Laurie Klein is a pioneer in the field of infrared and fine art photography with over 40 years of industry experience. She combines technical expertise with a strong passion, a need, to share her visual voice with every photograph she makes. Her process is spiritual and her results transcendent.
“Photography has been my joy of self expression since I was 16. I began my undergraduate work at Rochester Institute of Technology in Bio-Medical Photography. We used infrared film for diagnostic and research purposes.”
Klein’s experience with medical photography early in her career and her curiosity toward the applications of infrared led her to a mentorship under the legendary Ansel Adams.
“My third year at RIT, I studied with Ansel Adams, saw some of his infrared nature photographs, and fell in love with IR.”
What is it about infrared that calls to her so deeply?
“I love this medium, it is so ethereal, otherworldly and I know this makes no sense but I pre-visualize in the infrared spectrum…which of course is impossible to do. IR is not the visible spectrum – that is what makes my statement funny. There are always surprises which I love, especially after using a medium for over 4 decades, but I pretty much know what the image will look like. I like the dreamlike imagery it creates as well as opening up doors for the viewer to become involved in the interpretation.”
Klein’s time with Adams pushed her to develop her own take on infrared photography, her own artistic approach.
“I wanted to be just like Ansel Adams but realized I can never create images like he does, so I needed to figure out what my style was. We are the sum of our history, that is what has led me to my most prominent work – the female form in the landscape.”
Klein achieved success in this endeavor: Adams said of Klein, “Her style is unique, combining a wonderful ability for composition and a sensitivity to her subjects that will carry her to the top of her field. I can’t teach the way she sees and feels.”
Her journey wasn’t without struggle though, particularly in regard to industry developments.
“When digital arrived on the scene I felt like giving up. Film wasn’t broken – why did we have to fix it? I actually stopped photographing during that time. Photography has been one of my longest relationships, and like any relationship it has had ups and downs. I have worked out many of my life experiences through my photography. When Kodak stopped making infrared film that really was a blow to me.”
The advent of digital was one struggle for Klein, but so is the process of carefully creating art. Klein overcame, and overcomes, this by tapping into the root of her soul.
“Often when I go out to shoot with models or clients I freak out: what do I want to say, what am I going to do, what if there aren’t any creative sparks. Usually 3 deep breaths or sometimes a meditation and I can get into a state of heightened awareness that balances me. Then I let go, I have trust and faith in my process, and there is no judgement.”
Klein is not just an acclaimed photographer with museum-featured work, she takes pride in educating aspiring photography students to the best of her (quite incredible) ability.
“When my students show me their work I know more about them then they can imagine. Our photographs are our mirrors in our soul. I love to see how my students are transformed after a workshop I teach. Art is so healing and metaphoric.”
Already well established in infrared, fine art and teaching, Klein was attracted to Lensbaby for its (similar to infrared) different interpretation on reality and penchant for surprises.
“When I first used a Lensbaby I felt like a kid, I felt like I was back in graduate school playing. I was not worrying about the end results as much as playing and pushing boundaries, which I love especially after being in an industry for so long.”
Klein uses Lensbaby lenses for both infrared and non-infrared shooting, but finds a special quality in Lensbaby infrared. Her preference for infrared is the Twist 60, but she also uses the Composer Pro with Sweet 35 and the Velvet 56.
“I feel it warps time and space adding a whole new dimension to infrared imagery. I love the bokeh that is created. For me there is more interpretation. I love stories that are open ended, ask questions and have surprises. It encourages my viewers to participate, bring their own stories while viewing my photos.”
“I am photographing different content and emotions with these remarkable lenses… [they are] unique, playful and creative.”
And if Lensbaby was an animal, what would it be to the whimsical Klein?
“A polar bear. Polar bears live in an area where light can bend.”
You can see more of Laurie Klein’s work and her workshop offerings on her website.
And join her for a Google Hangout on Tea with Laurie.