Elli Lauren, From Finance to Photography

elli-Papayanopoulos-interview
People like Elli Lauren are my favorite. They’re the types who went down a pretty straight and narrow road in terms of a career and then realized, nope – not for me. She worked in finance and then after snapping a photo in the sand, started to focus in on what she really wanted to do. She’ll talk more about that later, but for now I am more than thrilled to introduce you to another talented woman behind the lens who now works full time as a freelance photographer in Los Angeles.

Kendra: Who or what sparked your interest in photography?

Elli Lauren: I took a film class my senior year of high school and fell in love with that process. Then in 2009, I bought my first DSLR. One night a friend and I went to Venice Beach to play with long exposure. When that first shot showed up on the screen and it looked like daytime, I was hooked for good.

Kendra: What city photographs better, New York or Los Angeles?

Elli: New York was home for me for the first 18 years of my life and, although the skyline looks very different these days, it always holds a special place in my heart.

Kendra: For me blogging is still something I enjoy as a hobby, but it’s always what I do to make a living. With that, sometimes a due date for a project can be daunting. Do you ever feel that way about shooting? Like, is there an equivalent to writer’s block for photographers?

Elli: I think it’s accurate to say that ALL photographers (and creatives, for that matter) go through periods where they do not feel inspired. Although I would love to work on more personal projects, it’s in the editing process where I hit blocks – there is only so many hours you can sit alone by yourself in a dark room!

Kendra: Was it hard to establish yourself in this business when you first started out?

Elli: I was lucky enough that I had a full-time job in a completely different industry (ahem, finance) with plenty of vacation days/weekends to get my career up and going. When I first started out I used every vacation day I had to travel to and photograph music festivals around the country. And then when I finally quit my job to pursue photography full-time, my first official job was shooting Austin City Limits.

elli-Papayanopoulos-interview-
Kendra: Do you think there’s a difference between men and women photographers in terms of style and execution in any way?

Elli: I believe that there is an innate difference in the way that men and women think and, thereby, how they go about solving problems. However, I think creativity is most driven by each individual’s experience, so I would say it is more a formula of background and personal experience that determines style and execution.

Kendra: What do you think of people who say there’s no art to snapping a picture?

Elli: The environment for photography is a completely different place than it used to be. Everyone and their grandmother has a decent point and shoot or iPhone and even dslr’s are readily affordable. The technology and apps to edit images are also more accessible. I think it’s led to so many more people having an appreciation for photography. That said, there are absolutely people who have a better eye for it than others.

Kendra: Let’s talk about another love of yours, traveling. When you start packing – what percentage of your bags are cameras and camera equipment?

Elli: Haha this question is very timely as I get ready to pack for a couple of festivals on the east coast in June. Almost all of my gear fits into one big backpack for the majority of my out-of-town gigs, and then I do my best to fit everything else into a bag that fits under a seat on an airplane. This generally leads to me wearing far too much clothing when flying. I went backpacking around Southeast Asia for a month this February and brought one camera body and two lenses – I was pretty proud of myself.

Photo Credit: edreams
Photo Credit: edreams

Kendra: Sticking with the wanderlust for a second, out of the Seven Wonders of the World, which would you love to capture on film and display?

Elli: I actually have photographed the Great Wall of China and it was so foggy and dreamy. Italy is at the top of my travel list and I have been really into playing with lines and shadows recently, so I think I will have to go with The Colosseum although Machu Picchu would be a very close second.

Kendra: Say you were going to have a showing of your most recent shots at a gallery next week and had to make a mixtape to act as the soundtrack of the night, what five songs would have to be on it?

Elli: Oh I love this so much – can I ACTUALLY do this??! My recent shoots have involved a band in a field of wildflowers (first song), a band in the desert (second song) and a friend running around Joshua Tree. That said, the five songs would include:

Bjorn and the Sun – “Young and Restless
Quiet Life – “Lost in the Light
Phosphorescent – “Song for Zula
Justin Townes Earle – “Can’t Hardly Wait
The Temper Trap – “Sweet Disposition

Runners Up (just for fun)
Beach House – “Wildflower
Jackson Browne – “These Days
Lord Huron – “She Lit a Fire
The National – “About Today
Cat Power – “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues

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