Fun Interview With Missouri Photographer Laura Stilson
Q: Do you ever have photographer’s block and if yes how do you deal with it?
A: yes, and my cure is to show up and start clicking within moments my state of unmotivation disappears and I will see my client turn some way or something will pop in my head, then I am wrapped up in the shoot. benefits of ADD blocks don’t last too long.
Q: Can you recall the first photo you took that made you go WOW!?
A: It would have to be the fine art B&W work, all hand developed in special developer, some still lifes of shells, nudes, dunes, rocks (I love rocks and abstracts)
Q: Do you like to talk about yourself or your pictures? If yes, about what aspects of photography? If no, why?
A: I remember most of the situations regarding lighting when I took each picture…and the emotion behind the image. I still get excited when I’ve captured a good image:) I could bore anyone with the technical aspects, but I look at it like the technically proficient I am, the greater my creative freedom:) Me -i’m pretty boring:0
Q: How would you describe your attention span?
A: nada…I am totally ADD-what was the question again?
Q: When did you decide to become a photographer?
A: Over 20 years ago, I got into B&W photography as a hobby, every time my husband jumped up to a larger format camera, I would confiscate the camera he left behind. I started with 35mm, then I stole the hasselblad:) Next I graduated to the 4×5 then I got my very own 8×10
Now pretty much digital
Q: What does photography mean to you?
A: It’s my life.
Q: Do you have any formal training regarding photography?
A: New York Institute of Photography-trade degree-the course allowed me to stay at home with my son when he was little.
Q: How technical is your photography?
A: I used to be far more technical with my photography when I did the large format work, mixed and weighed my own developer, archivally treated each baryata print, etc, fully use the zone system. Today it is more on the digital end-BUT must have a good exposure to start with.
Q: How do you feel about cropping?
A: I prefer not to, but, hey, if it works and looks good I do. Also have to fit standard print sizes for clients, I do miss the square format:)
Q: Where is your favorite place to live and work as a photographer in the World and why?
A: I loved living and working in Northern CA because I had the ocean, the redwoods, Yosemite, Death valley, Seirras, old buildings:) lots of ocean rocks, etc. BUT in SW MO we have stunning seasons, and hills and rocks of course-so I think if one has an eye you can make a beautiful picture pretty much wherever you are. You just have to see it.
Q: Define the word “beauty”!
A: “damn, that looks goooood!” Eye candy:)
Q: What is your most favorite and least favorite word in photography or life? How do they make you feel?
A: Least favorite word: “can’t” , most favorite word in life is “coffee”. I like coffee. Nikon is another word I like alot:)
Q: How does your personality change when you look through the camera?
A: I am focused and I forget all worldly troubles. I have no worries when I have my camera in hand:)
Q: How do you feel about missed shots which cannot be recreated?
A: Rare to miss one as with digital I pull the trigger alot, I’m not proud:) But I do spend a lot of time processing the images.
Q: Ever concerned about failure?
A: One of the keys to being successful in a photoshoot is preparedness and homework, AND back-up equipment. Plan for Murphy’s Law and then if something goes wrong, no biggie, I am prepared with a backup plan, so it is not fatal. I am totally OCD about my pictures.
Q: Who are your influences?
A: Edward Weston, F-64 group, Cartier-Bresson-father of the decisive moment.
Q: What is your favorite image, either your own or someone else’s or both? Describe its creation or meaning to you?
A: I bought an 8×10 contact print from Cole Weston, it is a nude that is curled up under a redwood tree, B&W, I love that picture and bought it purely on emotion. One of my own favorite images was actually taken with a Holga and it is a statue from a graveyard-another is an 8×10 of a rusted bunker door in the Marin headlands, oh it changes:)
Q: Describe a day in your personal or professional life.
A: On the computer til my butt hurts:) Or on location photographing or in studio, or I might do some gardening in veggie garden, it varies, never boring.
Q: What are the biggest personal or professional challenges you face on a daily basis?
A: Knowing when to stop–or to take a day off. I am an all or nothing kind of person.
Q: What has been the single biggest obstacle against growing as a photographer in whole?
A: Learning curve with new technology, not enough time in the day to keep up with all of the new stuff, BUT there is always something new to learn. Worse is getting into a rut-so i try to get some images that are different with each shoot.
Q: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
A: For people I love weddings and kids, for fine art, florals, rocks, shells-I’m a detail abstract type.
Q: Tell your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, most touching story from a photo shoot!
A: there was the time the hassy went swimming in the stream, and another time I slipped and fell in Yosemite and darned near went over a cliff, broke my wrist, that sucked.
Funny story-I had tripped coming out of my studio about 12 years ago and broke my foot-so it had to be in a moonboot, I had a wedding and had to call the bride to tell her not to freak out when she saw me in the moonboot (I told her it would only take a couple seconds off my hundred yard dash) When i showed up for the wedding, the videographer, who was wonderful lady, had been to the emergency room the night before with a major asthma attack. as we both climbed the stairs, with the videographer wheezing and me clomping along in my moonboot, she turned to me and said-”it’s good the bride and groom hire the handicapped”.
I got some freakin AWESOME pictures of that wedding-shooting film then combo hassy and 35mm-stunning shots:)
Q: Have you ever thought about or actually stopped doing photography? What were the circumstances?
A: No not really, only thing is being self-employed, I hate the paperwork and tax season.
Q: What types of assignments are you attracted most?
A: Anything out of the ordinary-i LOVE eclectic locations.
Q: Describe what black and white photography means to you?
A: strong emotion. art
Q: Do you think of yourself as an artist and what do you think of the word artist?
A: Yes-i have worked in many different mediums and chose photography-painting with light.
Q: How do you describe your photographic style?
A: Schitzo-I go with what i think looks good for that image-right now I am an action texture addict-BUT i still like as strong simple B&W-depends on what I see in that image and what I previsualized when I took it.
Q: What has been the most surprising or most predictable reaction to your photographs?
A: too many good ones to choose from-it is hard to decide which one.
Q: Tell a little secret about yourself that no-one knows …
A: from time to time I am prone to melancholy…but it passes
Q: Who or what would you love to shoot that you haven’t already?
A: The who would be the Rolling Stones-specifically Mick Jagger. i would also have a field day photographing Marilyn Mason. I would also love to go to Rome and Greece to photograph the ruins, or to Key West or Santa fe to photograph some brightly colored doors. Savannah Georgia is another place I would like to photograph, ever since I saw that movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Q: What would you have done differently during your photography career so far and could this be an advice to others?
A: Probably learned to market myself better-my marketing skills are pathetic.
Q: What are your thoughts on the paparazzi and their effects on photographers and photography?
A: Not my style.
Q: How do you feel about digital manipulation and to what extent do you utilize it?
A: It took me quite a while to make the leap to digital, I was a large format fine art B&W purest for the longest time. When the K3 pigment dies came out, and Wilhelm and Wilhelm verified the archival value I was sold. i have been guilty of going hog wild with the plug-ins in early stages, now it depends on the image, I consider digital effects as tools, paint brushes so to speak, depends on the image-some i can get crazy with, BUT if it looks cool-and it works-i go with it.
Q: What other thoughts would you like to share?
A: thanks for listening:) this was fun:)