RAW Artists is a community of artists from every background, almost any age who make an incredible variety of art. The common thread is a passion for creating. RAW exists to encourage artists and their supporters to grow, contribute, uplift, share and build. 

When we discovered RAW Boston artist Lauren Zaknoun ( http://www.rawartists.org/laurenzaknoun ) for our MOTIF showcase, we were struck by one of her photographs in particular (see "Starlight" below). As a result, our community will be seeing more of her worldwide throughout the first 3 months of the new year. Lauren's photo was chosen to represent our showcase theme "CUSP".

Lauren takes a gorgeous image and then uses her creativity and imagination to enhance it. Taking reality and making it more inspiring. 

Here is a special Q&A with her to learn more. 


How did you start as an artist? 

Photography is something I only just started pursuing in the last four years but art, particularly drawing, has been important to me since I was a little kid. One of my earliest memories is from when I was 3 years old. I was drawing a picture and I remember my dad commenting to someone that I was talented and that I could see and draw details that no one my age could notice.


You’re an amazing photographer, but your creativity doesn't end there! We love that you add to a lot of your images, slightly altering reality! When did you start this style? What was your inspiration?

I was introduced to surrealism in high school but drawing and painting surreal pieces didn’t really give me a lot of satisfaction. Anyone can put pen to paper and create something that could never exist in real life whereas creating photos that warp reality posed a real challenge. I admired surreal photographers like Kyle J. Thompson and Lissy Elle Larrichia for a long time before I realized there was no reason I couldn’t do what they do. It wasn’t until late 2014 that I really tried my hand at it.


                                   ["Don't Miss Me"]                                                                      ["Catroptrophobia"]

You focus your creativity on surreal, conceptual photography. Can you explain what one of you pieces starts with? A feeling, idea, emotion, image?

All of the above, actually! Some pieces are purely visual while other are effected by my mood, my emotional or mental state. A lot of the times, my titles will reflect those states, which is why I often forget them. Many of my pieces are meant to represent an isolated, fleeting moment in time.


"I want artists to be inspired to take risks. Nothing about creating these photos is easy—it’s timely, costly, and sometimes risky."


Now, when we found your artwork, we just knew we wanted to work with you in a bigger way than just for the Boston showcase. So we were thrilled that we could partner up to use one of your images for our CUSP theme to start of RAW 2017. The theme banner just went live this week! How do you feel about your image being the CUSP banner?

I’m honestly so honored! It was already exciting enough to be approached about participating in RAW: Boston but to have my art supported in such a big way really means a lot to me. It’s amazing to know that my work is representing RAWArtists and that everyone visiting the site will see it.



Can you tell us the story behind the image for CUSP? How did you make it? What was the inspiration? And what does it mean to you?

I feel like it’s a strange thing to say but I really just love the moon! I love watching the moon rise and the night really lends itself to some beautiful photo opportunities. I’m also most creative and productive at night. A lot of my favorite artists are practicing witches and the moon is a recurring motif in a lot of their work so I was definitely inspired by them. Night photography is quite a challenge so it was an idea I’d been trying to figure out the logistics of for quite some time. I’m glad I took that challenge though.


Looking through your tumblr website, we noticed that you also do a lot of concert photography! How much does music influence your art? Do you have any specific pieces that were inspired by a song, band or sound?

Music is definitely my biggest inspiration. In fact, music is why I picked up a camera in the first place. I have zero musical inclination but I’d always wanted to be involved in the music scene and that’s what inspired me to begin shooting concerts.

I have an entire upcoming photo series inspired by the album, White Noise by PVRIS, one of my biggest sources of inspiration. My piece “Fatalism” was inspired by the Twenty One Pilots song, “Polarize,” and while I shot “Pyrophobia” in my basement, I had “Basket Case” by Green Day playing to distract me from hanging out alone in a basement for two hours.



How do you want someone to feel when they see your art? Have you had any powerful or interesting reactions? 

I like the viewer to feel unsettled. Last year, I made a photo series called “PHOBIA” where I explored fears and the rationale behind them. I was fortunate enough to have some of these photos featured at KnowNoTruth Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston. Attendees were able to put on name tags where they would write their worst fears. I figured I’d bared my soul enough that night so I just wrote “spiders” but I saw nametags that said things like “my parents dying” and “everyone around me suffering and dying.” It really brought out a lot of honesty in people.



Some of your images have a very dark and mysterious vibe. What are your favourite themes/concepts to work with?

Paranoia and anxiety are the most recurring themes in my work. Objectively, I know that there’s no reason to feel them as often as I do so making these photos helps me work through them. Immortality is another underlying theme. I’m usually my own model and so the idea that I can subject myself to some of these heinous things in my photos while remaining “unkillable” is something that colors quite a bit of my work.


Do you have a favourite image you've made? Why is it your favourite?

“Absence” is definitely my favorite. With such a huge saturation of amazing artists, sometimes it gets easy to get swept up in being the best, doing the most, trying to stand out. This piece is a reminder that simplicity can go a long way.


You have an incredible eye for detail and inspiring creativity, especially for being in your early 20s! What made you keep going and pushing your creativity to get to the level you’re at now? 

Thank you! Honestly, the idea of being the best is what pushes me forward. I want to be successful, I want to be seen, but those things are tough to achieve in the world we live in where social media is both a help and a hindrance. You can reach a tremendous audience like artists of the past could only dream of but you’re also competing with the millions of amazing artists around you, trying to make art that no one has ever made before. It can be tough some days, but I’ve never been more inspired.


What is your goal with your art? How would you like your images to be impacting the world?

I want artists to be inspired to take risks. Nothing about creating these photos is easy—it’s timely, costly, and sometimes risky. They don’t always come out the way I’d hoped and many of my shoots have been totally scrapped. Despite that, the finished products, polished and beautiful after countless hours of effort and editing, are always worth it. It fills me with great pride to be capable of something that not everyone can even fathom and I hope that when viewers look at my work, they’re assured that they can do anything if they want it enough.




We can't wait for everyone to see your work in person at your upcoming showcase! Do you have anything new or any surprises for the RAW Boston show coming up?

I do! The biggest Supermoon since 1948 is slated for November 14th so if all goes well, I’ll be offering an exclusive image created just for people attending the show.

Well today is the 14th so we will definitely be out to see the supermoon and we look forward to seeing what you have created for your showcase!

Thank you for sharing your story and incredible images with us and the whole RAW community. You and your work has inspired us all and will continue to do so through your CUSP banner in 2017. Good luck in the next couple days preparing for the RAW Bostin event MOTIF and beyond. You have so much talent and heart, so we will definitely follow along to see how your story unfolds.


RAW Boston Presents MOTIF: November 17th @ MIXX 360

Follow Lauren's story and artwork on her instagram, facebook and website.