Due to Pinterest, Tumblr and We Heart It overload, I’ve become accustomed to browsing through photos of dreamy females, emotive portraits and various facets of nature in a zombie-like daze. But for some reason – and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why – discovering the work of photographer Laura Ward hit me like a refreshing, fantastical wave.
On paper Laura photographs things that would be considered normal to us all, figures, faces, flowers, even clothing lines and windows. But through her skill as a photographer and creative talent, she urges us to see the world through her eyes. Turning the mundane into the ethereal, the unforgettable and at times the melancholy.
After speaking to Laura I realised that the reason her work has such an impact on me in comparison to many of the other photographs I’ve liked, pinned and ‘hearted’ over the years is because they’re packed with emotion, wonder and a beautiful sense of curiosity. Further down in the interview you’ll read that she calls photography her ‘therapy’ and realising that her work is such a powerful creative release will only make you appreciate it more.
Here I spoke to Laura about her creative process, the cameras she uses, washing lines, cats and the photo that holds a very special place in her heart. Read on and feel inspired…
Thanks to our columnist Laura Kidd for the introduction.
What kind of photographer would you say you are? And which subjects really get you feeling creative and passionate about your work?
Along the way I have tried almost everything so that I know what I don’t like. I never overthink a composition, I prefer natural light, I adore imperfection. I wish i could say that I am a street photographer or a this or that. I’m inspired a lot by lyrics and music, a lot more so than by seeing other photographs. I went through a huge phase of only publishing photos alongside a lyric I’d been listening to at the time. That’s probably why I love photographing musicians.
What kind of camera do you use?
I always have at least 3 on the go. In terms of digital, I was shooting with the Canon 5D and recently switched to the 6D. I preferred the smaller body and I don’t need everything a higher spec model can give. I’ve always been Canon and Pentax loyal when it comes to SLRs though would love a small digital Leica. I shoot a lot of film and polaroid too. A friend just gave me a Konica C35 so I am trying that out. I have a lot of cameras that cost less than £10. Oh, and I use my HTC phone.
Do you have any tips for using that kind of camera? Or advice on pieces of extra kit?
When shooting with the Canon 5D and 6D, I almost always shoot aperture priority (AV). If you’re into depth of field and experimenting with blur, it’s the best mode to experiment and learn with. If you’re using those cameras and you can only afford one lens, go for the best prime you can. I’d also recommend reading up on M42 lenses and mount adapters as your budget could stretch further. If you’re into film and want to try something a little bit different and experimental, look into Revolog.
You take a lot of different kinds of photos, which is your favourite type? And why?
I shoot a lot of double exposures on film which are mysterious and serendipitous. I also like that you can collaborate with other people by swapping films to shoot over. I tried digital double exposures for the first time with the 6D. It doesn’t excite me in the same way.
Is there something you feel like you’re looking for in all of the photos you take? From the portraits to those of clothes lines? Are there any subtle running themes?
I am consciously drawn to lines. Windows, train lines, power lines. I like mystery in my pictures and I like layers. A few years ago I found myself frequently photographing horses. I started taking photos when I was a deeply unhappy teenager. I would photograph things that I thought were beautiful and majestic. Photography has always been my therapy, but even though I am a very happy person now, a melancholy theme will still run through it.
Your portraits all seem to really capture different sides of people. Do you find the process different depending on who you’re taking a photo of? And how do you get them to engage with you each time? Do you ask them about themselves a great deal?
Unless I know the person well, I never ask personal questions. I enjoy not knowing. I almost always need some words to work with. I’ll ask more about tone and try to find out what makes people feel confident. The process is always different depending on how confident a person is. It’s not as easy as telling someone to pretend you’re not there. It almost always has to be collaborative and if it isn’t, I plan the direction ahead. Last year I worked under scripted direction for a product but I made sure we did some unscripted shots at the end which are some of my favourites.
What inspired you to do a few of your more quirkier shots – like the clothing lines for instance?
What I truly love about washing lines is the fact that they tell a story. They can reveal a lot about private people and I always feel naughty photographing them. I was recently walking with some friends and I stopped to take a photo of a washing line. They felt uncomfortable about that! Washing lines are out there for all to see. I often think things like ‘you’re washing your whites with a purple towel?’, and ‘you won’t say hello to me but you’re ok with me knowing you wear spotty pants?’.
What do you think of the rise of camera phones and Instagram?
I only joined Instagram a year ago. I wasn’t being a snob about it, I just had a terrible phone! I’ll never shine on Instagram but I do really enjoy using it. My friend Morecakes (on Instagram) commented on my recent photo of a cat, with ‘Cat Pictures?!’. I didn’t think I’d be that person, and he’s suggested I turn it around. I do love those Instagram cliches. Yes, I photograph my shoes and my cat.
Would you ever completely ditch your camera in favour of a phone?
I love hiking, so the temptation to ditch the heavy camera for the phone is absolutely there. I have done that but I couldn’t permanently. The convenience factor is seductive but I like having choice. I also love film just a bit too much. But if a phone can rival a Leica, I am so there.
What are your favourite apps to edit and share your photos?
I’m a bit old school. I love flickr. I love it slightly less so with recent changes but I’ve been using it since January 2005 and I can’t let go. I don’t personally use apps like A Beautiful Mess but I’m a fan of how some of them mimic lomography. A photographer friend and I recently talked about how great iphone photography is now and questioned why neither of us had one yet.
What would your advice be for any budding photographers?
My tip for anyone who is even semi-serious about photography is always try before you buy and stay brand loyal. You’ll save so much money. Some of my favourite pictures were shot using cheap cameras. If you can compose a great shot, you’re on the right path.
Who or what inspires you the most to be creative? And do you sometimes find it hard to be creative, feel inspired and take great photos? Or does it come naturally?
Anything that hints at nostalgia inspires me. An absolutely mind-blowing new song that I’ve heard for the first time will also make me feel creative. Like with any creative endeavour, sometimes I just don’t feel it. A friend of mine had some great advice for finding inspiration which was to focus on the small things around you. Failing that, I’ll listen to Kate Bush.
Could you tell me which your favourite photograph is? Why do you love? What were you doing at the time that means it holds such a special place in your heart?
I love this photo (the main featured image above) for a number of reasons. The picture is of my husband James during our early romantic courtship. We were coming back from a weekend away and it started snowing furiously as we walked through London. I knew that I had fallen in love with him so the picture was special to me. Some years later we discovered that a church had been using the image as ‘the face of hope’. It was online and noticeably gracing many hundreds of postcards in north London. A number of friends saw it and I have a copy of it on my fridge. My husband is an atheist so I really enjoyed the irony.