Among my friends online I'm lucky to count Relyn; we've been visiting each other's blogs for a while now, and on hers I've always found warmth, inspiration and beauty, and a love of life - seen in her photos, lists, her thoughts on what she's grateful for, poems she spotlights, and other delights; you can tell she sees the world with joy and wants to share that joy and wonder with everyone. Now she's here to share her creative insights and some of her wonderful photos (each photo in this post is hers).
Like every woman she knows, Relyn Lawson wears many hats. She is a wife, mother, teacher, dreamer, writer, photographer, chocoholic, laughaholic, all-around passionate woman. She excels at the art of silly, and knows that encouraging others is her sacred calling. Relyn believes that the secret of a happy life is to be consistently and purposefully grateful. To that end, she and her family list something for which they are grateful each and every night before going to bed. You can find that list here. For more of her photography, musings, ramblings, and other nonsense, you should visit her main blog, here.
Now for the interview...
HK: How did your passion for photography develop? Has the world come to seem different to you after looking at it through a camera lens?
RL: The Christmas I was nine, I received the camera I had been longing for. Since then, I have spent a good bit of time trying to capture the beauty and joy that I see around me. I guess that's what photography really is for me - trying to make my own soul visible. I remember longing to spend my life taking pictures long before I knew there was such a thing as a professional photographer. As I became a teenager, I knew that being a photographer was possible, but very impractical. There was no way I could spend the money it would take to become a proficient photographer. Think of the cost of film and developing and equipment...
I tucked that dream away and kept taking pictures. But my focus was different, my pictures were an effort to trap memories, not to create art. I didn't really believe I had the means to become good at photography. I had already written off that dream as impractical and likely impossible.
And then I started blogging.
And the longer I blogged the more photographers I was exposed to. I saw normal people; working mothers, students, and hobbyists; all creating beauty - sharing their souls. By then, technology had caught up with my heart's desire. I knew that with digital photography, I could afford to chase after my old dream. I started saving and in less than a year, I was able to buy my Big Girl Camera. Oh, happy day.
I'd always seen the world as though through a lens. Now, I had the equipment to begin to learn how to show the world what was already in my head and my heart.
HK: What do you believe are your strengths as a photographer? And what do you hope to improve on or work towards in the future?
RL: I think my greatest strength as a photographer is really my most defining personal characteristic. I am exuberantly, passionately, completely in love with people and this beautiful life we've been given. I love life. I love this gorgeous world. I love people and their interesting, beautiful faces. I love it all! And, I love to use my camera to show you the beauty I see and to share my joy with you.
As far as what I need to improve on with regard to photography? Well, that is also a defining personal characteristic. I need to work on self-discipline. I need to focus on learning and improving and growing. There's so much to learn! I am happily married and we have a ten year old daughter. I am a second grade teacher and very involved at church. It's astounding how much time all of those relationships require. I always have a camera with me, but I rarely give photography the attention and effort, the focus, it really deserves.
HK: What's your preferred camera, and which photo editing/formatting software (if any) do you use? Why?
RL: I own a Cannon T2i, and I love it. I have several lenses, but I find myself shooting with my 50mm prime most often. My completely wonderful husband gave me Photoshop Elements over a year ago, but I still can't use it. It's that time thing again. It takes a lot of time and focused attention to learn Photoshop. I have only so much time to spend and I'd rather take pictures. For now I edit using PicMonkey and I am pretty happy with it. However, I know that I am going to have to spend some serious time learning PSE before I can move my photography on to the next level.
HK: What qualities do you believe make for an excellent photo? What tends to draw your eye most, both when taking photos and appreciating other people's photos?
RL: I love a photo, any photo, that hints at a story. The photographs I love all hold stories in their depths. I want my photographs to draw you in, to make your head begin to buzz with the story behind the image. I don't just want to take a picture of a pretty house. I want the house to make you day dream.
I don't want to take a picture of a pretty girl. I want you to wonder who it is she's thinking about, who she's missing...
HK: You work as a teacher and are also a mother and aunt. What are some of the most important lessons you've learned - about people, art, or anything else - from the children in your life?
RL: As a teacher, I've learned to ask, "Why?" before making any kind of judgement or decision. Children often do things that seem strange or inappropriate to adults. I find that if you ask "Why?" and really listen to the answer, you'll learn so much. You'll learn about the child, about the world around you, and especially about yourself.
I love the way that children laugh at every opportunity. They know how to turn any moment into fun. They make friends easily and find the world to be filled with wonder. The best thing about spending my life with children is that I have company in my silliness and joy.
HK: What do you think are the best ways to foster creativity in children, along with a passionate engagement with the world?
RL: Oh, I love this question. I think fostering creativity and passionate engagement in children requires two things from adults. First, you must also be creative and engaged. Children don't learn what they don't see you live. Further, children don't learn what they don't live. So, buy the paints, bake the invented cake, get dirty, make the mess. I repeat: Make the mess!
Also, remember to listen to their ideas. It's not so much that we have to teach children to be creative. I think most of us simply have to work at not stifling the creativity they are already bubbling over with. Here's something to try: Next time a child in your life has an idea they are enthusiastic about, no matter how inconvenient, help them make it happen.
HK: Do you have any specific advice for aspiring photographers or, more generally, advice for other people pursuing an artistic passion? For instance, what would you say to people who fear they'll lose enthusiasm for what they do and feel uninspired, or who fear rejection for their work?
RL: I think we all struggle from time to time with feeling uninspired and unmotivated. When we do, blogs are a great source of both inspiration and motivation. Then there's time with friends, a short trip, museums, gorgeous movies, time spent being silly, listening to children laugh... I could go on and on about what inspires me. But, mostly, I find that I just need to pick up my camera. Nike was right all along, Just Do It!
Thank you, Relyn!