Thursday, February 23, 2012

Photographer Interview with Susannah Conway

Hello Dear Ones,
Happy Thursday.
You are in for such a treat today.
Do you know Susannah Conway?  She doesn't travel in many of the typical Mommy Blogger circles many of us travel in....but trust me, after today, you are going to adore this woman.
I love her pictures. I just know you are going to love them as well.
Susannah's work is different and unique.
Her images will help you see the world in a whole new light.
Susannah is from across the pond, but she loves the US, especially NYC.
Get ready to be amazed.

How many years have you been shooting? Can you tell us your story about how you got started? 

I first fell in love with photography at art college in 1992. I remember developing my first roll of film and looking breathlessly at the contact sheet realising I’d found the way to transcribe what I saw in my head onto paper. 
I studied photography for the next three years, basically living in the studio and darkroom, totally committed to my art. Back then there weren’t any digital cameras, and I didn’t even own a computer, so it was all chemicals and film and I loved it. 

The second time I fell in love with photography was in Seattle in 2006. It was my first time in the States and I was still grieving the death of my partner the year before. 
I’d brought a borrowed digital compact with me to record the week and taking shots of a new city not only brought me out of my grief for a while but seemed to wake up the photography part of my brain too. 
Looking through my photos when I got home lit such a fire of inspiration in me I bought a Canon DSLR and taught myself how to use Photoshop. Then I discovered Holga photography, which rekindled my love for film. I now mainly shoot with my Polaroid SX-70. 
What do you love the most about being a photographer?
I am obsessed with making images. Even if no one ever saw my photographs I would still take them every day. 
I like to record where I’ve been and how I felt. I see vignettes everywhere I go. Taking photographs calms me down and makes me happy, basically :)
What is your favorite sort of event to shoot? 

I don’t shoot events -- i'm not that sort of photographer. Instead, I shoot my everyday life. That is an event in itself! So wherever I am I have a camera in my hand, even if it’s just my iPhone.

Your blog is such a mix of things. Some days the words are plentiful. And some days the words are few but the image speaks all the words that are needed to say. How do you know when to talk and when to just be quiet?
It all depends on how I feel. As a photographer sometimes I feel that the pictures are enough. As I writer sometimes I want to blather on about whatever’s swirling around my head. 
Your style is so edgy and completely unique! Can you tell us about your mad love for polaroids and how that has defined your style somewhat?
I learned the photography ropes shooting film at art school, so I guess it was inevitable that I’d go back to film. It’s hard to explain why I prefer shooting Polaroids — it’s the quality of the film… the softness and hint of nostalgia. 
The way the film translates the light, and how it works with the camera and my eye. I also appreciate the imperfections — digital is so exacting and perfect, while instant film feels more organic. 
I don’t photograph ‘things’ but rather look for pictures that say something to me emotionally. I’m very drawn to ordinary everyday scenes that contain interesting details, that remind me of something from the past, maybe, or just simply have pleasing shapes and colours and a sense of harmony. 
Tell us all about your workshops! What made you start? What has been the greatest aspect of opening yourself to these?
In 2008 I was asked to run an evening class at a local arts centre and I immediately knew I wanted to combine photography with the self awareness work I had been chronicling on my blog. 
I taught my very first Unravelling: Ways of Seeing My Self class to ten women in a small classroom in Bristol, and by the end of the six weeks I’d seen so many breakthroughs I knew the course was ready to be shared with more women. 
In January 2009 I launched the first Unravelling class online and the course has been going from strength to strength ever since. I get such a buzz knowing that I am reaching out to so many women around the world, sharing what I know.
Communities are built, healing happens and dreams are uncovered, and every single email, card and testimonial I receive lets me know that I am truly being of service – it’s the most fulfilling and rewarding work I’ve ever done.

You have two books coming out this year - Instant Love: How to Make Magic and Memories with Polaroids in May, and This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart in June. Tell us about that process! Did you ever imagine you would be an author when you were growing up?
Actually yes, I’ve always dreamed of being an author as I spent my entire childhood with my nose in a book. I found photography at the end of my teens but it was writing that seduced me long before then. I’ve always been an avid note-keeper and journaller.
This I Know came about with a bit of serendipity: In 2009 I shared on my blog that I wanted to write an Unravelling book; a few weeks later I received a quick email from Nikki Hardin, founder & publisher of skirt! magazine, saying if i ever put a proposal together she’d love to read it. 
So I wrote a proposal, sent it to Nikki who passed it on to the editor of the skirt imprint at Globe Pequot Press. One revision and a sample chapter later I signed my book deal in NYC in September 2010.
Instant Love happened because my friend and fellow Polaroid photographer Jen Altman emailed me and another photog, Amanda Gilligan, with an idea for a Polaroid book she thought we could write together. We sent a proposal to Chronicle Books and, luckily, they loved the idea too. 
I saw that your mom pre-ordered your books. Doesn't that make you beam? What other ways does your mom support you?
My mum has always been my biggest cheerleader, no matter where I was or what I was doing. My family is very small — just my mum, my sister, their partners and my nephew — so we are really close and support each other through the ups and the downs.  
You adore your nephew, Noah. How often do you get to spend time with him? What are your favorite things to do with him?
I try to go stay with my sister at least twice a month, if not more. I love when they come to visit me, but it’s spending time with Noah in his own house, with all his favourite toys and routines, that I appreciate the most. 
I love to do all the everyday things that I miss out on when I’m not there — like making his dinner and doing the bedtime routine. We’re always playing — which is probably why he loves his Auntie Susie so much ;-)
When did you know you had to leave a traditional career and pursue photography and all things inspirational? 
My path to the work I do now has been a bit unconventional. After I lost my partner in 2005 I was unable to work, so my previous life as a journalist disappeared. 
Thirteen months after he died I started writing a blog and it was from that humble beginning that I found my way back to my creativity, through photography and journalling. I didn’t want to go back to my old life — or my old profession — so when my classes took off I knew I’d found my new true vocation.
Do you ever want to go into the portrait making business?
I did try that for a year or so when I first got back into photography. I thought that was what a “real photographer” was supposed to do, but as I discovered, even though I enjoyed making beautiful pictures for my clients, it wasn’t work that lit me up. 
I’m too introverted to be out with clients every day. It suits me better to be behind the screen writing books and leading courses.
You have a good network of photographer friends because of your blog. Did you ever imagine that would happen when you first began your blog?
No, when I started blogging it really was just for me. I’d made a few friends online so I had some readers when I started, but I didn’t know that I’d make as many connections as I have done. I’ve made some of my best friends through my blog. 
In many ways it was easier to get to know people when I started blogging (in April 2006) as there seemed to be less noise back then. Now Twitter and Facebook have upped the volume!
If a magazine called and said they wanted you to do a shoot for them, what magazine would you hope it would be? 
Gosh, that’s a hard question! My favourite magazine at the moment is Kinfolk so it would be lovely to do a shoot for them.
Have you always loved vintage things? What has been your favorite find? 
Yes, I’ve always had an eye for vintage finds. I collect dusty old cameras and love mid-century enamelware and furniture — I have lots of Cathrineholm pieces, an Ercol daybed and a G-plan sideboard that I inherited from my mum.
 As I work from home, being surrounded by vintage-y goodness makes my eyes happy :)
What are your favorite photography actions to use on your art work?
I don’t use any actions on my Polaroid scans — all I do in Photoshop is correct the colour to make the scan as close to the original as possible. I’ve picked up a few actions over the years to use on digital shots — my favourites are by Wynona Robison.

If someone called and asked you to shoot their entire wedding with a Polaroid, do you think you would do it?
No, it would be too much responsibility! However, my friend Jen does shoot weddings on Polaroid so I would give them her number.
If you could go on a vacation any where in the world and the only requirement was you did a photojournalism spread for a magazine while you were there, what place would you want to go?
New York City. I’ve only visited once and I’m beyond excited that I get to go back this year for my book tour. I felt so at home in NYC, like I’d been there hundreds of times before. 
Do you have a blogging schedule? How often do you like to blog each week?
I don’t have an official blogging schedule as any time I’ve tried it just stifles me and I rebel and don’t stick to it. So I just try to blog about three times a week, sometimes more if I have lots to share, less if I’m busy working on other writing projects.

I told you that you would love her!
You didn't want this interview to end, did you?
Please go and visit Susannah Conway's blog right here!
Take her class.
Get her book.
You can tweet with her,
instagram with her and pin with her to your heart's delight!

Susannah Conway is all that and a bag of chips! 
I am so grateful she took the time to answer all of these nitty gritty questions. What a blessing.


Sharon said...

I just loved her vintage style and everything is just so....pretty. Thanks Becky!

Caroline said...

Ohhhh...I love her work...have been following her for years. Thank you for sharing her work with others who may not have known about her.

Manisha said...

Those really were lovely images. I was immediately love-struck by the soft lighting! So many things resonated with me in this interview: the preference for imperfections, the need to put what's in the mind on paper and this: "Even if no one ever saw my photographs I would still take them every day." I can relate to that. I loved the blues in her shots! Thanks so much for this!

caitlin elizabeth said...

oh goodness - this is beautiful!!! i also love the feel of your blog, the wood background is so cute :)

Laura D said...

I really enjoyed this interview and loved looking at her photography...I love that she captures the everyday and in such a stylish way...I am in agreement that I love the line about taking pictures regardless of who sees them..another great interview..

He & Me + 3 said...

Love her style of photography and I adore all the details of her life. Gorgeous.

Heather said...

Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance! HeatherVonsj(at)gmail(dot)com

Bea, OT said...

Gosh, you always find the interesting photographers! I love your interviews and eagerly look forward to them! Thank you for sharing!

Susannah Conway said...

Thanks for having me, love, it's an honour to be here! and thank you so much for your kind comments, ladies! :) xx

Charisma Moran said...

Love her work! Great interview!

Casey said...

Gorgeous!! Love the style. Off to check out more of her work!...

heather nan said...

Susannah! Loved this interview... such heartfelt and beautiful imagery.

Kinfolk is too one of my favorite publications... with your writing and images, you'd be a perfect match. I've done a couple future projects with them and they are so great to work with them! DO IT!

As always Becky, wonderful interview!

photowannabe said...

What a wonderful interview. I like someone who is comfortable in their own skin.
Susannah does such beautiful, creative work.
I enjoyed this completely.

H.K. said...

I am definitely not a photography expert, but I loved the muted colors in the pictures. I noticed a lot of soft yellow undertones which made the pictures more earthy. It makes me realize how much I need to take more pictures!

lifebythecreek said...

I am in love! I grew up with Polaroid photography, using it up until the early 2000's. Not like THIS... now I feel like I need to go dig up our old camera and try it out again. Amazing vision, deep wisdom, and a realization that when your world totally changes, sometimes you simply cannot stay on the same path. So glad you found this new one, Suzanne... your walk is beautiful.

Raymonde said...

Inspiring interview Becky, just what I needed. Thank you. :)

What an artist she is!

Melinda said...

How unique that you shoot in Poloroid! I believe mine is still sitting in a box out in my shed..I haven't given much thought to it for years! I would have never thought of scanning them in and then photoshopping them.. you have a lovely style all your own!

Teresa said...

Becky, you were right, I didn't want this interview to end. Thank you both for bringing these lovely words and images to us today. Susannah, the way you find the harmony in composition is so wonderful. The unique way you see beauty is perfect with the soft, nostalgic tones of the Polaroid. And that you found this love in the wake of grief is just so inspiring. I am a fan, and look forward to seeing more!

Jennifer @ Studio JRU said...

Oh I love these photographs. And they come out like they do... all pretty and soft?! Love that! I love how Susannah said even if no one ever saw her photographs she would still take them every day. That is beautifully said and shows her heart so well! The photo of the pink flowers looking at the sky... gorgeous! :) Wonderful interview Becky!

Anonymous said...

Dear Becky, I really enjoyed your friends pretty pictures. She has a unique view of the world. The name Susannah reminds me of your best friend growing up. We love her. From Mom

Photography by Lisa M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Your photography style is soooo unique!! Lopve it and what a great intervire. I love getting to know and meet other photographers and hearing about their lives and their journey. Stefani Marie Photography - Stefani

Photography by Lisa M said...

My favorite photo from this interview is the one of the tattoo that saves art saves lives. My son is dying for a Polaroid. He is only six, So I just asked him what photo he likes and he picked the same one:) My heart just melted. Thank you for sharing your work with us.

Skeller said...

oh! ever so much soothing, stunning eye-candy. Susannah, you are clearly gifted with a Polaroid and can make it sing in a way that few can. Becky - you find the neatest people to interview and always ask the best questions!

Drew said...

I love her unique approach to photography. The muted colors and vintage feel to the photos really creates a mood and continuity between all her work. Thanks for introducing us to yet another great photographer, Becky. Now I'm heading off to check out her blog and find out more! :)

Wanda said...

Oh, you were right Becky. Such a unique vision on life and photography. What a refreshing change.

Hopping over to her blog now. Thanks again for such an insightful interview.

eha1990 said...

Excellent interview. I spent a few years across the pond, nice to meet a photographer from the other side of the water. Good hunting!

MarshaMarshaMarsha said...

you are so right... i didn't want it to end! i was completely taken in with her photography.

i love all of the wonderful talent and personalities that you interview, becky.

i'm off to find out more about her book, class, blog and pins! :)

Suki said...

susannah is a polaroid genius. i love her work so much!
rock on, sister :)

Susannah Conway said...

so much to fun read all your comments this morning -- thank you so much! xxxx


What a great interview ... you ask such good questions.

I loved Susannah's pictures and words. Seeing them made me want to enjoy my life more. The everyday stuff.

Thanks for popping by my blog yesterday.


Between You and Me said...

I love that she has such clarity about who she is and what she loves to do. I respect that she has listened to her heart and only photographs what "lights her up."

thank you for introducing her to us.

Jessica Deane said...

Love this interview! So inspiring!

carissa at lowercase letters said...

um wow. love kinfolk, too! you are right, i do love her.

I'm Veronica said...

beautiful and I so love Susannah Conway!

Wife of the Prez said...


That is truly a gift!

Oh and I LOVE her name (and the spelling of it ;).

Thanks for coming by my blog too! :)

Maddy said...

Now I know why Susannah's name rung a bell!! I've stumbled upon her blog in my travels and it's absolutely beautiful!! Her photos are magical! Love that she shoots with film exclusively too :) Makes me want to attempt to use my Holga again :)

juliagoss said...

beautiful work, so unique ! thanks for introducing her to all of us, loved reading and looking through this !!