To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that bring me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.
# 9: REVEALING BEAUTY
I try to find beauty in all things, but I am most drawn to what resonates with my own personal truths. And because life is never simple, and because there is always a layer of Light and Dark in everything, I deeply admire those who can convey all of the nuances of complex emotions. When I am knee deep in Love or Fear or Loneliness or Joy or Sadness, it sometimes feels like I am the only one who has felt that way and that no one could understand what this is like.
I’m pretty sure I’m never going to say this again because as we all know, I’m perfect, but in this one lone case, I am wrong. And I’m glad about it.
We are never the only one. Someone else has waded in those same trenches.
Carolyn Hampton amazes me. It is a special gift to be able to translate the remnants of dreams and nightmares and memories and recreate them in a way that others find striking and memorable. It is an even rarer talent to move a moment from being just a deeply personal experience to a shared work that is relatable.
This one is my personal favorite. I look at it often:
EJL: I’m currently working the Instagram grind right now and I don’t want to brag or anything, but a lot of my pictures aren’t even blurry. How many more weeks do you think I need to practice before I start taking pictures like you? How long have you been a photographer?
CH: I got my first 35 mm camera when I was ten because my parents were willing to support all of my interests. Since no one else in my family owned a camera, I became the official family photographer. I went to Africa when I was 25 and shot fifty rolls on safari. The light there is so beautiful. After my daughter was born, I took it more seriously. But it wasn’t until 2009 when I was shooting for fun in an abandoned hospital, and I started remembering recurring childhood dreams, that I began focusing on my photography.
EJL: If I’m not immediately good at something, I’m not interested. Of course, every time I discover that I lack a particular skill, I’m shocked. I took up speed skating in my late 20′s and quit three months later. When I started, I thought for sure I was going to be an Olympic contender. Have you always had an eye for photography? If not, what compelled you to stay in the grind?
CH: I stayed with it when I was younger because I liked preserving a moment. I can still remember how I felt or what I was wearing when I took a particular picture. The more successful I am at recreating what’s in my head and the closer I am to that truth, the happier I am. For me, photography is something I enjoy so much. It’s almost therapeutic.
EJL: I’m floored by the way you conceptualize some of these shots. My brain doesn’t even work that way. Where do you get your inspiration?
CH: I can remember far back into childhood, and a lot of my work is based on recurring dreams and memories or fairy tales. Late at night, I think of things and sketch stick figures or make notes in a notebook I keep by the bed. I spend a lot of time planning afterwards, scouting locations, picking the wardrobe, and discussing the concepts with my daughter.
EJL: Your daughter is the focal point of so much of your work. Has she always been down for it?
CH: Definitely not! I’m grateful for that though. She would give me so little time in the beginning that I knew I had to get the shot quickly because there were a million other things she’d rather be doing. I spend a long time planning, but the actual shoot is often less than five minutes. I think the redhead enjoys it more now because it’s been a way for her to understand where I’m coming from and what my childhood was like. It really is a family affair. My husband often carries gear or holds the reflectors and some of these shoots take us to places we normally wouldn’t go. We’ve shot in abandoned hospitals and prisons…which was a perfect scared straight moment for her.
EJL: Prison scares me too. Which is why I try to act right at least some of the time. What’s your best life or work advice?
CH: It’s important to be well liked. People want to be around others they like more than someone who is just brilliant. Also, it’s important to be nice to everyone. Too many people are invisible.
And know what’s most important. Life gets easier when you can make that distinction.
SEE CAROLYN HAMPTON’S WORK IN PERSON:
Solo exhibition (Opening reception and book signing June 7th from 6-8 pm)
June 7-July 13, 2013
Duncan Miller Gallery
2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404