Tell a little about who you are and what you do.
I am a self-taught photographer, with sixteen years of shooting experience under my belt. Back in the day, I learned to shoot with film, developed it and printed my photos in my darkroom. I've since moved to digital, but film holds a very dear spot in my heart that I just can't seem to shake. I was supposed to be a horticulturist and landscape architect; at least that's what my degree tells me. I followed that path for some time, along with a few other paths, but photography won my heart. Plants and beautiful Mother Nature is, and will always be, a great inspiration to me. If at all possible, I prefer to shoot outdoors and somehow incorporate nature into the scene.
I'm originally from the Watson, Illinois area. But the majority of my adult life I spent living in the Cayman Islands and only moved home to Illinois with my husband and son a few short years ago. I grew up on a small working farm, with acres and acres of natural areas at my disposal. It gave me a great appreciation for the world around me. I roamed wherever I pleased, built forts in the woods, picked wildflowers in the pasture and caught craw-daddies in the "crick." My son is taking over the jobs of fort building and craw-daddy hunting, but I'll never give up the picking of wildflowers.
You have a background in horticulture and landscape architecture by degree; did you learn about visual design elements from this education or by other means?
I did learn some visual design elements when working on my landscape architecture degree, but that kind of thing has always come naturally to me as well. I’m a hundred percent positive that skill was inherited from my mom. She’s very artistic, unlike my dad who wouldn’t even be able to draw a stick figure. I can remember doing friends art homework in high school because they were having such a hard time at it. It shocked me that some people weren’t good at or didn’t enjoy art. I assumed everyone could do it and loved it.
You mention a few times that the concepts of visual design came naturally to you or were inherited from your Mother. Do you feel these skills are in some people or passed down through genetics?
Yes, I totally think artistic inclination is inherited, but I think a lot is learned as well. If you grow up with someone that has artistic ways, you are exposed to it on a daily basis, so you are more inclined to be artistic. One of my brothers is artistically inclined and one isn't, so there's that! you just never now, I guess.
I was introduced to your work when I first saw your project “This Is Boy.” It has inspired me to photograph the in’s and out’s of my son who is six this year. Photographing children is hard, how do you prepare for capturing so many moments of your son?
I don’t think I prepare at all except to make sure my camera batteries are charged and to steel my nerves at whatever dangerous thing he may be doing next. You have to have patience, though. I do bring patience along. Well, most of the time.
Much of your work shows wonderful visual design elements in them to tell the story of that moment. How cognizant are you of this? In other words, in your creative process, are you seeking the elements or do they just fall into place, and you recognize them, resulting in a photo?
I think a lot of it is intuitive, but there are a few things I think about. One is the background. Most times, I avoid busy backgrounds and if the background is too busy but I still want the shot, I’ll use a low f-stop to blur out the undesirable elements. Another thing I think about, or at least try to, are the edges of the composition. Is there anything undesirable or distracting that needs to be removed? Since I shoot outdoors, in and around plants and trees, I have to be careful of having trees ‘growing’ out of people’s heads. Also, I'm aware of stray branches coming into the frame in a distracting way. Other than that, I don’t think about it too much.
Your series “Swim” is very interesting to me. I see everything from interesting shapes, faces, frozen time, to deeper concepts of psychology and self. What does this series mean for you?
I enjoy the way water distorts a person. Of course you notice it in real time but when you photograph it, you can see all these crazy things, like disembodied fingers, toes, and limbs or two heads. I like the visual aspect of it a great deal, and I love that there’s almost always a surprise when you get the images onto the computer, and you can see more of the details.
For my work, I recognize some interesting ways of communicating, and I’ll ride it until it’s tired. Other artists will start with an idea to communicate, and then seek ways to do that in their work. How does your creative process work? In other words, how do you work?
I do it just like you do. However, I want to try it the other way around too. I would love to give conceptual photography a go. It’s something that appeals to me. I’ve done a few conceptual images, but the majority of it is documentary.
So much of your fine art work is around nature and our interaction with it, do you consider yourself a naturalist?
Well, I don’t research or study nature in any formal way, but I think I’m very observant of the natural world around me.
Many of your compositions have the main subject in the center of the frame, with side subjects interacting with the subject. Why do you use this compositional style?
I honestly can’t answer that, except to say, it comes naturally. It’s not something I consciously think about. I’ve just always done it that way. I know it’s supposedly a big no-no in the rules of composition, but it works for me.
For aspiring photographers who want to move their work beyond the technical details or documenting a subject, into communicating ideas and feelings into their work, what advice would you have for them?
Shoot from the heart. Shoot something you love and are passionate about. If you’re not shooting something that interests you or that you care about, no one else will either.
What artists/photographers inspire you?
There are so many. I’m inspired on a daily basis just by scrolling through my Facebook or Instagram feeds. To name just a few in no particular order: Sally Mann, Emmet Gowin, Kristianne Koch-Riddle, Angela Bacon-Kidwell, Lori Vrba, Aline Smithson, Cig Harvey, Emma Kisiel, Ellen Jantzen, Joni Sternbach, Polly Chandler, Susan Burnstine, Tami Bone. Trust me when I say, I could go on and on and on.
Are you aware of any up-in-coming photographers you would like to draw attention to?
My friend Maryanne Gobble is amazing. She doesn’t get near the attention she deserves. Every single image she puts out there is perfection and makes you gasp, especially her self-portraits. Another is Kelly Tyack. She’s been knocking my socks off lately. She has the absolute best Instagram feed around. And again, I could name an almost endless amount of talent if you asked.
Have I missing anything you would like to add about your work?
I think what I would ultimately like to get across in most of my work is to get outside and enjoy the beauty around us all. Get your kids outside but get yourself outside as well. Every time I go outside I feel better. It's an instant mood lifter. There are days when I'm in front of the computer for way too long, and I know most people's jobs are sitting in front of computers or being stuck indoors as well. The positive effects of nature and being outdoors are innumerable. Even if you open up a window to let fresh air in, do it. I can't tell you how many comments, messages, and emails I've gotten from people of my parents generation. They love how most of my photos are of my son being outdoors and playing like kids used to play. I love it too, but trust me, I have battles, just like any other parent, about too much screen time. It's a delicate balance that's almost impossible to achieve. I do my best, though.