Interview with photographer Lauren Withrow

Lauren Withrow is a photographer from Texas who is now based in New York, where she documents life around her, as well as shooting editorial commissions. Her work is heavily influenced by film, is highly cinematic, and feels emotionally-charged, from the melancholic with her use of dark tones, to the euphoric, as she candidly captures those around her in their surroundings. There’s also a sense of timelessness to Lauren’s work, with a focus on the fleetingness of the moments she documents in her personal photography, which has a raw beauty to it. She departs from this in her editorial imagery, which is precisely staged, but still just as beautiful. Rich, dark tones tie together her whole body of work, as does the sense of insight about each subject that she manages to capture in every photograph. She has shot for the likes of Warner Bros, Dazed Magazine, Teen Vogue, and Nylon, among many others, as well as showcasing her work in numerous exhibitions around the world, most recently in the If You Leave group show in Berlin, May 2016.

How did you get started with photography? What compels you to create?

I started when I was fifteen, out of a combination of being influenced by film and a personal search for an emotional outlet. As dramatic as it might sound, creating is a necessity for me. I don’t know how to put into words why I create other than I just do.

What does photography mean to you? 

For my personal work, it is a visual diary of my life and the people in it. I use it to remember what I have gained and what I have lost.

Tell us about the images you produce for editorials compared to your personal work? 

My editorial work is based on a story or idea, using fashion to create a sort of character. It’s much more planned out since there’s more elements involved like the fashion and model. It’s very playful, like playing dress up. My personal work is documentary in nature and rarely set up. Emotions drive the imagery.

How do you respond to a commission? What’s your process? 

It all depends on the commission, but I make sure that I can accurately achieve the idea that the client is looking for. I schedule meetings, exchange reference images, anything that helps create an specific representation of the concept. I do everything to make sure both myself and the client are on the same page and that I can deliver the best imagery to suit their needs.

“I try not to shy away from personal matters, and with new work that I am creating, I am not holding back in trying to show that it’s okay to be dealing with pain, sadness, whatever it is we deal with as humans.”

What do you want to explore in your personal photography? 

I try not to shy away from personal matters, and with new work that I am creating, I am not holding back in trying to show that it’s okay to be dealing with pain, sadness, whatever it is we deal with as humans. As of recently, my work has a feeling of isolation, something that I feel very strongly at times, and I wanted to relate that into my work. As I age and as my surroundings change, I feel different things and also want to show that influence inmy personal work. And not just myself, but with others as well.

How much of your work is planned and set up, and how much is spontaneous? 

Most of my work isn’t planned. Even the most planned work has spontaneity in it. I used to restrict the images into what exactly I had planned them to be and found that hindered my creative process. Instead, letting my emotions guide my work and how I create has been freeing and beneficial to my process.

Do you have a favourite series or photograph of your own? 

Yes, there are images that I are fond of due to their meaning in my life. But I don’t necessarily have a favourite series. They all sort of mean different things to me.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’ve been photographing more portraits of creatives. But I am also in a constant state of documenting. I have a series that will end up being very long term, most likely stretching my whole life that I want to make into books.

How does taking photographs make you feel? 

I don’t feel as alone.

What’s your dream project? 

There is an idea for a film that I have. It’s something that is very dear to me that I am developing.

Check out more of Lauren’s work at: www.laurenwithrow.com.