Photographer Sarah Loreth’s Fine Art Surreal Portraits

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All images by Sarah Loreth. Used with permission

We tend to interview lots of surreal portrait photographers here, but the work of Sarah Loreth particularly stands out for the sole reason that she puts in loads of effort to do everything in the camera. Of course, she wasn’t always that way.

Sarah was interviewed by us before about how travel photography and how she quit her job in the medical world to pursue her creative dreams. But what we weren’t aware of is that she does a lot more than just shoots beautiful landscapes. Sarah is also a heck of a portrait photographer with ideas fueled by her emotions and that use the areas that she travels to as her personal canvas.

Phoblographer: We know that you’re a travel photographer for work via the workshops that you do, but every photographer has something on the side that they do just for themselves. What attracted you to fine art and conceptual portraits?

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Sarah: Photography for me has always been a form of therapy. A couple of years before I started photography, I had been working a very stressful operating room job and never quite found a way to cope with the demands. I was also battling horrible social anxiety and agoraphobia. I would go from work to home and back again. Then in June 2010 I picked up a camera and started taking shy self portraits. I found being able to tell stories and trying out different characters allowed me to find more confidence in myself. Photography changed my life. Creating gave me a reason to get out of bed every morning. It gave me a reason to push myself. I started leaving the house. I started working with models. I fell in love with creating stories through the lens. I loved being able to take what I was feeling and turn it into something productive. Four years later I was traveling the country hosting workshops teaching conceptual photography to anyone who wanted to learn!

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Phoblographer: Talk to us about your love of fire and the surreal fairy tale type of stuff.

Sarah: Fire is one of my favorite tools and it’s a powerful tool for expression. To me it symbolizes destruction and consequently the ability to grow again in more fertile soil. I’ve always been drawn to fairy tales and magic because it helps me see magic in my own life in all the little things.

Phoblographer: Where do you feel that your inspiration comes from?

Sarah: My inspiration comes mostly from emotions. I tend not to work with a lot of props. I generally take an emotion I’m feeling that day, find a landscape that suits it, and tell my story around that. I like to work with as many natural elements as possible to tell my stories a bit more organically and cost effectively. All I need is an expressive model, my camera, and a location and I’m good to go!

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Phoblographer: What are you usually trying to express in these images?

Sarah: I want my viewer to see themselves in the image. I want them to spend time with the character and feel what they are feeling. I want people to connect with the emotion in the photo as a way in understanding the power of vulnerability.

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Phoblographer: Your images range from the very blue and bleak to the very warm and inviting. Is this intentional? Why do you feel that this is?

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Sarah: I tend to shoot what I am feeling that day. There was nothing more therapeutic to me than taking a self portrait after a long day in the operating room trying to make sense of things. It’s not exactly intentional, I just shoot as my mood shifts. If I’m feeling stressed or sad I’ll shoot a bleaker photo. If I’m happy my photos tend to be warmer.

Phoblographer: Do you ever go through times where you feel like your creative energy is being sapped or needs to evolve? How do you get out of the rut?

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Sarah: All the time. I tend to feel less creative when I’m feeling overworked or busy. Ideas don’t come as easy. Creativity is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. In the same way, the less you use it, the weaker it becomes. To get out of that creative block I like to sit down in a quiet room and let my mind go. Sometimes I will pick a book of my favorite poetry and plop my finger down on a line with the intention of recreating the stanzas visually. I also keep a journal with me at all times to write down ideas that strike me or quotes that inspire me.

“Sometimes the background itself really adds to a story and I like to think of each part of the photo like a canvas. You have to paint each part individually before it comes together as a whole.”

How much of the work is done in camera and how much is generally photoshopped in?

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Sarah: It depends on the photo or concept. My first two years of photography I relied very heavily on Photoshop to create my images with a lot of compositing. These days I like to get as much in camera as possible and only play around with colors. But I tend to always expand my images using the Brenizer Method as a way of controlling the whole scene. Sometimes the background itself really adds to a story and I like to think of each part of the photo like a canvas. You have to paint each part individually before it comes together as a whole.

Phoblographer: Where do you envision your photography being a year from now? How will you get there?

Sarah: More than anything I just want to travel, experience, and document. I want to continue to photograph my experiences and tell stories. I want my work to evolve with me. I want to live simply and have my photography reflect that. I want to inspire others to do so. I hope to achieve that by continuing to take opportunites that come my way and to seek opportunities. I want to continue to teach. But most of all, I just want to travel.

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