“As an only child, I turned to my imagination to entertain myself,” says photographer Heather Evans Smith. “I even started conceptual photography at this early age, taking photos of my cats in precarious situations. Looking back, I believe this type of childhood molded my art.” Heather is behind Blue, a stunning series that takes a look at grief in a completely different way — by realizing that it permeates through all the beauty around oneself.
After taking photography in college and 10 years as a graphic designer, she dove back into photography as her career path. To make Blue, Heather uses a Nikon D810 and a 35mm prime lens. She rarely uses a reflector and lighting equipment. “I typically shoot in darker rooms with open windows to create a painterly light,” she explains. She doesn’t care about gear — in fact, she had to look in her camera bag to remember what she uses.
Blue is inspired by her father’s death. In her 40s, she started to notice the sadness creep back into her life after being distracted by things like her kids, and life. “Loss during this time in a woman’s life can weigh heavily,” she says in her description of the project. “Children are getting older and need the comfort of a parentless; the health of one’s own parent(s) is starting to fail, and hormonal shifts begin. ” Looking at the series, one can’t help but draw allusions to Picasso.
In fact, Heather states that she was inspired by Picasso’s blue period decades ago. But it wasn’t the primary motivation here. “Wanting to express mid-life depression in women (particularly myself) was my main inspiration for the series,” she states. “I started to think about the slang we use for depression, such as saying, ‘I feel blue’ and ‘having the blues.’ For hundreds of years, this color has been associated with melancholy and sadness.” From there, she started ideating and put her feelings on camera — conceptually speaking, of course.
One image, specifically the one below, is the toughest for Heather though.
“The image Heavy Is The Lightest Thing was an emotional one for me. My dad had a rare heart condition that required him to be weighed every day. If his weight started to creep over 200 pounds he would go into the hospital to have fluid removed. I wanted to show this battle with the scale set a little over 200 pounds. On the scale is a picture of him. When I am shooting, I am so focused on getting the composition right that I don’t think about the subject matter too much. When I am sitting at the computer, going through the images then it starts to hit me. I become the viewer of my image at that point, taking in the emotions.”
Heather’s work is conceptual, and so it is often characterized with fantasy in some way or another. And to that end, she was originally amazed at what AI could do. But after seeing so many of them pop up on her Instagram feed, she lost interest. “I realized that many of them were lacking emotion, or something was a little off,” she states. “I’m sure as AI evolves, this will change, but I don’t have any desire to use it at the moment. Photography is more than just the end product for me.” Heather enjoys the process of finding props and creating sets too much, and that’s how we get beautiful projects like this one from her.