Interview

Interview—Lisa-Marie Harris, founder of Au Courant

Lisa-Marie built her platform, Au Courant Daily, 6 years ago having worked in the Caribbean media for 10 years. It’s a space where she can freely explore her personal vision for her artwork. Earlier this year it evolved to include a printed volume of work, Au Courant Volume 01, a new warm & tangible outlet. Now she’s working on Volume 02, a considered progression to include her original work alongside new collections of artist-led collaborations. We discuss her vision for Au Courant, the love she has for her current home-city, Amsterdam, and the continuing evolution of her work below.


The cover of Au Courant Volume 01—a close-up shot of a crumpled shirt, an understated image synonymous with Lisa-Marie's vision.

The cover of Au Courant Volume 01—a close-up shot of a crumpled shirt, an understated image synonymous with Lisa-Marie's vision.

Tell us about living between Amsterdam & London. What keeps you motivated living between the two cities?

I started visiting about 8 years ago, and I always feel at peace in Amsterdam - there's a sense of practicality, functionalism and quietude in the Dutch approach to life that I greatly appreciate. So that motivates me to stay connected to the Netherlands in general, and Amsterdam, in particular. Au Courant is based there, my printers are there, in a lot of ways it is my second home after Trinidad. There is a strong Surinamese presence in Amsterdam and in many ways, their culture brings a remarkable amount of Caribbean energy to Amsterdam - parts of the city and the lively street markets reminds me of home. Also, Dutch people are always up for a good party with good, Belgian beers. London feels forced and rushed by comparison, but provides direct access to the Caribbean, and sometimes it is easier to work very quickly on aspects of a project in London. Also, the access to culture of all kinds is unparalleled in both cities.

 

Having worked in the Caribbean media for 10 years, what inspired you to move to Europe and start Au Courant?

Au Courant Studio was actually formed right before I left my career as a radio/tv broadcast journalist and producer in Trinidad. It took some time and many moves through multiple cities in the US and the Caribbean before Au Courant began to resemble exactly what I wanted. Moving to Europe happened organically after I realized I was traveling there so often with my family for work or vacation, and we all felt a clarity and peace whenever we visited. Eventually it became inevitable - we wanted to be in a place where the way we lived could be respected, and where our ideas could have the space to be fully explored and developed. 

 

Au Courant is a curated, engaging environment and, although the focus is minimal, it's very welcoming. I can't sum it up better than: "Au Courant Magazine Issue 01 offered an easy, worn-in elegance and a sharper, reductionist sensibility, bringing a balance not always attainable in digital form." (Quoted from 'From Issue 01 - Lighting by V3RS') Worn-in elegance is a beautiful image—how do you feel you've managed to achieve that balance, particularly considering the focus on digital media within your work?

I think the aesthetic and visual lexicon employed with Au Courant contributes greatly to that feeling. A significant part of the work, imagery, the text, and mood of Au Courant comes from my personal interests - I don't think of creating the look or maintaining a balance, as much as I try to replicate a feeling, explore a motif, or express an idea that might be occupying my mind at the moment.

 

Did you have to adapt your style when designing & working towards a printed volume of work (Au Courant Edition 01)?

Unlike the digital space with its fluidity, print demands that you consider its boundaries, its nuances, its tangible and intangible qualities; print runs don't always yield the same results and the entire print production has a measure of the unexpected that you have to face down, in order to coax out the desired finish. I had to alter a lot of the heavier, contrasting images and the light ones for the printed volume, resulting in a work that was still 'Au Courant', yet was much softer and delicate than normal for me - a look which ended up working in the end. I approached the first volume as an open experiment to see how I wanted to adapt my ideas to print, and as most of the work on Au Courant is by my hand and my thought, I had an unprecedented freedom to try anything.

 

Prior to the interview you mentioned to me that Au Courant presents "in the moment" collaborations of interactions with other artists—an "artist led monograph of work". It's such an appealing idea for a platform. How do you find that these collaborations inform & develop your vision?

This collaborative approach is something I'm working on for the second printed volume, which is currently in production. The more my work moves towards art - photography, print, digital, sculpture - and away from the traditional media site vision I originally had for Au Courant - the more I find myself working in tandem with like-minded artists across media. Most times, they find Au Courant somehow and when they reach out to me, I'm blown away by their work, and the back-and-forth process begins. It's always intriguing and extremely inspiring to learn how another creative approaches their work - on the next issue, for instance, there are at least three photographers from very different perspectives working on different photo essays that we arrived on through extended discussions, emails and the like. 

 

To what length are your collaborations explorations of your personal viewpoint?

To a great length. However, the intent of the collaborations are always to arrive at an endpoint that I may not have reached through my own investigations. The starting inquiry might be mine, along with the general direction. But oftentimes, the collaborative process allows for art or design problems, a particular mode of inquiry or visual story to be solved in a manner I wouldn't normally think of.

From one of Lisa-Marie's favourite collaborations to date with V3RS.

From one of Lisa-Marie's favourite collaborations to date with V3RS.


Can you tell us about some of your recent, favourite, collaborative works?

From the last issue, it was fantastic to work with V3RS, the Eindhoven-based design studio, to shoot a mini light-installation of their iconic and large scale lighting designs. The pieces were tiny, 3D printed versions of their lights that mostly had no function beyond being models, and it was an enjoyable challenge to bring light to the pieces with a bit of shadow play. I had to shoot the pieces multiple times to get the right effect; the end images hint at how small the pieces were, but it's hard to tell what is huge and what is minuscule, and everything looks sharp but delicate at the same time.


You're releasing your second edition of Au Courant this February, which is very exciting! Can you tell us a little about what this new edition will bring?

Au Courant volumes are annual affairs, not intended to hit every stand on a predictable basis. So the time that elapses between one printed volume to the next gives way to a lot of anticipation, especially since this issue will be the first where the volume becomes an artist's monograph of sort instead of a typical magazine around a theme or a genre, and will exclusively feature original art, editorials and photography created especially for the publication. The new edition brings more intriguing photo essays, interviews, and collaborations and there will be a special-edition collectors version presented in a custom slipcase which I'm quite excited about.


On a final note, I'd love to know what sustainability means to you?

Practicality.

A selection of images from Lisa-Marie's beautiful instagram feed.

A selection of images from Lisa-Marie's beautiful instagram feed.