Today’s Creative Spirit interview is with photographer Carolyn Lau. You can learn more about this creative spirit at her website LelieBelle.
Artist Strong: When did you first discover your love of photography?
Carolyn: Truthfully, it was forever and a day ago. When I was younger, I would sit and look through old family photo albums for hours. My dad had art in his blood and had taken albums full of photos with a 35mm and a fish eye lens. There were hundreds of pictures of myself and brother as babies, our grandparents, aunts and uncles, childless versions of my parents, friends and vacations. I came across faded photos of my dad in the army, old portraits of my great grandparents. I loved looking at the faces and moments he captured, especially of times I wasn’t even a part of…hadn’t even been born for yet. Growing up, I could get just as lost in images at art galleries and coffee table books so the interest never left me. It wasn’t until I received my first digital camera that I realized I loved taking photos as much as looking at them.
Artist Strong: What is it about photography that you love?
Carolyn: For me, photography is having the ability to freeze moments in time, bottle it up and save it for later. Every photo holds some kind of meaning, story, and emotion for me. Being able to go back and look at them brings me back to another day and time. It’s like a tangible memory; I love that.
Artist Strong: What has inspired the name LelieBelle?
Carolyn: Europe and its gorgeous cities. LelieBelle was inspired by Amsterdam, London and Paris. There is nothing like walking down the cobblestone streets, into the small cafés and the quaint corners of these bustling yet approachable cities as you explore them upside down. While there, I wanted to capture every moment, ordinary or not. And I did! I had to fork over some serious cash to buy more SD cards during my visits.
Artist Strong: Can you describe a time when you didn’t have your camera but saw an amazing shot you wish you hadn’t missed?
Carolyn: I probably have a million moments a day where I feel like this. And sometimes, it is for the simplest shots. Most recently, I was just taking a walk around my neighborhood with a friend and we saw a butterfly land right on the sidewalk in front of us. The colors on its wings were beautiful. I didn’t even have a camera phone; I was so disappointed. Honestly, if I could, I would probably replace my right hand with my camera. (I’m a dominant Lefty anyway.)
Artist Strong: What is the first thing you look for when scoping out potential shots?
Carolyn: The beauty in the ordinary. Vibrant colors. Patterns and repetition. Symmetry. Signs of the season. Cracks in concrete. Old doors. A conversation. Anything that represents everyday life – the details that we might miss when we are too busy living our everyday lives.
Artist Strong: Do you believe in the right place, right time philosophy of photography or that it is all about the staging of shots?
Carolyn: I think it is a mixture of both. For portraits, I believe a bit of staging is necessary to capture moments and interaction in a given landscape, especially if there are several people involved. However, I do feel that great photography is a waiting game in patience. I like to quietly sit back and wait for the right moments even if I choose the location or ask my subjects to pose or interact in certain ways.
Artist Strong: How do you decide if a photograph should be black and white or color?
Carolyn: This is a hard question. I think it has a lot to do with how I want to tell a story through my image. I usually associate black and white with a quiet calm and color with energy and vibrancy. Depending on the image and the emotion I want to capture, I’ll switch back and forth. Frequently, I’ll take photos in both color and b&w just to see which I like better.
Artist Strong: What has been your most positive experience being hired out as a photographer?
Carolyn: Capturing the purity of emotion. Have you ever just gone people watching in a public place – a park or a lively street? People’s mannerisms and expressions can be intoxicating and if you find the right moment, an image can tell a million stories. It’s an honor when a couple asks me to capture a moment of their lives. I like to think I’m capturing their story for generations to come.
Artist Strong: How do you manage taking portraits, for example, for an engagement shot? What can a photographer do to relax their subjects?
Carolyn: Understanding your subject is key. I like to find out what they do for a living, what type of photography they like, what books they read, what colors they like, where they like to vacation – it’s almost like a personality quiz! Once I know these things, I know what kind of story to capture on film. Communication comes in a close second. Having an active, light-hearted interaction is helpful. When they are relaxed, it’s so much easier to capture their authenticity on film.
Artist Strong: What is your advice to aspiring artist start ups?
Carolyn: Just go for it. If it’s art you love, just connecting to people and other artists will be enough inspiration to keep going. You never know until you try. I have no idea where LelieBelle will take me, but I’m looking forward to the journey.
Artist Strong: What’s your favorite color?
Carolyn: Purple. No story behind it. I just like it. 🙂