Can you give us little history of Redhed Photo | Graphic?
Well, my graphic design major in college required that I take at least one photography class and one black and white film studio class which turned into three years of shooting mostly nudes and portraits. I was smitten with the dark room but had no interest in shooting color (now I do nothing but). After college, I didn’t have access to a dark room and didn’t touch a camera for years. I got a 3MP Olympus point & shoot in 2002 and I would take it on walks from time to time. One my my design clients introduced me to Flickr the year they launched and I joined. My obsession with photography was reborn and I loved the community. Over the years, countless opportunities presented themselves by way of people who found my work on flickr. I upgraded my equipment and I decided to pursue photography both as a fine artist and commercially. While I continue to do work as a graphic designer, photography is my true love and I look to work on projects that allow me travel to fascinating places and express myself creatively. I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with great clients like Urban Outfitters, Terrain at Styers, Pantone, Philly Weekly, and the AIA, amongst others.
You have a beautiful range of work from landscapes to documentary to portraits. We particularly like your fashion shoots. How did you get into fashion photography and who have you done work for?
For a long time I was a bit intimidated by the fashion industry; the number of people and resources needed to produce a fashion editorial was a bit overwhelming and didn’t seem accessible. One of my good friends, Sarah Beaver, introduced me to fashion by way of her love of vintage clothing and creative wardrobe styling. We worked together many times, creating small scale indie fashion stories which started off with her modeling and later we went on to work with models, along with hair and makeup stylists. I connected with other models and stylists over the years, including Stacey Appel. Collaborations with Stacey have been published in Iconography Magazine, Eliza, Boho Magazine and she styled the two most recent fashion shoots I did with my Lensbaby Sweet 35 and later the Edge 80. Sarah and I collaborated to produce the images for knitwear designer Cookie A’s most recent book of 25 sock designs: Knit. Sock. Love. which was a fun, challenging project that I am really proud of. Sarah has also designed her own line of jewelry (we never sleep) and I photographed her first lookbook.
It appears that you choose your locations very carefully to compliment the clothing the model wears. Is this how you prefer to work or do you ever use a studio?
When I am preparing to do a fashion shoot, much of the work comes before I ever touch my camera, by way of planning. Sometimes I send photos of my chosen location to my stylist and she builds a theme around it. Other times the stylist will suggest a theme and ask if I have any locations that will work. The entire process is very collaborative: discussing what kind of model we should use, what direction hair and makeup should go, what clothing and accessories she is planning on buying and what props we might incorporate. Right before the shoot we will sometimes scout the location together and envision how the shot will come together. While I like to look at studio fashion work, doing it has never appealed to me much. I prefer to see a narrative come to life in a spectacular or unexpected setting that either helps tell the story or adds an additional layer to it. The location is part of the collaborative process and it always lends something unique, depending upon season or time of day, to the shot.
You’ve incorporated the Lensbaby Edge 80 and Sweet 35 Optics into a few fashion shoots. What makes you decide to bring a Lensbaby lens into your workflow?
The longer I shoot with Lensbaby lenses, the more I enjoy the effects and the extra layer of interest using them creates. It can be a whimsical shift of scale in a scene, abstracting an image, drawing the viewer’s attention to a particular part of an image in an unexpected way, or playing on the dreamy mood – I love that versatility. They really transform the way I envision subjects and I think that helps me grow creatively. There is an element of surprise sometimes to the results, in the best possible way, and I like how that pushes me out of my comfort zone in my image-making process.
You also shoot a lot of abandoned spaces, which have recently gotten some NPR coverage. Tell us how you find these unique spaces and why you like to have these spaces as backdrops for your portrait shoots?
As a little kid I remember seeing decaying, slightly menacing industrial buildings in my hometown and while I found them sort of terrifying, I wanted to know what was going on inside. I joined Flickr not long after moving to Ambler, a town whose dubious claim to fame is that it was once a leading producer of asbestos building products. It still stands in the shadow of the smokestack attached to the Keasby & Mattison Asbestos factory. This was the first abandoned building I explored and photographed. From there I just continued to branch outward, more in the direction of abandoned houses because I loved getting a glimpse of these more personal, smaller stories. Trying to piece those stories together through the little clues left behind or just imagining the story when too few clues remain is part of what I enjoy – part rebuilding and part creating a narrative and part documenting the space. No matter where I am driving or walking, I am always looking for buildings that have -that look-, a touch of neglect, a broken window pane, a rusted out car around back, ivy encroaching. I take an interest in places where maybe no one else has stepped foot in since the last resident left, places whose name has been forgotten. I like shooting these spaces as a documentarian as well as adding a chapter to their history by photographing a fashion story in these places. Sometimes these locations lend a sinister mood or a romantic air; the sense of place is very important to me and time and nature are two very skilled set designers. I like transporting the viewer to a place they would never see or perhaps would pass by everyday, unaware of the amazing things they are missing.
See more of Laura’s work at laurakicey.com