Lauren Wisnewski is a talented photographer, graphic designer, and visual artist. I discovered her work a few years ago on Flickr; even back then, her eclectic style and love for mixed media greatly impressed me. Lauren's portfolio has a rich collection of experimental projects, stunning photographs, videos, and more. I had the chance to talk to her about her love for art, the value of perseverance, and the challenges she has faced during her creative journey. I hope Lauren's vision inspires you to keep your artistic mind as open as possible.
What inspired you to start taking photographs?
I started taking photographs once I got my first camera; it was a point-and-shoot that I had begun to use just for casual shooting and candid shots, but I almost immediately found myself experimenting with photography. I took photos of generic things but played around with composition, framing, and eventually editing. I think my interest really took hold when I found an online community; understanding the breadth of possibilities sparked passion and desire to improve as much as I could, and getting feedback/support from like-minded people helped me to keep moving forward.
You take the most exceptional self-portraits. What does a typical self-portrait shoot consist of?
Thanks so much! Whenever I shoot self-portraits, I'm usually experiencing or feeling something and have a sudden urge to document it. Most of the time, my self-portrait shoots are pretty experimental; I'll have a location in mind and dress/do my makeup accordingly. Then once I start shooting, it becomes a trial-and-error process; I use a tripod and remote, and I run back and forth every few shots to check my poses and the lighting to see if there is anything I need to improve on. I kind of go into a trance at this point and get very connected to what I'm experiencing or feeling, and how to express that in the photos. I'll start visualizing possible edits in my head, and then start doing different things in response, maybe stray away from my chosen location or try a different approach with the angles/lighting. I stop when I feel satisfied, and play around with editing until the photos feel right.
What has been your biggest artistic challenge so far, and how did you overcome it?
I think my biggest artistic challenge has been realizing what I like and how I want to apply it to my life. For a year I studied industrial design in college, thinking I could apply my artistic abilities to something more practical and realistic; after a year I was unhappy and burnt out. I was capable of designing products, but it was less two-dimensional and more technical than I would have liked. I realized my skill set and creative tendencies were better applied to graphic design, while still pursuing photography on the side. I think, if anything, I've learned how to listen to my urges, and that no career path is worth pursuing if you can't see yourself feeling fulfilled doing it.
Which artists have influenced your style the most and why?
As I was building my own style, I mostly looked at works of photographers/artists who were involved in the online community so I attribute a lot of my inspiration and growth to them. One of my favorite photographers is Olivia Bee because of her ability to capture magic and heavy nostalgia in photos that still retain a candid quality. Natalie Kucken is fantastic and I've always loved how dreamy and other-worldly her photos are. Alison Scarpulla's work endlessly inspires me because her talent is all-encompassing; she implements unique poses along with double-exposures and experimental edits, mostly on film, which takes so much skill. There are tons of others of course, I couldn't possibly list them all without going overboard on this response! Also in terms of concept, form, and light, I am so enamored by Olafur Eliasson's work. He does more three-dimensional work but it still inspires me and he's a genius.
How has graphic design affected your photography life?
Graphic design has slowly found its way into my photography life because I've been implementing more graphic elements into my photos as of late, in direct correspondence with studying it in school. I like the idea of making graphics a part of more realistic imagery because it makes images feel more surreal. I think I notice shapes and composition a lot more now, and maybe a bit more technically. Graphic design tends to be a bit more precise than photography, which I think shows through in my work more lately.
What advice, in relation to photography, would you give your younger self?
I would definitely tell my younger self to stop being so concerned with the way others perceive your work. I've learned that trying too hard to please a specific audience (in terms of creative/personal work, not necessarily commissioned work) corresponds with a lack of a quality/distinctive style. When you're creating things that don't feel natural to you, they most definitely will not be as good as you want them to be. I like to think the reason people with iconic styles are so good at what they do is because they've listened to themselves more than the current trend.
What do you do when you feel insecure about your artistic skills?
When I feel insecure about my artistic skills, I often disconnect from online activity a bit more to regroup and connect with myself. I usually force myself to keep making things when I get insecure because that always makes me feel better, and sometimes I look through my portfolio to remind myself of how far I've come and how far I could potentially go. Insecurity isn't good fuel.
Where do you wish to be, art-wise, in 10 years?
Oh man, that's a tough one. I think my artistic desires change pretty frequently, as I'm in a stage of my life where things are overwhelmingly and rapidly changing. I think I'd like to have a steady job in a city as a graphic designer, working at a place that appreciates a more contemporary/experimental approach to things, as well as doing freelance photography on the side. Ideally I'd love to focus on photography full-time for awhile; I think any combination of things I love would be just fine for me, though.
Your photographs are made up of such elegant colours. What is your favourite editing program to use and why?
I love Photoshop; it's definitely the main program I use for editing because I've been using it for longer than any other program and I feel the most comfortable with it. It gives me a lot of experimental control in so many different ways; I like to tweak colors on there after I've done general editing in Lightroom, and if I'm creating photos mixed with graphics it allows me to really play around with layers and blend modes.
What is the most valuable thing that photography has taught you?
I think the most valuable thing I've learned from being involved in photography is the importance of perseverance. I will never start doing anything and automatically be great at it. It's taken me years to get to the point I'm at with photography, and I still often feel as though I have a long way to go. I've definitely applied this mentality to new things as well; it's daunting to pick up a new hobby or try to learn a new skill, but mastering it will never happen overnight. Practicing regularly is the only way to get better at anything.
You can find more of Lauren's work on her website, Facebook page, and Flickr.