Sarah Ann Loreth is a fine art photographer from New Hampshire, who specializes in self portraiture and conceptual portraiture. In her work she tries to covey a quiet stillness of emotion with a connection to her natural surroundings. From her use of color she creates a reality found only in her imagination but so unbelievably human. She toes the line between darkness and light, unafraid to explore themes that others may find uncomfortable. Her work evokes a connection from the viewer, a feeling of oneness of the human experience and a mystery that leaves you wondering what will happen next.
Check out this awesome interview where Sarah talks about shooting conceptual and fashion photography, having her photo featured on an album cover and a behind the scenes look at how she lights her photos. We also get a look at how photos go from sketches to the real thing, and how her photos look before and after editing!
Notice: For those who may be in a workplace there is NSFW content in this interview.
What do you do as a full time job?
I currently work full time as an aide in an operating room.
Have you been to school for anything photography related? Or would you consider yourself self-taught?
Google, old thrifted photography books, and a whole lot of trial and error has taught me everything I know in both photography and Photoshop. I do consider myself self taught. I learned by trying and failing and trying again.
How long have you been interested in photography?
I’ve always been interested in art in all forms. I’ve tried everything from drawing to painting to pastels and nothing ever really stuck with me. Then I got my first DSLR in 2009 but didn’t seriously start using it until June 2010 when I started taking my first self portraits shyly in my kitchen against that blank white wall. I got such good feedback on them I just kind of never stopped.
Reading your biography on your website is very telling. In your biography it says that you “explore subjects that others may be uncomfortable to explore such as suicide, death, destruction, and abandon”. Where did this fascination with suicide and death come from?
I think probably from my job. I’m in the business of healing. Our goal is to sustain life. So from that standpoint I’ve always found it fascinating to consider what draws a person to end life. And I feel a deeper connection to photos with sadder undertones. I feel more power and strength in them. It is the human condition to be hurt and heal and grow strong in the broken places.
Your photographs are very deep in meaning and hold a lot of symbolism. How important is it to you to keep creating conceptual works?
Conceptual work is a way of letting my emotions run free and to deal with the stress of every day life. By creating characters I become them. By creating stories I live them. It’s a fantasy world that helps liven up my otherwise stressful life.
Lately you’ve been diving into the fashion realms of photography. How are you enjoying creating fashion photography?
I really am enjoying creating more fashion-based images. It’s a whole new world and I love a good challenge. It’s such a difference from creating conceptual self-portraits which is always such a singular act, just me and the camera. I find working with a whole creative team so invigorating and inspiring in a way that only a collaborative effort is. We all just throw ideas off each other and are always making adjustments based on the whole team’s perspective.
How much does your approach differ from shooting a conceptual photo compared to a fashion photo?
When going into a conceptual shoot I always have a story and a concise idea planned out. For fashion shoots I usually leave the idea open so the creative team can openly collaborate. I generally have a basic idea of what look I am going for and then work it out from there based upon clothes and look as opposed to the emotion that I base my conceptual work off of.
You started a 365 days photo project in October of 2010. Currently there are 241 photos in your 365 days project photo set. Do you regret not completing your 365 days project?
Also, how much did engaging yourself in the project help improve your photography?
I actually did finish my 365 in July of 2012 at the Indiana Flickr Gathering, nine months late but finished. I was one of those stubborn ones who refused to stop counting even after I stopped posting every day which was somewhere around day 200 or so when my life started getting progressively busier and I was working longer shifts at work. I don’t regret not finishing my project on time because I always felt so stifled creatively because I HAD to as opposed to wanting or needing to create. I felt like I grew so fast in those first 100 days or so because I was going out and practicing every day that I kind of plateaued and it became a burden.
Could you show us a before/after of one of your favorite photos?
I created this photo using varying color balance adjustment layers, selective color adjustment layers, curves, and a bit of cloning. I’ve also included a screenshot of my layers.
This year you taught a workshop. What did you teach the workshop on, and how did this experience help your career as a photographer?
I co-hosted a workshop with two amazing photographers and we wanted to focus on what we knew which was conceptual photography and fashion. So we gathered an amazing team of three models and hair and make up artists and picked a theme for each girl to represent.
It was an amazing experience and really taught me to find my voice in regards to my strengths and weaknesses in teaching. I loved meeting all the area photographers and finding out more about their lives and where their passions lie in regard to photography.
Can you show us how one of your favorite photos has been lit?
I’m a firm believer in making use of what you got and affordability so I used my single Vivitar flash unit with a Cactus wireless trigger and just used some standard lamps I had in my living room for back lighting. I don’t have a studio so I just moved all the furniture out of my living room and used the blank walls.
This year you’ve spent a lot of time traveling. How has traveling broadened your perspectives and helped you as a photographer?
Traveling has taught me to work more naturally and spontaneously with my given surroundings. It has taught me how beautiful the world actually is and how much I want to see everything. It has taught me the kindness of strangers and how much I cherish my friends.
Also while travelling you met up with some fellow photographers from Flickr. How was meeting up with these people and creating work with them?
I honestly can not stress enough how wonderful it is to work with other photographers that share the same passion as you. Surround yourself with people who understand. It was an amazing experience getting to work with some of my favorite photographers who I have admired for so many years. Just in meeting and talking shop we taught each other so much. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to throw ideas off each other and get Photoshop help just by sitting next to someone. We all kind of just clicked. Now I have this wonderful huge Flickr family and so many new friends and I love each and every one of them for who they are.
How does it feel to have your photo on a limited edition Florence + The Machine Album Cover?
Surreal. Sometimes it feels like I’m leading this strange double life where I sometimes get these really neat opportunities and travel around living my dream to it’s fullest extent. And then there is real life where I work full time ten hour days in an operating room and spend most of my time on the internet.
(photo that was featured on the album cover)
This year your work was featured in an exhibit in Milan hosted by Vogue Italy. How did that happen?
Did you submit your work or did they find your work online?
I had been uploading my photos to Italian Vogue’s “Photovogue” website which is a moderated collection of photographers from all over the world. I woke up one morning to an email saying one of my photos was selected to be exhibited in Milan amongst 100 other photos.
What would you consider your greatest achievement in photography thus far?
I just love where photography has taken me and all of the wonderful people I’ve met through it. If you told me three years ago I’d travel to Indiana or DC or Oregon with some of my best friends I would have laughed it off. I think my own personal growth is my greatest achievement. Photography has made me a stronger person and I hope it continues to make me stronger. It gives me purpose and the need to create.
Where do you find inspiration for everything that you create?
From everywhere! Sometimes a location sparks my interest of a phrase and I work around that. I find most inspiration in words, long drives, and that twenty minutes right before sleep when the mind wanders.
I’m always curious about photographers’ process before they shoot their images. Do you usually sketch out your images beforehand?
I sketch out almost all of my concepts before executing them! I’ve attached the sketch to this photo (photo and sketch below)
Why do you create?
I create because I have to. It’s the only way I’ve learned to cope with the stress of everyday living. And in photography, specifically self-portraiture, I have learned more of myself than I ever thought I could. By taking on the emotions of every character I’ve portrayed I feel stronger. I’ve grown more confident. I’ve found purpose in my art where before I was lacking.
Do you have any big projects planned for the future? What’s next?
I don’t have anything planned as of yet. I just want to travel as much as I can next year until my wanderlust is quieted and I want to spend more time living my dream.
Interviewed by Angela Butler