1. why do you need to make a FAQ?
i am truly grateful that anyone would have any interest in my work or what i have to say at all! that is incredible to me and it really blows my mind. i travel often and it makes it quite difficult to respond thoughtfully to folks who have questions for a website, or a school project, or a general inquiry. so i realized that instead of responding super late (or sometimes not at all *SORRY!*) that i would create a spot i could direct folks to to answer some questions. if anyone has questions that are not covered here, please email me and i will do my very best to respond to ya!
2. what's up with you girl? where are you from? where do you live? and what are you doing? (no one asked this but i am going to answer this anyway)
hi, my name is emily. i'm a photographer. i'm from austin, texas (i love austin and my whole family is there!). i recently finished renovating my very first home in nashville, tennessee. for the most part, i am on the road for work and for fun. but in between traveling, i tend to split my time between austin and nashville. i have a dog named eleanor and she goes everywhere with me. we make photos and we party. i'm caught somewhere between craving the familiar and wanting to wake up to something new each day. i try to balance that by traveling and exploring and then spending a chunk of time at "home".
3. how did you become a photographer?
when i was about 22, i lived with my brother and he had a darkroom in our laundry room. he bought me a film camera and tried to show me the ropes. while i found it interesting and had fun learning the process, it was a hobby that i shelved quickly. a few years later i bought myself a point and shoot camera. i started taking photos of where i was, as a way to preserve the memories in my life. over the next couple years, my compulsion with documenting parties and events with friends started to slowly turn into something i was using more as a creative outlet. back in the days of flickr, i started to do a 365 days self portrait project and quickly realized that my camera was not quite giving me the freedom to create what i wanted. so i saved up and bought myself my first "real" full-frame camera. i had no idea how to work it but i forced myself to turn it to the manual settings and learn. by 2010, my side-hobby had turned into a full blown obsession. in october of 2010, instagram launched and i signed up. i was not using instagram at that time to put up images i was proud of. instead, i was using my cameraphone to post whatevs over there. it was a different time. at some point, about a year in, i was like 'oh, some people are putting up some really good stuff on here, maybe i will try to curate it a bit more'. i was still using "iphone only" on instagram, but any time i would take a photo, i would take one with my DSLR and one with my cameraphone. that was routine for a good while. my skill, cofidence and interest in photography progressed as instagram did too. they sort of went hand in hand. i think it's really neat to be able to scroll back in my instagram feed and see how far i have come. i started to gain a following on instagram and it played a big role in me being able to eventually leave my job and do photography full time in 2013. i signed on with an agency (tinker street*) and i took a huge risk (a crazy risk, looking back!) and jumped head first into photography. i do not believe that my life would have played out the way it has, without instagram as a launching tool. the support and encouragement i have received over the years is something i will be forever grateful for. the friends i have made on there have made me realize that my dreams could be a reality. that is truly something special. i've been doing photography full time for 5 years now, and i couldn't be happier. doing what you love every day is not something everyone is lucky enough to do. each day i wake up with a grateful heart and a smile on my face.
4. what do you shoot with?
i currently shoot with a canon 6D and a 5D mark III. i love them both. the 6D has wifi so it's nice to be able to use an app on my phone as a remote. the mark III is a bit fancier if i need to be very specific about focal points. i truly believe that it does not matter what kind of camera you are shooting with. a friend of mine likes to say "i don't want to talk about the glass on your window, i want to talk about the view". i think that is a perfect analogy.
5. what inspires you?
it's always extremely difficult to answer this question without putting myself in a box. the answer is always changing. i think we are all looking for new inspiration daily so ideally, it should be ever-changing and evolving. some things that remain constant for me are color, faces, little moments, light and finding beauty in the ordinary. color has always played a big role in the images i make. from the colors in nature and food and fabrics, to the coloring in the editing process. faces are important and worthy of documentation. they are a lasting time-capsule we can create. the images of the ones we love can be viewed and cherished for years to come. we are all important. not just models and the ones that society tells us are beautiful, although that is worthy of documentation as well. but beauty is in all of us. sometimes we can get wrapped up in making images that we think the world wants us to make, or that they expect from us. but i feel most satisfied when i am truly creating for myself. the most meaningful images i have created are ones of my family. we are all changing and growing and moving along, and a photo holds a place in time that can always be looked back upon. that's why i love photography, and that's why i started making photos in the first place.
6. how old is eleanor, what kind of dog is she and where did you get her?
at the time of this post, eleanor is 7 years old. i got her february 28th 2012. i had a dog before her named denver. i had him for 10 years before he passed; he was the love of my life. he ended up with a belly full of tumors and despite all efforts, nothing could be done. to say i was devastated would be an understatement. he passed on july 23rd of 2011. i knew i would get another dog, but i was not quite sure when would be a good time. i let about 4 months pass and i started looking at all the shelters in austin. kind of dipping my toes in. i saw so many great dogs that needed good homes but i either was not ready, or i did not feel it in my heart that they were right. i knew that when i found the dog i was supposed to have, i would just *know*. so months passed and i was going to every shelter in town several times a week. one day, i decided to go to the austin humane society a few minutes before they closed. i peeked around the corner to the kennels and the first dog i saw was eleanor. they were taking her out to walk her. when she got back, i only had a couple minutes with her before they closed. i came back first thing in the morning and took her home. she had only been at the shelter a couple of hours before i first met her. they named her goldie for those few hours, which i believed to be ridiculous because she wasn't even gold i just looked at her and thought "eleanor". she seemed cool with it, so it was so.
she was a real hot mess when i got her. the shelter told me she was 3 years old, but a trip to the vet and a sneaking suspicion proved that she was at most, a year old. the day i took her home, she had no idea how to even get in a car. she was laying on the drivers side floorboard just looking at me, relaxing. i had to pick her up and show her what a dog is supposed to do. the first time i tried to take her inside my house, she was freaked out by everything. i'm not even sure she had been inside a house before. noises from the TV or my phone all caused her great concern. she is still a quirky dog to this day, but she is getting the hang of it. all bets are off in a thunderstorm, though- and she will never get used to the sound of my ipad closing.
since i adopted her, i will never really know what kind of dog she is. she is some sort of shepherd/retriever mix. many people have sent me photos of their dogs on instagram saying "our dogs are twins!" and several of them look like exact copies of eleanor, but we will probably never know what she is. she is just 'eleanor', and that's ok. she is my main boo and she goes everywhere with me. she's silly and awkward and she makes me laugh every day. her heart is sweet, loving and curious. i know that i made the right choice in taking her home. she makes my life rich in ways i could not have imagined.
7. do you have any advice for someone just starting out with photography?
sure! i have lots of advice. but the main things are this: practice and practice and then practice more. that probably sounds like a cliche, but it takes so long to really get good at anything. you cant expect to be good right away. that can be frustrating for someone who is creative and wants to use photography as a tool to express themselves. but being frustrated at not being good right away is GOOD. it means you are pushing yourself, and you aren't settling for average. it also takes just an absolute ton of practice and shooting to figure out what *kind* of photos you even want to take. when i first started trying to get serious with photos i shot everythingggg. i was all over the place. i still kind of am. that's ok! try stuff, don't be afraid to fail. don't ever let anyone put you in a box with the kind of photos you make. keep evolving, keep growing, and stay curious. shooting tons of stuff will help you realize what is your favorite.
also, don't get all caught up in gear. when i hear people geeking out over cameras i just roll my eyes. because yes, cameras are neat, but it literally does not matter what you make photos with. just go make the photos. go every day if you can. when i was first starting out i challenged myself to go make one single photo i liked per day. that is not an easy thing to do, but i still hold myself to that challenge to this day.
if you're wondering how to become a full time professional photographer, there is no easy answer to that questions. there are so many types of photographers. editorial, wedding, commercial, portrait, family, i don't even know... there are a lot, y'all. maybe there is some formula? but i sure don't know it. the only thing i know for sure is if you keep making work, and you try to get better and better and better, and you put yourself out there for the world to see, a path will be carved for you. and you cannot give up. it could take a long time, but at the end of the day, if making photos makes you happy, then how can you lose? and i think when you are doing what makes you happy, that passion comes through on the images you create.
8. what did you do for a living before photography?
gosh, i've done lots. i started working (illegally) at a restaurant when i was 14 years old. i was bussing tables in the summer at a chinese food place in bastrop texas where my dad was staying at the time. when i turned 15, i started waiting tables. when i was 16 i worked at souper-salads as a cashier and waitress. i quit when summer ended, right before school started up. i forgot that i signed up for a work program in school and needed a job in order to get half-days at school. i HATED school and would have done anything to get out of there, i could discuss this a lot, but i will just say that we all learn differently, and a classroom environment was never for me, i need to get my hands on stuff, i need to see it, feel it, and that is the only way i will learn. i've always been interested in anything creative. i remember my high school art teacher telling me one day that my painting was trite. it was a real blow and a dangerous thing to tell a kid who didn't think they were good at anything else. but anyway, i needed a job, so the school gave me a tip that a daycare nearby needed someone to look after the after-school kids, so i took that job. it was insane, yet i worked there for the next 3 years. i remember a day i was teaching a pre-k class with 19 four year old boys (all by myself) and one day one kid had ran out of the room, while another had his pants down, while another was threatening another kid with scissors and one was calling me a bitch. it was the hardest $8/hr i ever made. after i left that job, i got a job at chilis. at the same time, i was selling merchandise for a local country band, traveling around with them to small town bars in texas on the weekends when they had shows. one time they played at a nudist colony during a biker rally with 1200 naked people on bicycles. i could tell so many stories from that time in my life, as crazy as it was, i have some of the best memories from those days. when i was 22 i left chilis and started working for kerbey lane cafe in austin. i started out bussing tables, which lasted for a day, i got trained to wait tables and then moved up to managing pretty quickly. i was the general manager at the original location for many years. my soul wasn't in it, and i was working crazy hours, but i did find a way to have some kind of creative release by inventing lots of crazy pancakes. they still to this day serve many of my pancakes as daily specials. they even sell my lemon poppy pancakes in HEB (a big texas chain of grocery stores). i stepped down from full time to 4 days a week toward the end of my 10 years with that company. i wanted to live my life a little instead of working there all the time, and focus more on photos. i eventually quit (well, i quit several times but i quit for good) and took a huge leap into photography.
9. how do you afford to travel?
i keep my life expenses low, live simply and make traveling a priority. i'm not married and i don't have kids so it makes it a little easier to hit the road. i also have made so many friends through instagram who live all over the united states, that crashing with them helps keep the costs low. it's not like i am staying in fancy hotels all the time. in fact, i cannot count how many times i have slept in my wagon in a walmart parking lot. i have comfortable camping mattress that fits back there, some window screens, and a power inverter wired into my battery so i can charge my phone or computer and run a small fan. it's not the most glamorous life but you have to make sacrifices to live the life you want, no matter what you choose to do. keeping snacks in the car keeps the cost of meals down, and my car gets about 31 mpg so it's not so bad.
10. are you scared to travel alone as a woman?
no. but i'm not stupid either. i refuse to live my life in fear, but that doesnt mean that i dont carry a pocket knife. there are lots of bad people in the world, but there are way more good ones than bad. you're just as likely to have something bad happen to you in your own home, than on the road. believe that people are good, be brave, and lock your doors. i also have eleanor with me to alert me of any potential dangers. i will not sit at home and be scared of the world because i am a woman. no thanks!
11. where do you live?
kind of everywhere. i call nashville and austin home. i recently purchased my very first home ever in nashville and we spent over 8 months renovating it. it has quickly become a place i feel perfectly at peace in. i'm not sure if i will live in nashville forever, although it is quite nice, but even if i don't, it will be nice to have a place here that i can rent out while i'm gone which helps with travel expenses. i might always call the road home, but boy i have found out that you need to have somewhere that your stuff lives. it's good for my heart to have a place that's all mine to come home to.
12. what kind of car do you have?
i have a 1985 mercedes 300TD wagon. owning a vintage vehicle is not for the weak-spiritted. you WILL have problems. but this old gal is pretty reliable and it is quite practical to sleep and travel in. she has a little under 200k miles on her so she is pretty fresh out of the gate. the car has 120k miles on it when i bought it about a year and a half ago, so you do the math. eek! we have seen some amazing places together, and although it's not a 4x4, i have gotten it stuck in some pretty epic spots too.
13. travel tips?
bring toilet paper in your car. you're going to be peeing outside a lot. pull over, open both passenger doors and squat between them. works like a charm. i also carry a good pocket knife, a titanium spork, baby wipes, adventure bathing wipes, dry shampoo, matches, a headlamp, several gallons of water in a large BPA free container, and bug spray. i have a nice ex-ped camping mattress that feels almost like a mattress you'd have at home. if you are cold weather camping, do not put an air mattress in your car. it will fill with cold air and you might die.
other good items: camping stove, a hammock, old newspaper for fire starting, a plate and some camping dish soap, dry snacks like peanut butter packets, kind bars, dried mango, coconut chips, packets of tuna, (collect many hot sauce and condiment packets at fast food places).
load up your iphone with podcasts, music and audiobooks in case you go where you have no service.
if it's hot and you have your dog with you, do not leave the dog in the car. i literally just walk in any place with my dog and if you walk confidently enough, no one will ask. maybe she's a service dog? they don't know and i can say truthfully that i have never been asked once about it. and if they do ask, then cool, you just say it's hot and most people will be cool about it. just DO NOT LEAVE THE DOG IN THE CAR. ever.
when you get back from your first trip, make a note on your iphone notepad of all the things you never used once. it will help you pack even less when you go on your next trip.
and as mentioned before, sleep in almost any walmart parking lot. i refuse to shop at walmart but it's safe and legal to car camp at most walmarts. check for signs, but it's rare that they don't allow it.
i mentioned before that i have window screens. you can get custom back window screens made that fit perfectly on your back two windows and you can roll the windows down and then shit the door and boom, you have a breeze. if you're parked in a place where you don't feel that safe, just don't roll them down that much.
15. who are your favorite photographers?
as i mentioned before, i don't do well in a classroom environment so i haven't spent all that much time looking into the work of others. most of the people who inspire me most are my friends. it's so easy to scroll and scroll through endless art these days, but i like to surround myself with people who make me stop and look for a while. people like paul octavious, billy jack brawner III and jimmy marble
16. what is your arrangement series about?
i started making arrangements many years ago sort of by accident. i remember just gathering some green things and some red things from around my house and putting them all in a grid. for no particular reason. maybe a year later i re-shot that series but in 6 parts, then i moved on to food, then candy, etc.. for a while i would just think of something, then make it happen. but for some time now i've been trying to let that inspiration come to me. like when i'm traveling i will see something along the way that catches my eye, or a particular season will bring a load of color to my yard. i try to use them more to tell a story of where i am and what is around me. it's the longest running series i've ever done. i think the "things organized neatly" images have become so over saturated, but i don't care. there is a place for them with me still. and besides, i create for myself, so it doesn't matter if something is played out. do what you love and do what feels right for you.