New York City
When did you first pick up a camera and start taking photos that were beyond family or vacation photos?
When I moved to NYC from Minnesota in 2005, I was intrigued by all of the discarded umbrellas I saw laying around as part of the landscape of the streets of NYC. I found myself drawn to them as a subject partly because there was no shortage of the subject matter and partly because it was a subject that stood still and wouldn’t judge me. I was photographing them on film, and then transitioned to digital a few years later. I’ve photographed over 1,100 discarded umbrellas in NYC. Professionally, I transitioned from teaching elementary school to photography full-time when my daughter was born in 2010, and began photographing a lot more portraits and head-shots at that time.
I love to photograph portraits of performers, which is what I spend most of my professional time shooting. I’ve been fortunate to photograph promotional photos and album covers for some notable musicians and theater folks, and I’ve shot a lot of head-shots for up-and-coming performers. But I also enjoy street photography. The unpredictable elements of street photography are a nice balance to the carefully planned aspects of a portrait session. I enjoy creating a beautiful portrait, but I also enjoy the impulsive nature of street photography. Besides the Discarded Umbrellas project, another street project I’ve worked on for a few years is called Guys In Ties.
Where do you get new shoot ideas?
I’m inspired by other photographers and artists. A shoot can be inspired by something as simple as a color theme or an object. I enjoy collaborating with other artists and find that just being open to possibility during a shoot can lead to some brilliant moments of creativity. My philosophy is to just say yes. If we don’t try shooting something, we won’t know if it will work, so I try to just say yes. I also find inspiration simply walking down the street, I live in New York City, and I’m constantly taking photos of people and architecture as I walk the streets of NYC.
As creative professionals, you have to be adaptable to what may happen during the shoot. Give us an example of a shoot that didn’t exactly go as planned and how you made it work?
When I started shooting portraits I was utilizing all natural light, which made for some gorgeous photographs, but I didn’t always know how to harness the light the way that I wanted. I had a dancer coming for head-shots and it was a beautiful, bright but overcast day, perfect for natural light portraits. By the time she arrived it had become quite stormy, and the natural lighting conditions I was counting on had changed, which forced me to consider other methods to get the shots I needed. I’ve learned a lot since then about different ways to create a good photo, but the importance of being able to adapt is one of the best lessons I’ve learned.
How does social media, specifically Instagram, affect how you get your work to people?
I like Instagram because I can showcase new work and get immediate feedback. I can show a variety of images and see what people really respond to. Also, when performers I’ve photographed tag me on Instagram or Twitter, the audience for my work expands to include an array of people I might not have accessed on my own.
Describe the style of your photography in five words.
Intimate, Observational, Humanistic, Imaginative, Intuitive.