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5 Minutes With Lou Stoppard

Ahead of our book club launch, we caught up with Lou Stoppard, the host of our first live author reading with Lisa Taddeo: the author of bestselling book Three Women. As a well-respected writer, editor and curator herself, we were eager to hear what Lou has been reading and listening to lately, as well as learn more about her latest photography book Pools – which offers the perfect form of escapism this spring-summer.

Tell us a bit about your latest photobook Pools?

Pools looks at the swimming pool in photography and the creative imagination. So many photographers have captured iconic pool images that we all know and love – Stephen Shore and Guy Bourdin are just two good examples. I wanted to include a range of photographers (young, old, celebrated, unknown) and also a mixture of styles and genres, from fashion through to documentary. Part of this was to show the way that the swimming pool has remained a seductive place for photographers, as years have passed – it sounds negative to call it a trope, but in a way, it is. Pool pictures litter the history of photography.

I am something of an obsessive swimmer. As a teenager, I was a competitive swimmer, so I got used to spending evenings and weekends at the pool. However when I went to university, I stopped swimming entirely and I didn’t get back into the pool for years. I started to notice that I’d become fearful of water. I knew I wanted to cure that fear – so I started swimming constantly. Lakes, rivers, ponds, pools – I’d get in. Now I swim whenever I can. This book is as much for swimmers as it is photography fans.

What have you read lately that has left a lasting impact?

I am a huge fan of the books of Ben Lerner and I’ve also been using the extra reading time to revisit Miranda July’s short stories – they deal with themes of isolation and loneliness and connection, making them very relevant for now. Another title I would recommend is I Choose Elena, which looks at the lasting ramifications of trauma and how reading can be both soothing and freeing. It should be assigned reading to all.

Your go-to artist/playlist to lift your mood?

When I first moved to London, I used to DJ at clubs to make money whilst doing my masters. I’ve been revisiting those playlists as a way of keeping the mood in the apartment buoyant right now: Toni Braxton ‘He Wasn’t Man Enough’, Taylor Dayne ‘Tell It To My Heart’, Whigfield ‘Saturday Night’, Jennifer Lopez ‘Jenny from the Block’…all absolute classics.

When I’m writing I need something calmer, so I listen to a Wim Mertens, who is a minimalist Belgian composer. I’m obsessed with him.

How are you staying positive, motivated and inspired at the moment?

I can highly recommend wine – it really gets you out of the lockdown funk.

Ultimate style icons?

Ferris Bueller, always and forever. I also think Miuccia Prada always looks divine – her jewellery, the neat little knits, the pleated skirts. I absolutely love it when she wears a fluffy slider – what a woman.

How does your style differ when you’re at home?

I’m a pretty lazy dresser at the best of times – I favour jeans and t-shirts, or big jumpers. My wardrobe consists of lots of vintage blue Levi’s, black knitwear and men’s tailoring. I’d say my home style is pretty similar, but the number of items on rotation has got smaller as the weeks have passed. Normally, I do have a taste for whimsy – I occasionally break out some giant Simone Rocha tulle or some enormous sparkling earrings.

What have you been watching lately?

I watched Normal People, like everyone else in the world, and cried buckets of tears. I’ve also been using lockdown as a chance to watch the classic movies that I never got around to: all the Godfathers, Rear Window, A Streetcar Named Desire, Vertigo, The Green Ray – and so on.

Any favourite podcasts?

I recently listened to Caliphate, which follows Rukmini Callimachi, who reports on the Islamic State for The New York Times. It’s utterly fascinating – and good if you find all the twists and turns of the fight against ISIS hard to follow and want something that gives a clear overview.

Women you look up to?

So many. It’s a huge cliché but I adore Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The recent documentary on her life is worth a watch. She says that when she disagrees with someone she tries to speak to them in a way that could feasibly bring them over onto her side. I try to think about that when I’m writing, or arguing.

Favourite part of the day?

A good day is when I get my writing done in time to have a long bath with a book. It happens about once a week as I’m a committed procrastinator so I rarely finish working before midnight, but when it does I love it.

What are you most excited about when we return to normality?

The pub with friends. And kisses.

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