Laura Taylor

Interview 008 • May 23rd 2013


Life is full of twists and turns. Full of things we can't change. In the chaos many turn to things they can control. It helps us cope. It makes us feel a little bit safer. Knowing that there's that one little slice of the pie that won't change unless we want it to.

Artists set constraints in creation, fabricating worlds where thoughts flourish and become reality. These worlds offer escapes of reality, an idealized version of we what life could be, or something else altogether.

In getting to know Laura, I found a woman seeking her own truth in her artistry. Her work takes us to a place blanketed in golden rays of light, where moments last forever and the sense of calm is a warm blanket strewn across our existence. It's a beautiful place that I'm sure many will enjoy visiting.

This interview has been edited for clarity and content.


Tell us a bit about yourself

I grew up in Georgia, mainly. I moved maybe 12 times as an adolescent. I was born in Augusta, moved to Alabama, back to Georgia and then Tennessee and North Carolina… but I just kind of say Georgia is where I grew up because I spent so much time there.

I grew up in the South.

When I was 18, I moved to New York to do a fashion design internship. I had lived in Egypt for a little while, right before. After my experiences in Egypt I was feeling very brave. My ideas about the world had been changed and I had this attitude where I thought If I’m going to live in the United States, I’m going to live in the most challenging city.

I had always been interested in New York. At that point I was doing photography, but before I started shooting I really had an interest in fashion. I felt like I should still explore that idea to see if I ultimately did want to pursue fashion as a career.

So, I found out about an internship online, won the position, and moved up to New York. The internship showed me that I didn’t want to work in the fashion industry. That realization really set in stone for me that photography was what I wanted to pursue. So I worked as an assistant to a photographer for a year in New York City.

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

Living in NYC was hard. I moved out there not really knowing anyone. Well, I knew one person who I’d met through the Internet, who was very sweet and let me stay with his family in Queens for a few days when I got out there, until I found a place to live on Craigslist.

I didn’t have a lot of money or contacts. It was hard. And then the winter rolled around and that… that destroyed my heart. I started getting these ideas about Los Angeles. So after less than two years in NYC, I moved to LA. That was almost 5 years ago.

And L.A. really turned the page for you?

It’s been amazing. I love it. I don’t think that NYC is any worse of a place to live, but I think that for whatever reason things just fell into place for me out here. I met people easily here and very quickly had this sense of community, which is all it boils down to with the place where you live.

I met online photography friends, and through them found people to shoot. I started shooting with people, and started finding models through them. It all just fell into place. The weather here is ideal because I shoot almost entirely with natural light. I wasn’t shooting in New York in the winter. I didn’t want to be outside. And I felt uninspired. I think I have lived here in L.A. longer than I have lived anywhere in my life. This is the first time I have really felt like I can call a place home.

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

What is your day to day with photography?

I actually just got a studio space. I convinced my sister, Lindi, who does hair and makeup, to move to LA. So, we opened a studio together named Taylor L.A. We’re focusing on doing portraits and actor’s head-shots.

I was working at a bakery part-time for over two years and I had this big epiphany last year. I was like What am I doing? I need to be doing photography full-time and I need a space to do it in.

So I quit that job, found this studio, and proposed a plan to my sister about working together as business partners. It was only like a week from the time I put in my notice at my part-time job at the bakery, to me signing a lease for studio space. It was just bam, bam, bam…

Getting a studio wasn’t something that I’d been thinking or talking about. It just sort of hit me one day.

I’m still wanting to do more personal work. I still have my photography that I’m pursuing, but I also need to make money. So I’m kind of wrestling those two worlds… Which is an artist’s eternal struggle, I guess.

It takes a lot of courage to make that leap…

It’s exciting and scary.

I’m several months into this and it’s like Holy Shit, I don’t officially have a real job and I have the addition of this bill for this studio space. The amount I’m paying between my apartment rent and the studio would be the equivalent of a nice house in Georgia. I could be paying a mortgage.

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic JournInterview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

But, you definitely have to make that leap and take that risk in order to receive the gain. When I was working at the bakery, I just felt like I was stagnant, like I didn’t know what to do next, or how to make my career move forward.

The studio is a physical representation of what I do. I’m a photographer. This is my studio. This is where I work. It’s where I can bring clients. I needed that real commitment. I signed a year lease, so I have this thing that I’m bonded to, that means I have to make money and shoot. That’s all I have to worry about when I wake up.

Have you had any new lessons, even just a couple months into it?

I’m still learning so much. There’s a lot that comes with starting a business that you don’t even think about. I’m not a very self disciplined person and that’s always been my struggle.

Historically, it’s really hard for me to say like I wake up at this time every morning, and I spend an hour doing this, and I have to do this many photoshoots a week. I’m not like that. I’m someone who has a wave of inspiration come and will get a ton of work done. But if I’m not inspired then I just won’t shoot.

Now it doesn’t matter if I don’t feel like it. I have to get this work done, be organized, and be prompt about my email messages. I get so overwhelmed with emails and let them sit away. It’s definitely one of my flaws. I’m trying to be better about that, about prioritizing and managing my time.



Anxiety by Laura Taylor -
"I long to create, but have a lot of anxiety that what I make won’t be good enough."

I recently re-went through your portfolio and really enjoyed your approach to video.

It’s been fun for me to explore. I feel like so much of my inspiration is from films. I could watch movies all day. I love making videos and it’s something I’ve dabbled in for several years now. I used to just have a little point and shoot and I would pair these little clips with music. It’s exciting to take these moments that exist individually and piecing them together with sound to tell a story.

It’s challenging for me in a different way than photography is. There are more elements at play, and they can either enhance or distract from the message you’re trying to get across. I’m working on a wonderful web series with some good friends of mine. It should be on the Internet in the next couple of months.

You should explore motion head shots for Taylor L.A.

That’s so funny. I was literally thinking about that today. I have a friend who is an actress, she emailed me today about coming in to check out the studio and to have a shoot. I said Yeah, I want you to come. I was thinking about doing this portrait series with my friends and video portraits.

I’m definitely going to do that – a combination of stills and video portraits. It’s thrilling for people to see themselves on film too. I think we all want to see how we are perceived through someone else’s eyes because it is so often different than how we perceive ourselves. It feels special to be acknowledged in that way.

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

You mentioned being seen through someone else’s eyes. It’s interesting that a portrait can say as much about the photographer as the subject. When I look at your portfolio I get a sense of control, or maybe restraint.

I definitely like that photography gives me a sense of control. It’s my little world and I can make it look however I want. Simplicity and stillness are beautiful to me. It gives me peace to be able to create a space that I want to exist in. I’m a sensitive person. I get overwhelmed with the life happening around and inside me, and photography allows me an escape. A safe place to rest.

So there’s a lot of control involved, but at the same time I really don’t give a lot of direction with models so it’s a give and take. I look for something genuine in my subject that I can relate to. Something that bonds us. It’s usually the quieter moments that I find the most significant.

I like to find the natural way that someone moves. I’m not into telling a model to *put your arm up and over there and do this*. I like to find the nervous tick of a model putting their hair behind their ear. Finding moments like that where I can bring a genuine version of them into my little world.

So going back to earlier, you briefly said something about Egypt… You lived there?

A friend of my sister’s worked on an archeological dig site in Egypt for half the year. She expressed that she needed help with mundane office work there. We weren’t qualified at all, but she hired and trained me and my boyfriend at the time. I was 18.

It was amazing. We lived in Giza, Egypt for five months and worked six days a week. We got to go to the dig site each week, which was right next to the Pyramids. It was my first time out of the country and a life changing experience for me. It shaped my view of the world in a significant way.

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

I didn’t take as many photos as I should have though. At that age I was very shy with my camera. I still am, honestly, when it comes to street photography. We were living in a neighborhood that was all Egyptians. I wanted to be respectful and not impose. But I regret that. I wish I would have been a little more brave. I think there’s definitely a way to go about photographing strangers that isn’t intrusive.

Most of the photos I have are landscapes. I want to go back. I’m a much better photographer than I was then.

I actually made a photo book out of the trip. It’s funny. When I was younger I feel like I was better at social networking. I would make these photo books and sell them on MySpace. I think I have one in a box somewhere. I should find it and send it to you. It wasn’t very good. [laughs]

You were doing a Polaroid series around events and music festivals for a while. Does that shyness with your camera impact assigments like that?

For several years I did a Polaroid series that was based around Coachella for Kanon, a vodka company who no longer is selling in the US. They would hold these big private parties usually hosted by a fashion designer. They wanted me to take all Polaroids which is the best. I would just grab a bunch of film and take pretty pictures of pretty people in the sun.

But approaching people, even in that atmosphere, still weirds me out [laughs]. It’s really hard for me, actually. But when it comes to the Polaroids, it makes it much easier because you have this amazing looking vintage camera that interests people. And people really love having Polaroids taken of them. It’s a novelty.

So it helps that people felt excited about the photos, but it’s still awkward having to interrupt people’s conversations while they’re hanging out at a party. It feels very forced.

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

If someone were to look at your portfolio, what do you want them to take away from it? What do you think you’re trying to communicate?

I guess like any person making art, I want to connect with people. Find something beautiful and share it with others – that’s all I want to do. That’s how I feel I can contribute.

I am absolutely my worst critic. I think I could always work harder at challenging myself and expanding my style. But I’m coming to terms with this being the way that I see the world. I like the softness. Vulnerability is so beautiful to me. I seek it in my subjects. It’s honest.

I didn’t feel very grounded as a kid. After moving a lot, dropping out of high school and moving out of the house at 16, I turned to photography as a place of refuge. There was a lot of stuff in world I wanted to take control of. I wanted create a world that’s a little bit magical, that people can kind of get lost in. Photography became my safe haven. I felt lost, and taking pictures gave me a purpose. It felt like the most natural way to express myself. I always want to create a peaceful space.

Sometimes I wish I did more daring work; or edgier stuff. My stuff isn’t edgy. It’s not abrasive. I definitely think about that every day. I’ve struggled asking myself if my style is too sweet, if it’s too feminine, too soft? It’s just a life long question if I’m saying enough, doing enough.

Am I not pushing myself enough?
Am I not trying different things?
Am I not making enough of a statement?
Should I be shooting homeless people on the street?
Should I be saying something else?

Interview 008: Laura Taylor for The Photographic Journal

How did you family and friends react to starting Taylor L.A.?

My family has been supportive of my photography from the get-go. I didn’t take the traditional college route, and because of that I think that they could’ve been a lot less supportive.

I was nervous that I was being impulsive by quitting my job and signing a lease on a studio. I wasn’t sure how everyone would react. The funny thing is that my friends and family just sort of said Finally… Yes… This is what you need to be doing. You could have done this years ago. We’re so excited for you.It’s been encouraging to have that response from everyone. I couldn’t ask for more supportive people in my life, at all. It’s awesome.

Of course, the idea is to continue to support myself financially with photography. But honestly, I just want to shoot more. I want to finish a personal project, such as the video portrait series, and to collaborate with people I care about. That’s what is important to me. I just want to be making good work that I feel proud to share, and have fun while doing it.