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Lauren Lemon is the online persona for Lauren Randolph, a photographer based in Los Angeles. She built her photography career in part through a series of personal projects, including taking one self-portrait a day for an entire year in 2009. She's also one of the most popular photographers on Instagram, with more than 200,000 followers.
In this first installment of The Creative Spark, she talks about the importance of social networks and personal projects in establishing a photography career. We follow Lauren for the day as she plans and choreographs a creative photo shoot in her distinctive visual style and uses Instagram as part of her creative process.
Lauren Lemon: One, two, three. Perfect. Let's do a big laugh when you do it. One, two, three. Perfect. Let's do chin back. The Lauren Lemon thing actually started as a pure nickname from friends. They kind of gave it to me based on, I've always loved bright colors, all of my photography has always expressed the kind of quirkiness and colorful aspects of my work. So the Lauren Lemon think came along kind of when I was signing up for all of these internet things. Like I was like "Oh, this nickname that I'll use, I'll use as my handle for Twitter or for Flickr and then it just really stuck.
(music playing) There's that famous quote that the best camera is the one that you carry with you and that becomes the iPhone now. Instagram created their Suggested Users list. They turned to a lot of the professional photographers who were using this platform and from then the following just kind of took off. Hold it with both hands. Yeah, right there. I think the community of Instagram is very beneficial for me, and as long as I'm constantly shooting, I know there's people viewing. And I've got over 100,000 followers on Instagram, and that's kind of an overwhelming number, but I'm constantly practicing, I'm constantly shooting photos, I'm constantly looking for composition and if other people weren't looking or seeing or responding then maybe I'd get lazy or maybe I wouldn't shoot as much, and so it's nice to have like a community keeping you involved.
This was an image that I made, and a lot these are students and a lot of them know my work through Instagram, my blog and through Flickr. So they were excited to see me come and watch my actual photo-making process. Many of these people were shooting photos while they were waiting for me to set up and everything. I figured the more people sharing, the more people talking about your work, the more people interacting, the better. (music playing) When I did the self-portrait project and posting on Flickr every day, that was the first instance that I really saw people starting to follow and that was kind of when I realized the power that you could have by having a following on these social media sites.
(music playing) Most of my self-portraits, they aren't me; I'm playing a character or playing a role and there is a weird balance between obviously being in front of the camera and being behind it. And when I'm shooting other people I have a very directorial role. And so knowing how to do both I think helps me interact with models when I'm not shooting myself.
When I'm approaching an idea or approaching a photo shoot, I basically think like what isn't possible and start from there, as big as I can get, and then kind of narrow it down to how I can create this outrageous idea or this outlandish idea. I like to do creative portraiture, I like to take a person and a personality and then maybe pull out little aspects of it that I think highlight them, or a character that they could play. (music playing) Right now I've kind of got a location for this super-bright-green kitchen.
So I obviously know that I want to keep it green and really colorful and really coordinated. So I've come up with an idea to do like a little kitchen scene with a little '50s housewife. And I'm going to be making these kind of bright-green pies that, if I make them with whipped cream, my only next step is shooting these nice fun portraits but then making a bit mess of the scene or something too. So my brain kind of works with like a progression, a story within when I'm doing too. Like I'll start with her real clean, real posed, but then as I get that shoot maybe move to something else. Like what if you smashed the pie in your face? What if you put whip cream everywhere? Things like that. You never know, even if you map it out going into it, you could totally scratch the whole plan and go in a different direction.
(music playing) I'm going for a dress that will match the kitchen that I'm shooting in, and luckily, for photo shoots sizing doesn't really matter because I can always make it work, and I can pin it in the back or something like that. So I'm more just looking for style and color and something like that will look good with an apron on it and match with what she's going to be holding and wearing.
(music playing) It would be hard not to put my own vision or voice or taste into my work, and it's the greatest compliment when someone sees a picture that I took and they say, "Oh, I knew that was your photo," or, "Oh, I recognized your style," and that's the only thing I think I could really hope for as an artist or as a photographer is being able to have a vision that other people recognize as my own. A little bit more of a gasp. One, two, three. Keep that going. One, two, three.
I think the biggest thing that I learned is just to constantly be shooting, and that's kind of what the 365 Project, when I was doing that, showed me too, is I was doing a portrait every day, I was setting up something every day, I was constantly practicing and people were responding to that and following these photos. And it's personal work that draws in clients, and it's personal work that catches people's attention. And I just try and constantly be working on something, whether it's an idea I'm building or a collaboration I'm starting or just the thought process; as long as it's always going, I feel like it's a way to keep moving forward.
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