Lauren Welles's New York Street Photography


I first met Lauren Welles at the Palm Springs Photo Festival's portfolio reviews. I thought she had some solid work and a good eye but needed time to develop a voice and a style. Well, here we are a few years later and she has come a long way. I love her NYC street and subway photographs. She has become masterful at composition and using multiple layers in her photographs. Lauren Welles exemplifies how passion, talent and hard work are a powerful combination that can produce a highly evolved photographer in a relatively short amount of time. Lauren Welles is the definition of an Emerging Photographer that has truly emerged. I present to you Lauren Welles in words and photographs.

1) So you went from corporate lawyer to street photographer. Where do I begin? What changed and why?

The less obvious question is can I explain this briefly!?!  The paving of the lawyer road began early on, albeit unconsciously. In school, I was the proverbial overachieving, straight-A student.  I had strong opinions and voiced them often. I was labeled “smart” and I think that became a pretty important identity for me. Lawyers were “smart,” so becoming one helped me secure that identity. There were other things that I was much more passionate about, like music and all things artistic, but I got the most validation from being smart, so, I stayed in that lane.  Ten years into the lawyering gig, I bought a camera and took an intro photography class.   I loved it--felt like a kid, time slowed down.  I had forgotten what that felt like and it stood in stark contrast to the unfulfillment I felt in my career.   The dissatisfaction gnawed at me constantly, but the thought of leaving a secure paycheck to follow a feeling to “only-god-knows-where” seemed irresponsible and just plain ludicrous.  So for the next six years, I stayed put and pursued photography as a hobby, taking pictures while walking to work and doing workshops here and there. Then I woke up one day so sick and tired of being afraid.  It now seemed ludicrous to stay in something that took up so much of my time and energy in the ironic name of "making a living."  It wasn't a living, it was a security blanket. So I quit.   

Why street photography? I love people-watching and trying to understand what makes them tick.  With a camera in hand, I get to do that and be creative as well--pretty good combo in my book.  I try to pay the rent doing other types of photography that are a tad more lucrative than street photography (primarily events and real estate), which I enjoy as well.  It's still pretty scary, as the road remains unpaved, but, at this point, I'd rather be scared moving toward something, than running away from it.  It's a bit ironic because many people tend to take more risks when they're younger, becoming more cautious as they get older.  I'm sort of going in the opposite direction (or maybe I'm just a female version of Benjamin Button!).

2) I love the way your photos compel me to figure out a back story and a narrative for the subjects in each image. Is that in anyway your intention? Are you thinking in terms of a story when you shoot? 

Thanks! The only things I'm thinking about when I shoot are a sense of graphic order and something that attracts me emotionally to at least one of the subjects.  I often find symmetry in the body shapes and positions of people, who could be viewed as characters in a story, but I only notice a potential story after I’ve taken the picture.

3) Give me names! Three photographers, three authors and three friends or family who have inspired you and how.

-Sylvia Plachy--Her photos express a kind of intimacy and grace that strongly tug at me.
-Cartier-Bresson--geometry class could have been far more interesting if his photos were used to teach it.   
-Robert Meyer--A commercial photographer and teacher, I TA'd one of his lighting classes last winter.  He knows his stuff and is incredibly passionate about teaching his craft.  He never once talked about himself, or his own work during class--he let his teaching speak for itself.  That's pretty rare in this profession!

-Tom Robbins-- His books are one of the few that make me do the hyena laugh.  And I think his writing and perspective on things are brilliant. I could quote him all day long.  “There are only two mantras, yum and yuck, mine is yum.”
-Paulo Coehlo--His book, “The Alchemist” is one of my favorites.  It’s message--to seek your own meaning in life.
-Rumi--his poems are full of wisdom; “The Guest House” is one of my favorites.

-My dad--In some ways, he's like a zen master; he doesn’t need much to enjoy life. He’ll often sit and watch the clouds go by, completely content.  
-My brother--(who will definitely fall off his chair after reading this!) He doesn’t waste his time with stuff that doesn’t work for him. He was studying restaurant management and, with only two weeks left in the program, he realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do and quit on the spot, no backup plan or pot to piss in.  He then built a business from scratch, flying by the seat of his pants and made it a success.  Ballsy and very typical of him.
-My good friend Julie (affectionately known as "Guti").  She lights up a room simply by being herself--kind, easy-going, accepting. She fits in anywhere and has nothing to prove.  I love that!

4) I think your work has matured and evolved very quickly in just a couple of years. Do you agree? If you do, what do you attribute this rapid growth?

I would agree that my work has matured. I'm not sure whether it's rapid growth or simply that after watering and tending to the seeds for a while, the plant "suddenly" begins to sprout.  I do know one thing--during a portfolio review a couple of years ago, a reviewer (it was you actually!) told me to get closer to my subjects.  I shoot with a DSLR and it can definitely be scary sticking a fairly big camera in a stranger's face without permission.  Once I got over that, I think it freed up a lot of my energy to just enjoy the "seeing" process.  After that, something seemed to click.

5) OK, last question... What two objects do you own that you couldn't live without?  

My camera, of course!  And, since a lot of my close friends and family live out of state or in other countries, I would say my phone or some kind of computer device that allows me to stay in touch with them.

© Lauren Welles 2014



PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue



Tout VTS


Tout VTS


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