Design & Style


Lilli Waters turns her lens to the Mercedes-Maybach GLS.

28 April 2022

The fine arts photographer draws on her love of cinema and nostalgia to capture the Mercedes-Maybach GLS in a whole new light.

Design & Style


Lilli Waters turns her lens to the Mercedes-Maybach GLS.

28 April 2022

The fine arts photographer draws on her love of cinema and nostalgia to capture the Mercedes-Maybach GLS in a whole new light.

Lilli Waters photographing the Mercedes-Maybach GLS

Turning her lens to the Mercedes-Maybach GLS, Lilli Waters says she wanted to capture the nostalgia of a long road trip. Image: Simon Shiff.

Renowned for haunting and deeply evocative imagery, Melbourne-based fine arts photographer Lilli Waters captures her subjects with sensitivity and a sense of fantasy.


“I have a deep passion for creating otherworldly imagery with a timelessness, and finding beauty as well as a hint of the strange,” Lilli explains of her recognisable style, which she has applied to everything from Australian landscapes to the female form.

 

“My work invokes a harmonious relationship between art, nature, vulnerability, reflection and a sense of being in the world, yet obscuring the lines between dreamscape and reality.”

 

The scene was certainly dream-like on the set of her latest project, a creative shoot with the Mercedes-Maybach GLS.

Mercedes-Maybach GLS interior

Lilli says she has a deep passion for “finding beauty as well as a hint of the strange.” Image: Lilli Waters.

Lilli says her aim is to create distinct worlds that blend romance, nostalgia and magic, “almost as if you are looking inside a dream or a place you have imagined before, with a feeling of a slowing down of time.”

 

Her portraiture explores the human condition through dramatic expressions of the female form, nature and the environment.


“The interplay of darkness and luminosity, strength and vulnerability, and the possibility for new understandings based on an awareness of our dependence on the earth,” she explains.

A natural progression

 

She has been named a finalist in the National Portrait Prize and Australian Photography Awards and recognised among the top 200 ad photographers worldwide by preeminent advertising publication, Lurzer’s Archive. But as a student of the arts, Lilli originally had her sights set on moving pictures.

 

“I actually wanted to be in film,” she explains. “I made short films and film clips and loved sitting in the editing room for days on end putting clips together. At uni, the class I went to was cancelled due to lack of student numbers, so I stayed on to study the major, which was photography. I had never picked up a camera in my life before that!”

Lilli Waters photographing the Mercedes-Maybach GLS

Classic cinema, art and photography have all shaped her approach. Image: Lilli Waters.

A natural progression, Lilli distilled her experience in editing and film into the practice of photography, with cinema continuing to shape her work today. She also looks to classic art for inspiration – paintings and, more recently, some of the early masters of her craft.

 

“Over the last few years, I have revisited the work of master photographers who first caught my eye at university, including Bill Brandt, André Kertész, Man Ray, Irving Penn and Francesca Woodman,” she says. “They were film photographers and came from another time that doesn’t exist anymore. I feel they saw the world with a deep curiosity for their surroundings and were able to capture authenticity as visual poetry. I still like to visit both very different art worlds when I am hungry for inspiration.”

 

Battling the elements

 

Charmed by the romance and purity of old-world photography, Lilli uses traditional techniques in her practice today, approaching her work slowly and holistically.


Her process varies depending on the scope and subject, but is often protracted and disrupted by the challenges of shooting in a natural environment. Post-production can sometimes stretch over many months.

 

“I make a lot of images of the female form in nature; these are photographed in nature battling the elements,” she says. “I also make smaller-scale, often underwater still lifes, in a more controlled environment involving creating intricate underwater vignettes.”

 Lilli Waters photographing the Mercedes-Maybach GLS

Shooting in a natural environment comes with a unique and often unpredictable set of challenges. Image: Simon Shiff.

For images of the female form, Lilli will plan a week-long trip to a new place in nature that excites her. “My subject and I spend our days driving, scouting, waiting, and then shooting during the small windows of the right light, at dawn and dusk, rising at 4am to venture out when there is no one around, and again at dusk when the tourists have all gone.”

 

This creative approach, while gentle in pace, requires considerable discipline. “I like to work intensely for many consecutive days, to fully immerse myself in the process,” Lilli says.

 

“I find some combination of pushing my mind and body to the limit with no distractions and building momentum. It takes the work to a different place, often a deeper and more focused place, which wouldn't happen if I shot a day here and there.”

 

A road trip in the Maybach GLS

 

Turning her lens to the Mercedes-Maybach GLS, Lilli says she wanted to capture the nostalgia of a long road trip, while reimagining the luxury SUV with the kind of curiosity, mystery and moodiness for which she has become known. 

 

“I hope it draws people in, catches their eye with a subtle strangeness and makes them curious,” she says. “People probably have an image in their head of what Mercedes-Benz is – a feeling and sense of luxury and style – and I wanted these images to have a timeless aesthetic and playful quality using familiar yet unexpected objects, which is why using film was so important to me."

Lilli Waters photographing the Mercedes-Maybach GLS

Lilli says she hopes the Mercedes-Maybach GLS shoot “draws people in, catches their eye with a subtle strangeness and makes them curious. Image: Lilli Waters.

Shot amongst rolling hills north of Melbourne, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS takes on a brilliant new form through unique angles and striking colourways, captured with Lilli’s signature sense of cinema.

 

Lilli says she was initially drawn to the SUV’s unique colour palette and retro veneer. “Its fresh white interior, wooden-coloured features and intricate details reminded me of a vintage car from my childhood, and the two-tone maroon-and-black exterior gives it a very eye-grabbing and unique look.”

 

She tapped into this retro sensibility and the idea of a long summer road trip by homing in on the warmth of the wood veneer, using afternoon sunlight to “capture the feeling of balmy afternoons with a cool breeze”.

 

“I chose to focus on still life, using a selection of fresh fruits and elegant props, which I thought would work beautifully alongside the car and really complement the specific colours we were working with,” Lilli says.

Lilli Waters photographing the Mercedes-Maybach GLS

To Lilli, the luxury automotive and art worlds have a unique synergy. Image: Lilli Waters.

“I wanted these images to be a contrast of the contemporary vehicle mixed with a timeless feel. I was very excited to photograph this series on an old medium format film camera, which gives the images a nostalgic look, as if they could have been taken in the 1950s.”
 

To Lilli, the luxury automotive and art worlds have a unique synergy, something she says binds them as unexpected yet natural partners. 

 

“Many people see these cars as works of art,” she says.

 

“We are so used to seeing cars and even luxury cars as part of everyday life, but if you were to really examine all the details in a unique vehicle like the Mercedes-Maybach GLS, so many of the elements are visually pleasing.

 

“With a car like this, its role is to delight the people inside it. So, it has a connection with, say, going into an art gallery and having a sensory experience that can leave you feeling a different kind of elation.”

 

 

Discover the Mercedes-Maybach GLS.

By Chrisanthi Kaliviotis