1: You came to photography as career fairly recently. What made you or how did you come to make that decision to become a photographer?
I started photographing in college actually, which was 15 years ago. We had a very small darkroom in the architecture school where I was studying and I was lucky enough to be able to work one-on-one with an architectural photographer, who taught me quite a bit in a short amount of time.
I’ve been committed to building portfolios of work for about 6 years. It started after seeing a retrospective of Harry Callahan’s work at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. I knew, when I saw his prints, that I wanted to dedicate myself to being able to print and photograph at the high standard that he was. From there, I started taking intensive workshops and reading whatever I could find to hone my technical abilities.
2: How would you describe your photography?
I would describe it as stories that build slowly, where one image leads to the next and an understanding comes at the end, when some conclusion is made. I tend to work from the inside out, using photography as a way to communicate what my fears are, what my hopes are, what I long for.
3: You use film, why?
I use film for two reasons. The first is because it gives me the best quality files to be able to print from. I have not experienced a digital camera that can give me the range of light that film can. The second is habit. I have my process down, I’m comfortable with it, it’s what works for me.
4. How do you print, digitally or traditional wet darkroom and why?
I print digitally because I have the most control that way over my prints. I used to be a darkroom printer and I’ve also tried platinum, but I like, for example, to be able to control localized contrast and sharpening, both of which are problematic in traditional wet darkroom printing.
5: You’ve created two books of your photography. Self published photo books are extremely popular right now but yours are different in that they are very high quality. Most photographers are printing lower quality/priced volumes. Why did you decide to go a higher end project?
I decided to make handmade books filled with original prints because I haven’t found a print on demand option that can produce the level of printing that I like to present my work. Print on demand books are also quite expensive to produce, not that much less than what it costs to produce my handmade books. I think they are perfect for many photographers, it’s just not the kind of presentation I’m interested in for my work.
6: What were some of the challenges you faced in producing your books?
The downside to producing handmade books is the amount of effort, time and upfront costs associated. There are more options to consider, what paper, what binding, what edition size that go into the process. Hand-printing an edition of 60 books with 39 images in the book is a huge undertaking, and I’ve learned, as I’ve gone through it, how to get better at managing my time, but it’s still a huge process.
7: You’ve had numerous gallery exhibitions of your work. How do you see the difference between the ‘gallery’ of a book and images hung on a wall?
The biggest difference is the ability for the artist to control the viewing experience more. Usually, with images hung on a wall, people move to look at images that interest them, they can skip images, or move out of the order the artist intends. With a book, beyond just controlling that viewing experience, you can go beyond just the sense of sight and incorporate touch, sound, text, and other means of telling your story more carefully as well. In addition, a book is a personal experience, it is something usually done alone, and is portable also.
8. You live in Portland, Oregon which does have a reputation as an artist friendly city. Would you agree? What is the attraction for a photographer?
It’s definitely an artist friendly city. There is a large artist population, not just limited to photographers. There are large printmaking, book arts, and graphic arts communities as well. The attraction is to be surrounded by other photographers that are working artists, not just hobbyists, and to also have galleries importing good works to show as well. The point is keep pushing forward, and part of that is being exposed to other good work.
9: You’ve photographed in Nova Scotia and are currently doing work on Salt Spring Island. What;s the attraction of Canada?
There wasn’t an attraction to Canada per se, although Canadians do seem more open to me freely trespassing on their property! I went to both places because they looked like beautiful places to go and photograph, not because they were in Canada. I should say that Canadians have treated me wonderfully, and I’d like to do more work there.
10. You have a site, Photo Radio, where you offer sound only interviews with photographers. In these days of YouTube, why radio rather than video?
I don’t know the first thing about video. And frankly, it seems pretty intimidating to me. I’m not sure what you would get from video that you can’t get from audio. I also prefer stripping away the visual at times and just focusing on someone’s words and thoughts, I think it puts everyone on a level playing field.
11. You offer workshops in marketing yourself as an artist. What is the attraction for you of teaching a workshop?
The attraction is being able to share what I have learned in the hopes that the information or experiences that I have will be useful to others. There are so many aspects to being a successful artist, I have always been as open as I can in sharing what knowledge I have with others, I would hope for more of that actually from the entire community.
12. What are your top three tips for anyone wanting to become a fine art photographer?
I only get three? I can’t do less than four!
1- Hone your craft. If you don’t have the foundation to craft good photographs and prints, you’re going to be leaping way ahead of yourself and eventually, you’ll have to come back, so might as well learn to take good pictures and make beautiful prints from the start.
2- Make connections. The biggest part of gaining an audience for your work is through making connections with anyone associated in fine art photographer, whether that be other artists, or curators, or even writers. You never know how someone can help you or your career, so talk to lots and lots of people.
3- Develop a thick skin. There is so much rejection involved with trying to get your work out there, that if you’re sensitive, it will be a problem. I have been rejected so many times I’ve stopped counting, and even though I know it could have very little to do with me or my work, it’s still tough to swallow sometimes.
4- Give back. No matter how much or how little success you experience, you should always try to give back to the community, to nurture younger photographer, to educate, and to encourage sharing, acts that benefit us all.
Lauren Henkin’s site is HERE.