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Interview: Lauren Sheldon, Photographer

Interview with Lauren Sheldon, Photographer

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Acumen: Creating and Persevering

Sometimes, when one is working, it is difficult to really see the forest through the trees.  Therefore,  I thought that I would share some inspiring words from artists I have interviewed here on the blog about creating and persevering, which I hope you find helpful and encouraging.

 

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“Follow your passion, even if you do not know what lies on the other side.  Passion is infectious to people; and passion is at the root of creating art.  Keep believing in your work and use your passion to help you push through and keep going.  The right thing(s) happen when it is supposed to happen.  Most importantly, put your work on the line and keep pushing your boundaries.”  — Deborah Samuel

 

“Create what you love and create it consistently, even if you aren’t feeling particularly inspired.  Share what you make with the world so people can find it and enjoy it.  Enjoy the process, and don’t get discouraged.  I don’t believe that there are things any particular person can’t do.  It’s just a matter of putting enough time into it to gain the skill, and asking questions when you don’t know how to do something.  And if you are already talented in your area but have fear of putting yourself out there, or fear of failure, or any fear (and we all do), know that ‘inaction breeds doubt and fear (Dale Carnegie),’ so move forward, make things happen, and ‘always do what you’re afraid to do (Emerson).’  If you do that, soon enough nothing will stop you.  I didn’t always believe it, but yes you can absolutely make a career doing what you love… so go for it.”   — Laura Johnson

 

“Don’t do what I did and just feel your way through the woods.  Either find a way to make a living that is somehow compatible with your art, and gives you the time and energy to do your work, or get an MFA or PhD and find a job teaching in a university.  High school second best.  Then you have summers and vacations, and if you teach in a university you will even have time in your working schedule to paint or sculpt or write.  Making a living in the commercial arts is fine, but it is not conducive to expressing yourself artistically in a deeper more fulfilling way.”  — Anna Dibble

 

“It’s easy, especially when just starting out, to get hung up on what kind of work you think you ‘should’ be making, or what others tell you you’re best at – disregard this.  Your best work will happen when you focus on that which you know and love, and your most valuable audience will follow that work.  Not sure you really know how to visualize what you know and love?  Just keep ‘making’, and let each step, each project, lead to the next.  Momentum is HUGE and you never know where the sparks are hiding until you hit them.” — Natalya Zahn

 

“Don’t give up.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you love.  If you truly love it, there’s always a way to make it happen.”  — Helen Greenstein

 

“Do not second guess yourself.  You need to question what you are doing, but you also need to follow your instincts.  Often times, what you are working on will lead to something else as well.  It is also very important to appreciate the process.  Additionally, it is important to be confident and to develop your own work.  When you are not as concerned about what others think, you will create stronger work.  It is also important to be playful and be committed to the process of making art.  Finally, for me, it has been very helpful to have a spiritual practice to help understand yourself more deeply and knowing that we are all connected.”  — Valerie Shaff

 

“Be true to yourself and in it for the love of doing it.  When the phone isn’t ringing, your inbox is empty and you feel like no one loves you or your work, you will have that to keep you going.”  — Andrew Pinkham

 

“Find your niche and then commit to that.  Since I found the Animal Studies community, I feel more ‘at home’ as a photographer than I ever have before.  I get a lot of support from other scholars and artists interested in the same things I am, and I always have a direction to point myself in when I am working.”   — Julia Scholar

 

“Don’t ape other people’s styles.  Draw like no one is watching and see what comes out.  Reflect, refine, and repeat.  Be yourself and draw what you know, not what you think you should know.”  — Bee Johnson

 

“My passion for making images keeps me going.  It makes me feel alive.  I think being creative means a commitment to continually challenging yourself.”  — Shannon Johnstone

 

“Keep taking photographs and assess what you are trying to say.”  — Rory Carnegie

 

“Stay true to your own heart — be who you are!  It sounds cheesy but it’s not.  Every single person has an absolutely unique quality that only they can bring to the world.  The world needs authentic beings to have the courage to be who they are.”  — Brigette Bloom

 

“Be stubborn and keep going.  And don’t overthink it in the beginning and work hard.”  — Eleonor Bosström

 

“Don’t let anything get in your way.  People love creativity and there are more channels to make your work known than ever before.  No excuses.  The difference between an ‘aspiring artist’ and a true artist is action.  Talent comes through practice.”  — Elias Weiss Friedman

 

“Nothing happens overnight so it’s important to keep plugging away and doing what you love.  Entering competitions is essential, it’s really important to keep putting yourself out there.  Don’t let yourself get knocked backed if you aren’t successful with a submission – your work may have not been right for them.  Art and photography is very subjective.  If you don’t try you’ll never know.”  — Lorna Evans

 

“It’s hard work but, if you have to do it, very rewarding.  Go for it.  But be prepared to be your own engine.  You don’t have anyone else pushing you and you have to often deal with self-doubt.”  — Martin Usborne

 

“Have a good work ethic; be able to take criticism; don’t be embarrassed as I was of what you love; practice social and writing skills; and, above all else, be persistent about working.”  — Robin Schwartz

 

“I think when you are starting out it is really important to focus on issues or ideas that are important to you.  It is very easy to become mixed up in producing work that others would like to see or that you think will be successful but your best work will always come from a genuine vested interest.”  — Sam Edmonds

 

“Keep practicing.  And showing up.  Your work will evolve and grow even if you can’t see it happening.  I promise!!”  — Heidi Lender

 

“Find what you enjoy doing and get extremely good at it.  Keep creating even if you think the idea isn’t going anywhere and stay happy.”  — Josh Bryant

 

“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.”  — Lauren Sheldon