeking opportunities around the world.

SoB: Every creator needs to feed their own inner creative self. What feeds you inspirationally? Do you have any muses?

Lara: I find inspiration from my surroundings--no matter where I am, things as simple as everyday human behavior to things as complex as personal experiences give me ideas either directly or indirectly. I think it's always important to be aware of your environment, because muses can be found in the most unexpected places.

SoB: Forgive our curiosity but we’d love to know: What projects do you currently have in the pipeline?

Lara: I'm always thinking of new projects to execute, but I'm keeping quiet until I actually get started on them and carry them out in a satisfying way!


SoB: On a more personal level, are you a city girl or more of a peace-and-quiet mountain person?

Lara: I am a bit of both. But if I had to choose, I'd say the city. I love the energetic vibes found in cities--they're full of life. I especially like old architectural facades and narrow streets. At the same time, I like fleeing to the mountain every once in a while, and get in touch with nature's serene aspects.


SoB: We at Secrets of Beirut are always on the prowl for fun things to do in the city. Could you share with our readers where are your favorite places in Beirut and why?

Lara: I love working and having meetings at chill cafes like Paul and Urbanista on Bliss Street. Also, one of my favorite things to do is having breakfast at Bar Tartine on Sunday morning, and then continue on with a stroll around Mar Mkhayel.

SoB: What about the times you spend outside the city? Where are the places that you spend your time and why?

Lara: I go to my hometown village in the South of Lebanon as a getaway from the tumultuous nature of Beirut. There is where I take most of my photos in my signature blue/yellow/green rooms. These rooms are part of our centenarian house in the village and I have found the perfect setting and light in them. I feel extremely inspired when I visit.


SoB: Those of us who have experienced life in Lebanon always find reasons to love this place. What keeps you attached to this chaotic country?

Lara: Having lived abroad for a long time (first 16 years of my life), I find in Lebanon a charm that can't be found elsewhere. 


SoB: Any final words that would like to add for the creative and hungry at heart

Lara: Own your own creativity: you have your own unique style and talent. Be open to critique and new experiences, push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Most of all, stay true to yourselves and you'll make the most out of your wonderful passions.

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