As part of The Way of Creativity series, I’ve interviewed Laura Droße, a photographer and writer currently based in Berlin.
I had the incredible chance to work with her as my photographer for a series of Behind the Scenes photographs that I had taken at the ceramic studios where I was creating my work in Berlin. I have since moved back to Singapore in 2020 but the times spent in those ceramic studios are a huge source of inspiration and growth for me and I’m so grateful that she was able to photograph me in those spaces.
In this interview, we talk about her journey with Photography – how her work and approach towards her craft has evolved over the years. She shares how she has developed her style and understanding of her Artist’s Self through time, patience and permission. I’m always inspired by her values and her vision and hope you enjoy reading this Interview as much as I enjoyed the process of learning from her.
KS (kokoro studio):
How did you start your journey with photography? What was your creative journey like growing up?
Laura: I think I’ve always been creative. As a child I was painting a lot, always doing whatever I could get my fingers on. There was a photo class in school but back then I wasn’t so interested in it. My father took photos and I got his camera when he died. At that time I wasn’t into photography that much but I was thinking about it. I always liked photos but I never saw myself as a photographer. I really thought I wanted to study visual communication with a focus on photography. But I never saw myself as a photographer just yet. I was always thinking about the broader design spectrum. And then I realised at some point that all paintings and scribblings were really not that good.
L: What?! How did you come to that conclusion?
Laura: I think I met other people who were truly painters…from inside out. I realised perhaps painting is something that I just like to do, but not as a profession. And then I realised that photography was something that I never gave myself permission to do. I never thought that I could do it. So I started quite late. I always took photos of family occasions and stuff but it took me years and years to see myself as a photographer. To allow the photographer in me to come out.
I started with an internship and a course that was only once a week. A little gallery in Berlin. It was “Imago Fotokunst” and a guy and his wife ran it – I’m not sure if the concept has changed because it was ages ago. It was once a week and one Saturday a month with a little group of 8 people and we learnt all the basic knowledge of photography and worked on a project for the year. The topic was completely free so everyone could do whatever he or she wanted. And that was my first year of focused work on photography.
L: What made you decide to sign up for the course?
Laura: I did my arbitur (qualification granted by university-preparatory schools in Germany) in Germany. My mother of course wanted me to study Architecture because that’s creative but it’s still something ‘real’. Otherwise she was like ‘do psychology or become a lawyer’. Architecture I thought about for a while and I still think it would have been something I would have liked but it didn’t feel right then.
The course was a good way to start something to get a first peek at without committing to it fully. So after that year I had enough confidence to say ok this makes me happy to do it. After that I applied for an internship and then I did 3 years of internship and 1 year of work.
KS: How does that system work? I didn’t know they had such a traditional internship system for photography in Germany.
Laura: So you work in a portrait studio full time for about 40 hours a week. I was in a really good studio so there was the practical part and every 6 weeks you went to school for 2 weeks and there you had the whole theory. And school was completely unconnected to the place you were working. I had many people in my class in the school worked as apprentices but they weren’t allowed to actually take photos. They were working 40 hours a week but they were just there to watch, make coffee, clean up for the clients. I was in a really good studio and they allowed me from Day 1 to take photos. If you were confident enough to try, you could try whatever shooting there was. Of course you start with the easier ones like photos for job applications, passport photos… then you take over the ones for families, children, pregnant women…
So if you’re confident enough to try, try. One rule- if it doesn’t go well, after about 15 minutes or something, you get someone to join you or to take over from you if it’s really bad or if you don’t connect with the client. The first rule is the client needs to be happy because he pays a lot. But if you want to do it, do it. And if it’s not working, call for help. So that way you get a lot of trust. And when you get the trust from your bosses, you get trust in yourself. That was 3 really good years for the start.
I don’t want to work in a portrait studio now but that was the perfect state because I had to get confident. I learned of course the technical parts and I had to learn how to talk with clients. How to build trust with the client. I think that was a really good school but after that I knew I didn’t want to continue doing portrait shoots.
I worked in another studio for 1.5 years. I spoke to my mum earlier today actually. All my photography life – most of it just happened to me. After the apprenticeship there was a decision made. I’m here for 3 years now, I was committed, but then after that somehow somebody said ‘oh he or she is looking for a photographer’ and then I worked there for a year and a half.
Another friend was looking for someone to build up a photo studio that was really small, so I was there free-lancing for awhile. From there, a friend left to go to Zalando. She was helping to build up the studio so she brought me there to freelance. I started freelance, 3 days a week…then 4 days a week… then I was there full time. Then I took over as team leader of a photo team. In the end I was there for 5 years. But after that I knew how to do product photography, I knew how to lead a team, i knew how to deal with all the stuff that goes on in the background. I had a lot of social skills learnt, behind the scenes knowledge that I hadn’t before. But after that it was the same – that was that, and I was done with product photography on that level. That was another chapter.
Since then, I’ve been sneaking and peeking in all different directions. And now it’s been 5 or 6 years since I left Zalando. I did many different things. I worked for a travel blog. For 2 years I was travelling a lot. But it was still for somebody else. I had to do a specific style – it was for the style of the blog. I wrote the articles and did the photos but both wasn’t how I would have told the story or how I would have taken the photos. It was a super nice experience to have met new people and broadened my horizons by going to different places and seeing another whole possibility of what photography could be. But after 2 years of not getting paid that much, it was so off from my style that I didn’t want to do it anymore.
KS: Interesting. At that time were you already quite clear about your photographic style? Or was it just a feeling that it wasn’t your aesthetic.
Laura: I think I knew what my style was but back then I wasn’t confident enough to go with it for 100% of the time, to say that it’s actually just as good as other styles out there. Because my style I would say is pretty quiet, pretty atmospheric, sometimes moody… I don’t see it as sad but it’s deeper and darker… poetic. Calm. and it’s not what the loud, fast world out there appreciates oftentimes.
“Back then I wasn’t confident enough to not listen to the voices who say ‘you need to be that and that to be successful’. that ‘ i need to produce this style…’ that i need to put that app or that filter on yours photos in order to be good. But it was growing in me…”
KS: Do you find that photography these days is very much based on the current trend or style? So people tend to go for a particular style, a popular filter or preset that seems to be the trend… before the next one comes along?
Laura: I think there are definitely photographers who do that. But I also think many times there are trends that survive quite a time. For example for travel photography, what I don’t like for most travel photography is that the main approach is to make every place super beautiful, super dramatic. So you have to have dramatic skies, dramatic clouds, dramatic landscapes… and always it’s never allowed to be the normal landscape of a place.
I really like ‘raw weather’ countries. Scandinavia, or the Canada… or the Artic… whatever it is. There are many times, many days where it’s rainy, it’s grey, it’s dark… or it’s nothing much at all. But it’s beautiful. Then you look at the photographic that’s promoted for that place. Or if you google a place in Norway, you see 80% of the images on Google – it’s the one moment in year when there was sunshine. It’s like – that’s not how it typically looks!I
It’s pretty much the same in trying to optimize a place, the same way we try to optimize our bodies, our appearance… Women put a lot of makeup on, or you do your hair in a specific style or you dress in a specific style to work in a specific space. It’s like this idea of there’s an ideal version which is the best version, and then try to recreate it. And not allow different places to look different. And how they actually are. And In travel photography there are many filters used so you have the same golden , happy sunlight filter on every country.
KS: And it’s not even the case in real life!
Laura: Moreover not just that it’s not the case in real life, but for me as a photographer, there’s nothing more exciting than to realise what is the specific light of a place. The specific atmosphere of a place.
“We are visual people. The atmosphere is loads and loads about the light. It’s the same where I live – there’s different light in summer time and in winter time. There’s always this moment where winter turns to spring. And most of the time it’s the change of light. So why would I put the magic of light away? “
After all photography is ‘painting with light’, that’s the meaning behind it. So If I create images with light, why change the light? Why change my main tool basically?
So that’s something… that goes for the last couple of years. I’ve learnt to accept everything of what I actually like as being the right thing. To like the right thing. To think the right thing. To be… and the right thing to create.
To say that I don’t want to do whatever style is said to be trendy, or right or good, or best or whatever it is. I want to create what I see when I see a place. What I feel. Above all, I want to show what I feel when I see something, whatever it is. And I want people to see the beauty that I see in exactly the way that it is there. So… I try to show the real beauty of everything.
KS: To try to conveying the beauty that you are seeing, as you appreciate it… to share with everyone else right?
Laura: To maybe show in the meaning of teaching… teaching people appreciation for the true soul of a place or a piece of whatever it is really. Because I think this is what humanity needs. To appreciate what is actually there. I think that goes for everything. Photography is a good medium to actually show it in an easy way. You don’t even have to talk about it. You can see something and you can think about it on your own without needing to have a discussion about it. And if they look at my images, and they see a super grey, rainy day in Norway.. or an Irish windy landscape… and they can feel the wind… they can feel the scenery… and they can realise how much beauty there is in there in exactly that… then I’ve succeeded I guess.
KS: So this has been something that you have been working on for awhile? Like you said it took some time to be confident in putting this vision of your work out there. Were there some things that happened or helped you along the way? From people who have given you feedback… or something that you’ve been feeling inside? How does it work to become more confident in your vision?
Laura: I think this is always something that goes subconsciously lots of the time. I think it’s something that doesn’t always work from one day to another. I guess you have to experience many different feelings…and many different inspirations… I watched Ted talks from different people. I saw documentaries. I read books. I always think that if you do Art in whatever direction, you always need other arts to build up your subconscious artist – to support what is there. I think this builds up over time. I think you need time to understand things that are not conscious.
Of course there are people who influenced me, who gave me heads up and like ‘come on you’re really good in what you do. and come on, it’s really beautiful what you produce. Of course there are many people who helped me a lot.
But as long as you don’t believe your story. It doesn’t really matter what people say. You have to figure out your way of thinking. You have to figure out your true self.
“As an artist, there’s nothing so hard as to actually find your own vision… which is not overlaid by whatever else you see out there.”
To actually understand what is the thing you want to create and what is not ‘something you also like, but it’s not your deeper self’s style’. There are so many photographers that I really like. There are different styles that I really like. But they are not mine.
KS: Right… and there are so many influences that we get everyday from looking at things right. How do we figure out what works for us?
Laura: Exactly. I really think that as an Artist you grow until the day you die. And you can change. So there are so many artists or painters… they have so many different phases in life. Their blue phase or a phase where they only do this or that. Painting impressionist styles and then they change completely and do expressionist styles, whatever it is. You have to experience it yourself because you cannot always tell at least, that this is something you don’t want to do, before you try it. Sometimes you have to try things.
So i worked as a portrait photographer in a studio. That’s what I learnt. So for a long time I thought this is now what I can do best. But now, I would say I’m a terrible studio photographer. I wasn’t back then because I did what was asked of me and I did good photos. But I don’t think I’m a very inspirational studio photographer. I feel limited in a studio and my brain cannot come up with ideas in a studio space with people.
And it took me years to accept it. Because I was thinking ‘i learnt this… I know how it works.’ But it doesn’t make me happy. So it’s not what I want to do. And the whole idea of people getting their photos done in a photo studio, they have a whole different vibe..and a certain expectation. Your shots usually look a certain way.
What I do for example, I do photos of my sister and her family every year. What we do is we take basically a documentary shoot of their daily life. Super ordinary. We did everything – gardening, growing vegetables with the kids. Or making cookies at Christmastime. In the evening the parents would read from books while the kids sleep. And every year there is a theme – what is the main thing the family does together. There’s a year when the kids were more interested in learning how to ride their bicycles. And I heard so many times from them ‘this is the most precious thing’.
Each year they give the grandparents a book with photos and they always pull up an album and say ‘yeah that’s exactly what that time of our lives felt’. And it’s nothing compared to sitting in the studio and getting their kids to sit nicely… I don’t know what memory that would give me. Family life isn’t always nice. It’s imperfect. There are always those outtake shoots where somebody makes a weird face… or somebody falls off… you know, real life. That’s what I want to do If i take portraits of people. I want to be with them on a normal day in their normal life. Regardless who it is or what their job is. If they are coffee producers, or gardeners, or politicians… I just want to go with them for a day and take photos of whatever they do in their surrounding where they are doing whatever they do.
KS: And that’s so different from studio photography because it takes so much time right – in order to observe them and take them in their most natural moment… you need to get them to relax and that’s not so possible in a studio setting when you may only have 1 hour or so right?
Laura: Exactly. There are photographers who can do that but that’s also something i learned. I’m just not capable of working in a rushed environment. For example if you shoot portraits for magazines, many times with politicians you get like 5 or 10 minutes. There’s nothing more terrible for me – the idea of having 5 minutes with someone I’ve never met before and to do a portrait that’s true to that person … I don’t think that’s possible. I know many photographers who do that for their main income, many of them have a specific style they reproduce over and over again. I was thinking why do you do the same shoot over and over again with all these different people? And it took me ages to realise that that’s the only way to guarantee high quality good portraits if you have 5 minutes with somebody you’ve never met before.
KS: Wow it’s a totally different way of working and with a very different outcome that they are looking for.
Laura: Yes, and it’s an art form in itself. And it’s something that I can highly appreciate because I couldn’t do it. It took me years to appreciate the work they do. Because for a time I really thought oh how uninspiring to just recreate and recreate the same thing… but there’s no other way to do it. It’s a strategy to make it work basically.
KS: I think in Photography especially, it’s so easy to see so much of what everyone else is doing. Some people may have thoughts starting to do some photography for themselves, but are worried about what they might be able to contribute to a scene that’s already so established. That someone else has done it before and it’s not original. What are your thoughts on this?
Laura: I think it’s almost impossible to do something that no one has done before.
We are a long way… years, centuries away from where photography started. When it first started there was lots and lots to be discovered and to newly invent. By now for every niche photography there’s somebody who has mastered it. There are plenty of people who have tried everything that you can do in that niche. I think what changes are the times… the habits of people… what’s happening out there. The stories you can tell. They change. The styles – I’m not sure.
I think you have to find your own style and maybe somebody sees your work if you’re lucky. And you are the first photographer who touches them on a level where they think omg I love their work so much. But I would always say whatever you do, there probably is someone who does similar stuff or even comparably so similar that you could actually think is from the same person.
So I think I’m not sure it is possible in photography to actually recreate something that’s not there if you are not an ‘artistic photographer’. If you just do documentary or reportage photography, which always tries to portray what is actually there without making it different, then I think there is only so much you can do. There are only so many angles you can take photos from. There are only so many variations on how to put lighting on. I think the only way or niche I think you can actually produce something that has not been there before is artistic photography, where you’re more like a painter.
Of course once you create a series of images regardless of whether they are for a documentary or for a free project and you decide what pictures to put together as a series, so the series itself gets a different meaning and interpretation, then of course it’s something unique. But most of the topics also someone had worked on before… and of course your project won’t be exactly the same. And might be unique in that way. But the single images you can do – I’m not sure there’s something left that no one has ever done before. I wouldn’t know how to look for it also.
KS: That’s also an interesting point – even if someone in the world somewhere in time has done something similar, does it matter that there is something out there compared to what we are doing now? Is that really something that would prevent us from creating something as well?
Laura: Yeah, so I’m also a photo editor. I’ve always loved to work with other people’s photos. To help them to find their series. Because the hardest thing is to edit your own photography. To actually put a verdict on your own images. Because there are always images that you connect to a memory or something and you love it no matter what… and you cannot see whether it’s actually a good shot or not. I see the same struggle in other photographers.
One particular friend who I have helped many times – he puts all his photographs out and the whole floor is filled with photos. And he’s like I cannot see anything here; everything’s the same. And I look at the photos and within 5 minutes, I don’t have the final edit but I can definitely say, oh that’s not particularly good or that’s especially great… And I love it, how looking with clear eyes you can see it.
KS: Also do you have any advice for people like Artists who are starting something out and they want to share it – but there’s always this fear of judgement or rejection from people, especially in photography because there are so many photos everywhere and everyone is looking…
Laura: And everyone’s a critic. The internet is terrible. So yeah if you’re insecure in the beginning, I would always start with a couple of people you actually trust.
KS: Would it be better for them to be people who know about photography?
Laura: Not necessarily. It’s always good to get feedback. It’s always bringing you something that you didn’t see. And sometimes it’s even more valuable if it’s from somebody who’s not a pro in photography. Because pros in photography sometimes they also have narrow vision because they have a check list like ok lighting is this and this… But somebody who is not in photography can simply say I like it because. Or even if somebody says I don’t like it because it gives me this feeling of blah blah , then you have something learnt about your photos that you didn’t feel before. And it might fall together years later.
I think what I would tell people is listen, but don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with whatever feedback you get.
“Every feedback could bring you to the next level or give you the one insight you needed maybe later. And negative feedback just means Person A didn’t like the photo. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad photographer especially when you’re starting. Why should you start and be excellent? In which profession are you excellent when you start?”
KS: Ohh yes that’s always something that everyone wishes for right – to start and immediately be really good at something.
Laura: In many cases it’s better to get feedback from people who are not your mother or friends who don’t want to be honest because they don’t want to hurt you. Most people, they hang something on their walls or they buy photography books, or they go to exhibitions in their free time so everyone has an opinion about art. Why not get the opinion of people who in the end are actually in the end maybe your customers, your clients, the people who will actually buy you work.
I think feedback is valuable but also experimenting and staying open-minded for whatever crosses your way. And just give yourself the permission to try things out regardless of what somebody else says.
KS: Is it hard in photography… or in any form of creative endeavour… to try something not knowing whether it will work out in the end? For example if you have an idea for a series and you’re not sure whether it’s sellable or if it will make some money. Do you ever create work with any outcome in mind or do you usually create work to experiment and figure things out?
Laura: I think generally.. of course you have to survive as an artist. But i’ve freed myself from the idea that i’m only a good artist if 100% of the time, 100% of my income it’s coming from my profession as a photographer. For years and years, I thought as long as I earned my money with a camera in hand, i’m a good photographer. Maybe not that basic but mainly. Nowadays I figured out that many times, when I have to earn money through photography with some photo job that I don’t like – it gets so much of my energy that I don’t have energy left to do the photography that I want to do. And then I get tired of photography which is my passion. Which I should absolutely be all over the moon about. So don’t waste your passion just to make money with it.
After working for Zalando for 5 years, the last couple of years I never took a camera in my hand in my spare time because I just didn’t want to think about photos at all. And after I stopped working there I was like that was my passion! It took me years to re-figure out what photography is to me, not a commercial , weird day job idea….
Because I think you have to figure out everything. How much time your photography needs compared with what people think how much time one should work per week… Or what is the right amount because photography is something that has something to do with your feelings and also with your mind being free to see the things that you want to show. To do that your mind has to be awake. It has to be open to whatever there is.
I know I work better as a photographer if i have enough time to sleep. But also if I have time to enjoy sensual experiences – whether it is sitting outside in the sun feeling the wind as a sensual experience, whether it is having a great meal, and enjoying the tastes and smells and whatever it is, or whether it is a pure visual and brain experience by reading a nice text. Or seeing other art. Something that makes me think on a different level other than my own art but enriches my own ideas, my concepts… whatever I work with to create my stuff. If I don’t have the time to look beyond my own horizons, I will not create stuff that’s more than just stuff, basically. I rather have 3 days off a week to explore whatever there is out there and only work 1 day officially.
So people may say oh wow you only work 1 day a week, but actually no the other 3 days that I fill my brain with stuff – it helps me to produce whatever I produce on the other side, on that 1 day of work. And if don’t give myself that time because I fill it up with some job that needs to be done, then this connection of experience and feelings is not combining in my mind to form the artist’s self.
KS: Yes, that’s so complicated… so much of creating anything has to do with the subconscious feeding of your mind. And I guess a lot of people who are not in the field they may assume yeah if you have 5 hours for a job surely you can do 5 hours worth of the job. But it’s so much behind the scenes work. So much that goes on outside the official working hours right?
Laura: Yeah and also you cannot be 100% in the perfect mood to create stuff everyday. There are days where stuff just doesn’t flow, doesn’t work… just doesn’t feel right… and then you need to give yourself the permission to just let it be that day. Do something completely different, fill your mind with some other stuff and then you’ll have your breakthroughs maybe some other time.
KS: That’s so interesting that when things don’t work out – the next step is to give yourself permission and to be kind to yourself and not force it. But a lot of times people end up blaming themselves. Do you think this is something you have learnt with time? How did you get to this mindset? I feel like i t doesn’t come so naturally.
Laura: Actually I think it comes naturally but we unlearn it through how society is built. I think the idea starts with school where the idea is we have to function and learn from 8 to 3 or whatever. And then you have to work from 9 to 5. My brain doesn’t work properly till 11. I’m sure that most people who have these 9- 5 jobs are not as productive or as efficient in their jobs 5 hours of the 8 hours… or would be better if they had less hours and could put the hours to better use.
So it came with being self-employed (or unemployed), being unemployed and then deciding to be self-employed… It took weeks before my natural rhythm really came through. I didn’t know. For years I thought I was an early bird. I was convinced I like to get up early. But I didn’t realise that it’s not the case. By now I know – I love to get up at 8. I love to get my coffee without any rush. So I sit here looking at the garden enjoying my coffee. When I drink my coffee I drink coffee – period. I don’t do this and that at the same time. And then I do whatever’s needed in terms of cleaning or on my to-do list. Earliest 11 I start working. Or even better from 10 -12 I like to read articles. I give myself time to read which gives me new ideas. Ideally I start at noon to start work. My perfect time is Noon to 6 I guess. Whenever I decide to work in my perfect time frame the outcome is always way better. So now I can say I really like what I actually did.
So of course I do a list at the start of the week. I want to write a text on my trip to wherever and I have it on the list for Tuesday. And then I sit here Tuesday and my brain is all over the place. Yeah I could force myself to write a text but then what text would that be?
KS: So much of it is learning what works for yourself right ?
Laura: Yeah and what actually works is I wake up on one morning and there are 3 sentences for that trip in my head. I write them down. And then a week later I have a shower and while I’m in the shower – crap I need a pen and paper! because that’s sometimes when the text happens. Not when I sit down to write. So I have bits and pieces of text on notes on my phone, on papers somewhere lying here and there.
I think it’s a natural thing because we are natural creatures.
“We are part of Nature and we are part of the Natural cycle of being awake…being asleep…renewing ourselves… and we put some super unnatural cluster on ourselves and the same with algorithms. If I try to make Instagram or whatever Algorithm happy – then i have to post at whatever the trend right now is because it changes. I have to post ideally each day or maybe a post a day and then 3 stories a day and then I have to interact with people all times… and then I post a lot of rubbish just to post something… which is not how it should work right?”
So Instagram I stopped completely for 2 years to not post anything because the only feeling I had was pressure and ugh not that. But it have been “I want to show that image. I want to connect with whoever. I want to look at other people’s images and I wanna have fun with it.” And it completely got lost. Now for the last couple of months I started to post something for a few months but still I’m not back in the business because it’s too much effort it takes to in the end just post a picture. Of course somebody might see it and some job might come out of it.
“But what I learnt is to trust not only myself, but also the process and… the grand total of things. Everything falls into place eventually. And I think that nothing is more unhealthy than the human approach to explain everything, to understand everything.”
KS: Ahh that’s so difficult to get away from!
Laura: It is, but you don’t even need to understand your artistic vision yourself. Because again you make another experience and you might change. We are never grown up in a sense of finished. The day we are finished we are dead!
KS: Yeahh and then it’s not so fun at all!
Laura: Yeah, and I’m more excited about each year I have before me because I know I will grow further. I will experience further and I will refine myself further. I’m really convinced it goes that way until our last day. And that automatically leads to ‘there is no perfect to reach’. There is no ‘true’ to reach. There is no ‘one idea’ to reach. There is no right, there is no wrong in art. Who am I? I don’t know.
KS: That’s incredibly beautiful. And also very spiritual. Is this something that you’re also into?
Laura: I have been spiritual all my life even as a small kid and that starts with the day my father died. I knew he was dead even before somebody knew it officially. That was something supernatural as you might say. I always believed in energy, something like a soul, spirits… I truly believe everything is connected and you have to be open-minded. You have to let go of fear to feel it. I don’t think there is a total understanding of things we can reach with the human brain. I think you can try to align with your inner energy. I think you can try to connect to the energies around yourself. I think you can try to be a nice spirit to other spirits in terms of understanding and being there for one another and I think the main key to everything is that we don’t overestimate the value of humanity. But to rather see us as one tiny bit and piece of the whole wonder that is everything.
I love gardening and when I stand or sit in the garden and put my hands in the soil and there are all these tiny animals and insects crawling around, and every single one of them look so crazy weird and so specific and perfect for what they need to do. And then they eat each other, big eats small and so on.
Everything is a circle in the end. We are just a tiny piece in it and we haven’t been here all the time. And we definitely won’t be here all the time. And I’m as valuable as the tiniest insect out there or the largest animal out there. And I’m not special. I think that’s the problem in society that kids grow up with – being told the idea that they’re special.
KS: They feel this need to be extraordinary.
Laura: You don’t need to be extraordinary but you need to be happy and true to yourself.
There are values that are so much higher than being special or successful. I’m partly ‘unsuccessful’ in classic knowledge of what it means to be successful in photography because I don’t value money and the common idea of success.
I could put all my energy in being well known in the city and being well known as a photographer but I think I never defined myself over acknowledgement through others in terms of who i am as a professional. That has nothing to do with my self understanding. And of course it’s nice if people like your work. Of course I would love for more people to tell me how it makes them feel or how it moves them.
But I never found myself able to put energy in running after success. I have to make myself survive – basic needs. For every living thing. And as long as I can secure my survival… Even now I’m reinventing myself as a photographer. Redefining my next decade maybe because there was another shift I guess. The next chapter.
“The day I became really calm inside was the day I allowed myself to give all things the time they need.”
I took my old website down and I thought I need a new website next month. Then Corona came. And I was like ok now I don’t even have an excuse to not have it up next month. There was plenty time, but there was also plenty time to do yoga, to sit in nature and read a book… to not do anything . It was the first time in the first month of Corona when there was in ages, officially nothing to do. It was like a moment frozen in time and of course at first you had the urge to use the time as efficient as possible to get as much done in whatever time you’ve just been given.
“But after awhile I was like no, the gift that we have been given is exactly the time itself. It is the time itself. And to just sit back and listen for once what comes from yourself. And really – yourself. What is actually you – if you’re not constantly meeting people, running around in traffic and noise, what actually comes up. Just Be and Listen. And don’t be afraid of what comes up.”
KS: Yes, most people are probably afraid of what they will find out.
Laura: Of course I did plenty of stuff during Corona Time. I basically sorted all stuff in my apartment. Got rid of old stuff, gave some things away. And listening… and through that listening there’s much more achieved than constant doing. So now after 3 months of Corona I have a clear idea of what my website should be. What I want to put there. And how much I don’t need to put there as well. Pre-Corona I would have said I know where I want to go, I still feel the urge to put as much on my website to show what I can do as a photographer, how good I am. And now three months later I’m still not finished with the website still, but then again it’s my new website after 5 years. It can take more than a month to redo it and not just to change something but to do the next chapter. It can take time. Some books have been written after 10 years.
And just to make it quick to be able earlier to do jobs, it doesn’t make it good, it makes it quick. In the long run I have to redo it again.
“But you have to let go of so much fear. To unlearn so much that you’ve been told for years and years. Especially stuff you’ve been told when you were young because when you were young you couldn’t actually sort out what is right or wrong or what is true to you or not.”
Because you just try to fill expectations basically as a kid. You want to be acknowledged by your friends, family , teachers and whoever else, and of course you try to figure your way of doing it and coping with stuff but you still learn so much stuff that is stuck so deep in your knowledge and mind in your experience box that it’s incredibly hard to get rid of. Even things that you think you know. That you think are true. Because it’s been told to you so many years it’s true that you believe it. And then you actually have to ask yourself is it my truth or is it just some truth.
Especially family values is one big thing. I think so many families talk about love and how they are there for each other no matter what but most times it’s not ‘no matter what’ it’s as long as you are who I expect you to be.
KS: Yes. And even if they don’t mean it deep down it comes out that way very often.
Laura: There are classic professions – doctors, lawyers, teachers. There are many professions where the kid just does what the parents did, and many times they might think they still like it when they are in university. But that’s because it’s what it was told to them all their lives. For me, feeling like an artist all my life i knew quite early on i had to have this fight with my parents.
But Art is a special field. I also think there are many lawyers who would be great doctors or many doctors who would be great lawyers. This would have been the same fight for them which they didn’t allow themselves to have. Of course there may be lawyers who would have made great bread-makers or some completely different thing. But even in the professional professions you have to find your own inner voice and many times it means fighting against whatever somebody else – that you actually like and love and appreciate and want to be acknowledged by – thinks is good and worthy. And that’s hard.
KS: Do you have a favourite piece of art that speaks to you? Or a favourite piece of your own work?
Laura: I think generally I always like pieces most that have a history and that have a deeper sensual effect on me.
I will never be able to fully tell you what the ingredients are that make something stand out. But there are always pieces that you like for a specific time. And then there are always pieces that grow with you and remain in your self and you never lose the meaning regardless of the time that has passed or how much you have changed. There are pieces that stick with you. Just like how there are very few people that stick with you and remain important on a deeper level.
For my own pieces there are specific images where in the moment I take them I know they capture 100% what I felt in that moment. These are very very few. There are always pictures that I took that I like of course, but there are very very few that stand out. With those photos it doesn’t matter what other people say about them. Doesn’t matter if people don’t particularly light them.
One of those is one I call the Pub Boy. It was in Ireland and we were in quite a famous pub in the region.
There was this one boy, redhead, classic Irish – what you might think, and I captured him from the back. I really like people being portrayed from the back. But there are very few images that I feel that the whole personality of the person is captured from the back even without seeing the face. I love this image. I really love it. But so far I haven’t found anyone else who wants to buy it or particularly says nice things about it. But i love it and it will remain that way forever. And I hope someday somebody will also feel the same way about that. If somebody could see in that image what I could see. That would mean the world to me.
KS: Thank you so much, Laura for sharing. <3
To connect with Laura and see more of her work:
Website: Laura Drosse and On the Norway
More information about The Way of Creativity series. =) Thanks for coming by. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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