Today we are introducing you Sarah Scott from United States. Sarah is a very talented American photographer who won the 1st place in the Fine Art Category in The Second Half of B&W Child Photo Contest.
Q: Hi, Sarah! First of all, congratulations on winning the 1st Place in The Fine Art Category on B&W Child Photo Competition! Sarah, can you tell us what was the feeling when you find out you won the 1st place in the fine art category? You were competing with currently some of the best child photographers in the world. Your winning photograph “Fragile Heart” won maximum 100 points! You must be feeling really proud?
A:Honestly, I was so shocked that I had to read your email three times – and then I visited your website to be sure it was true! So many inspiring images were submitted. I feel honored to be included.
Q:It’s such a joy to do this interview with you and introduce your work to many photographers from all around the globe who are part of our community. Can you tell us more about you? Do you have an official education in photography or your education background has nothing to do with photography?
A: I have no formal training in photography. My educational background includes an undergraduate degree is in Psychology, with a minor in Art History, and a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy. I tried to enroll in the entry level Photography course at my University as an elective but it never worked out because Fine Art majors were given priority enrollment and the seats always filled.
Q: When and how did your love affair with photography begin?
A: About 4 years ago, my family left America to live in England for a year. Before we left, I bought my first DSLR so that I could document our life abroad and share images with loved ones back home. Like all parents, I was completely fascinated by my daughter, who was just 2 years old at the time. And England – full of charming villages, lovely people, endless countryside and a perfect pace of life – won my heart at once. Filled with awe and surrounded by beauty, I soon found myself with a camera in my hands every day and staying up late at night to read about how to more effectively capture it all. So, despite a long held interest in photography, the love affair is still quite new.
Q: You style could be described as a combination of fine art, lifestyle and documentary. Looking at your photographs seems like you are successfully “stealing” magical moments of child’s life. How did you find your style?
A: I love your choice of words– what a lovely description. Like all photographers, my style is an offshoot of who I am as a person. I am deeply interested in how people feel and how people connect. I enjoy observing how people can become lost in their own world, in relating to each other or in an activity that they are doing – a state of being that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as “flow”. And, as you mentioned, I do see magic and symbolism in small moments or in everyday details. As a parent who does not work outside of the home, these interests are indulged on a daily basis. Watching two little lives unfold and witnessing their first experiences with aspects of the world we take for granted is magical. As is their complete emotional transparency – how children feel about themselves, others and the world is often shared with intensity and without pretense or hesitation. My days can be demanding but I find myself very inspired by my children’s raw, honest emotion and the way they constantly remind me that ordinary moments are anything but. All of these things lead me to photograph what I do and how I do but I like to think my style is fluid and changes alongside my personal growth.
Q: The little girl we have seen so often in your work is your daughter we assume?
A: Yes, it is. My daughter and son are often the focus of my photographs.
Q: Are there any photographers you admire?
A: Tons! My education in photography has not yet caught up to my interest, so there are still gaps in what I know as well as whom I know. But, like many, I admire Dorthea Lang, Vivian Maier, Linda McCartney and Sally Mann. I recently found and loved Alain Laboile’s work, as well as Dorothy Padilla’s “Family Love” project, which completely blew my mind. I also have such admiration for Deb Schwedhelm’s work in the water, Anna Christine Larson’s lifestyle photography, Nicolas Bouvier’s landscapes as well as the poet-photographers Roxanne Bryant and Amy Grace. I also admire the tight circle of friends and online acquaintances that I’ve connected to in the last year. There are too many of them to name but I am grateful for the way each one encourages me, inspires me and broadens my horizons.
Q: What is your “formula” for image editing? Do you edit in Photoshop or Lightroom?
A: When I began editing images 4 years ago, I used Photoshop Elements and a few action sets but about a year ago I decided to take full control over my editing process. So, I switched to Lightroom, bought video tutorials from Photography Concentrate and studied how every single slider functioned. At first, I would edit and reset images repeatedly and my completed edits felt very far from the mark. It was frustrating and I often thought about going back to the formula that I knew – Photoshop and actions – but I forced myself to stick it out and I’m glad I did. In Lightroom, I don’t have a formula as I did before – other than a good clean edit to start out with – and I still have so much to learn, but I really enjoy the process of creating photographs from the ground up and feel very connected each one.
Q: It seems like your heart belongs to B&W Photography? Why is that so?
A: My goal for this year is to spend more time exploring color but it is true that my heart belongs to black and white photography. I have been asked if I create mostly monochromatic images because I do not like color and the answer is no – I love color. Further, I respect how a single color can evoke a massive emotional response. In careful hands, color can be an unmatched, very powerful tool. Not to mention, a good black and white conversion relies on a strong initial color edit as its foundation. But, as a person, I seek minimalism and, for now, my photographs seek simplification too. Stripping my images of color seems to allow the subject, often a mood or small moment, to rise more effortlessly to the surface.
Q: What cameras and lenses can be found in your gear bag?
A: My camera is the Nikon D3s and my lenses are the Nikon 50mm, f1.8 lens and the Lensbaby Composer Pro Double Glass Optic.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve received about photography over the years?
A: That is hard to narrow down but the first thing that came to mind was an interview about creative work with Ira Glass. He said that every artist goes through a period of feeling disappointed with the work they are doing. They feel this agonizing gap between their ambitions and their skill. And a lot of beginners take this as a sign to give up. Mr. Glass reminds us that this frustration is a normal part of the creative process. And that the only way to get closer to making something we are proud of is to work – to do a lot of work – to close that gap. I love this message so much. It reminds me to respect the blood, sweat, tears and years behind the talent I admire in others – and to give my own creative process the time and hard work it needs to improve.
Q: Photography equals learning. Can you tell us how and where do you learn?
A: Much of my learning has been done through books, online tutorials, discussions with friends and good old-fashioned trial & error. Last summer, however, I took my first photography course online through ClickinMoms. And in January, I had a powerful mentorship with Roxanne Bryant that fundamentally transformed how I understand and work with color. Next month, I will take an online workshop with Deb Schwedhelm – to build on the incredible mentorship she has provided informally over the years – and later in the year, I hope to take another online workshop with Summer Murdock. I strongly believe in taking time out to learn. I also believe in seeking out mentors. Showing your work to a master is a truly humbling experience and not for the faint of heart. But hearing their unbiased view of your work, their specific instruction on how to improve it and allowing them to help you view your own images with more objectivity can be the most valuable learning you will ever do.
Q: What is your biggest challenge when photographing?
A: I often photograph small children who move quickly and unpredictably, so getting my camera settings adjusted before their mood or activity changes can be quite challenging. Photography, like parenthood, teaches one to not only adapt to chaos, but to embrace it.
Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment as a photographer?
A: Winning this competition – such a thrill!
Q: How important for every photographer is to participate in quality photography contests?
A: I think it is very important to periodically go through your entire body of work and evaluate it. To see your growth as an artist, where your strengths and weaknesses lie, which images are your strongest, what common threads or themes emerge – all of this is so valuable. Quality photography contests are a great motivation to do this sort of assessment and submitting to one can be an outward symbol of pride in the good work you have done – not to mention it is so exciting!
Q: What is your message to other photographers?
A: In the last four years, I have been fortunate to have the support of so many talented, thoughtful people. Two types of supporters have been essential: mentors and champions. My mentors exposed my weaknesses, taught me new skills, tore down my creative boundaries and helped me honestly evaluate my photographs – all with wisdom, kindness and true care. My champions, dear friends Marisa and Allie, instinctively grasp the nuances of my photographs, enthusiastically share how it impacts them, fiercely support my style and lift my spirits when I’m in a rut. Together, the roles these women play allow me to make meaningful changes to my creative process while staying confident in my own way of seeing the world. My message is to find these supporting characters in your own story – let the mentors push you out of your comfort zone as the champions cheer you on. And, look for the opportunity to play these supporting roles for others. Your kind word or constructive comment could steady the course of a new artist’s journey – giving them the tools or confidence they need to share their heart more completely.