All images by Lauren Parker. Used with permission.
We found photographer Lauren Parker by way of EyeEm. She is a 21-year-old wedding and conceptual portrait photographer currently based in Portland, Oregon, “I’m always dreaming up the next adventure and am endlessly fascinated with the concept of time, the connection of humans to land, and finding the art and beauty in everything,” says Lauren.
Though she’s only been photographing for a couple of years, Lauren quickly mastered a skill that takes many people a decade to master: self-expression. And through creative thinking, she translates this into her photography.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Lauren: I officially got into photography on January 1, 2010 when I made the impulse decision to do a 365 project after previously not being serious about photography or even really knowing that it was a profession at all. But I had been fairly familiar with Flickr and lurked for a while and was interested in the daily documentation process. It was the best impulsive moment of my life.
But even in my younger days I was always documenting, I can’t tell you how many disposable camera photos of neighborhood cats I have, haha! And I recently discovered that my late grandfather explored photography, so I like to think it’s been in my genes from the very beginning.
Phoblographer: What got you into portraits?
Lauren: Like most people, I was really into self portraits not only as therapy, but also because I’m always an available model. Self portraits were mostly what I looked at (Kalie Garrett, Karrah Kobus, Natalie Kucken, and Rosie Hardy left such a huge impression on me), so I gravitated towards doing that in my own work.
At one point though I knew I was limiting myself and started photographing my friends and family (sometimes having to bribe my sister with candy to get her to pose). I just love the emotion that can be portrayed in portraits, but I think even more so, I love being able to meet other creative, beautiful, kind people through photography. Doing portraits is my excuse to surround myself with inspiring individuals.
Phoblographer: What inspires you to create the surreal images that you do?
Lauren: Sometimes it’s being in nature, sometimes it’s a poem or a song lyric or a word. But sometimes it’s also just messing around in Photoshop and combining formal art elements. In my “Aurora” photo, for example, I was just playing with the color of the grass and really loved the deep purple look. Then formally, I wanted to add a contrasting color, so I photoshopped some green Northern Light photos that I shot the night before into the sky. Whenever I take one step with a piece, I think to myself, “Now how can I take this one step further?”
Phoblographer: When you go about creating these images, how do you go about interacting with your subject? Do you storyboard? What’s the communication process like?
Lauren: This really depends on each image. Most of the time I draw out what I want the image to look like. Sometimes it’s more spontaneous, like “Undertow”, where my friend Spencer (the model) and I thought, “Okay, we have this net, we’re going to the ocean today, what can we do to tell a story that’s not a cheesy beach photo?” I always love hearing the ideas of my subjects because they always bring something unique to the shoot.
My Mad Max inspired shoot was similar in that our original location ended up not working out, so we thought about what we could do at the sand dunes instead. It was such a last-minute change in plans but we both were excited about the idea. Other shoots, such as one I shot at Independence Mine last year was completely storyboarded and we had a schedule of events and a mood board.
With my subjects, I always try to make them feel comfortable and confident. I was right in the freezing ocean with Spencer and we were both laughing and having the time of our lives. It’s all about bringing positive energy and confidence and belief in the concept, both my own and my model’s. It becomes a team effort, where we are working collaboratively to create something. But specifically with the communication process, I will talk to them about the feeling or mood that I want to portray, and then go from there, sometimes showing them how I want them to pose, sometimes working more in the background, getting candid shots while they play an instrument or try to wrangle sheep around.