Interview with Lauren Sheldon, Photographer
Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Lauren Sheldon, a London-based photographer, who is working on Rescue Me, a project where Sheldon explores the benefits of dog rescue by visiting the homes of the adopters. Sheldon says, “I capture a glimpse of the lives of both them and their dogs in their environments. The project reflects a true representation of my time with these families.” Additionally, as part of the project, Sheldon records the conversations she has with the adopters to capture the touching stories of the dogs included in Rescue Me. A selection of Lauren Sheldon’s work is displayed below. Please visit Lauren Sheldon’s website to view more of her wonderful work.
KATHERINE CARVER: What were your beginnings as a photographer and when did you realize it would become your chosen form of expression?
LAUREN SHELDON: During my last few years at school, I found myself gravitating towards the darkroom. Photography was relatively new to the curriculum, at that time, and not a lot of money had been spent on the facilities. I will always remember developing my very own print – from the enlarger to the three dip trays. Consuming the very apparent smell of the chemicals whilst standing alone in a small cold room, filled with only the small glow of red light illuminating from the make shift red bulb that hung precariously on the wall, is when I knew photography was going to be the career for me.
KATHERINE CARVER: Did you study art formally?
LAUREN SHELDON: I have an ‘A’ level Art, and went to college to do my Art Foundation Course. I then decided I wanted to study photography as a degree so I converted my bedroom at my parents’ house into a darkroom, and created a portfolio that I took to the Universities for interviews. I was lucky enough to be accepted at Manchester Metropolitan University where I completed a degree in Photography and Imaging.
KATHERINE CARVER: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating photographs was absolutely something that you had to do?
LAUREN SHELDON: It was during a project I completed at University. The assignment was to produce an image that could be used for a 48 sheet poster for a mock Levi advertising campaign to convey the longevity and durability of Levi’s product. So I took a series of photos of a family friend, Jean, who was 80, wearing my Levi jeans and jacket. She had incredibly beautiful eyes, and a wrinkly face full of character, making the photos eye-catching and engaging. I realized that making images to represent an idea or a message could be a very powerful.
KATHERINE CARVER: What was the impetus that inspired you to begin your project entitled, “Rescue Me?”
LAUREN SHELDON: As a child I was a little scared of dogs and, before I got my own dog, I had none or little knowledge about them really, and so when it came to choosing a dog it made the idea of rescuing one a scary option. I’m embarrassed to say that I had the typical misconceptions about dogs that were in shelters — that they were all going to have behavioral problems, possible aggression issues, and I just didn’t feel like I was up for the job. I was much more comfortable with the idea of nurturing a dog from a puppy. In my opinion, I couldn’t have been more wrong. In my experience, dogs in shelters are no different to any other dog, they have just had a less fortunate life than others and, if anything, are more loving and grateful and, during this project, I have seen this first hand.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the goal of your project, “Rescue Me?”
LAUREN SHELDON: The intent of the project is to explore the benefits of rescuing. I hope I can use my work as a tool to get the message across about how rewarding adopting a dog can be; and to raise awareness because the more knowledge that can be put out there, the more chance these dogs have of receiving a second chance.
KATHERINE CARVER: How did you decide to incorporate oral narratives into your project, “Rescue Me?”
LAUREN SHELDON: I photo documented a glimpse of the dogs’ lives, but to hear the adopters’ stories, in their own words, made the project complete, and probably more important than the photographs themselves in many ways.
KATHERINE CARVER: How has your own dog(s) influenced your work?
LAUREN SHELDON: Since getting my own dog, Sid, three years ago, my photography has been almost solely focused on Sid and dogs in general. I’ve met many dog owners and dogs through Sid, and my love for them has grown and grown. I hoped that combining my love for both photography and dogs, I would be able to help, if only in a small way, to raise awareness for the cause.
KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you?
LAUREN SHELDON: Thinking of an idea and seeing it develop.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is the most challenging aspect of being a photographer?
LAUREN SHELDON: Individuality. It’s been a long time since I have worried about it. I realized that there are so many photographers that we are bound to be simultaneously compared and inspired by them. For me, it’s the ideas behind the work that makes it individual.
KATHERINE CARVER: What inspires you to keep going and what keeps you motivated?
LAUREN SHELDON: I want to keep telling stories and I strive to improve.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are the most rewarding and satisfying part about being and artist and creating art?
LAUREN SHELDON: For a project like Rescue Me, the most rewarding part would be to know that my work has made a small difference; and it is extremely rewarding knowing that just one dog gets adopted because of it.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are you working on now?
LAUREN SHELDON: I am currently working on the book for Rescue Me, which I am hoping to get published soon.
KATHERINE CARVER: What artists inspire your work?
LAUREN SHELDON: Martin Parr and Sally Mann will always be my two most inspirational photographers. I was introduced to Mann’s work whilst studying for my degree. Grayson Perry’s wittily satirical view on the world is a reminder that I shouldn’t worry about success, but to just enjoy it and live it.
KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
LAUREN SHELDON: Know yourself. Don’t worry about being cool and on trend. “Coolness is a strait-jacket for creativity.” Also, it is important to always put in the hours.
KATHERINE CARVER: How can people view your work?
LAUREN SHELDON: My website is: www.watchdabirdie.co.uk and I am on Instagram @watchdabirdie1.
All images contained in this interview are courtesy of Lauren Sheldon.
You can read additional interviews here.