Dreams Into Reality: Laura Reid, From Beginner to National Portrait Photography Finalist
Laura Reid said on a recent Instagram post, “Dreams do come true (with work)!” I’ve had the joy of knowing Sydneysider Laura for the past six years and watching her photography world grow. I remember when I met her at my inaugural photography workshop in Puglia in Southern Italy, I thought to myself she’s a quiet achiever.
Fast forward six years, Laura’s love and commitment to photography, her patience, getting up before dawn a couple of time’s a week and photographing the beach whilst holding down a full time job as a town planner, being a mum to beautiful Orla, has paid off. Not only has Laura honed her photographic skills, created an incredible body of work, developed her own visual language and understanding of what she loves and is attracted to, had her work published in leading magazines, Laura has won two incredible accolades.
Recently named Finalist in the National Portrait Photography Prize and named as one of 100 World’s Best Women Street Photographers, Laura Reid is an inspirational example that ‘dreams do come true’ if you have the clarity of what you want and put the work in to make it happen. Laura generously shares her thoughts and insights on how she turned her dream into reality.
What was the moment/catalyst/inspiration that made you take the first step into learning more or taking your photography seriously?
I have taken photos since I was given my first camera at 11 years of age. I always liked the composition side of it but I always shot on Auto Mode. Then in 2014, I bought your book Italian Joy and totally devoured it. I just connected to it on so many levels. I immediately signed up to your email list (as I wasn’t’ on Instagram at that stage) and one night, I read an email that you had one space left on your Caravan Photography Workshop in Puglia. I said to my husband, if I had no responsibilities. this would be my dream workshop. He just said, “Go.” I signed up and spent the next 4 months before the workshop trying to work out how to use my camera in Manual Mode.
The week in Puglia was intense and exhausting. I remember one fellow participant describing it as though we had just run a marathon. But it was one of the best weeks of my life. Everything changed for me in that week. Photography became an obsession which has continued to this day.
You have spent the past six years working on your photography. You were recently named Finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize and weeks ago included in a book of 100 of the World’s Best Women Street Photographers. What has been your secret sauce to take you from a beginner six years ago to receiving these wonderful accolades?
I have always been fairly competent at a lot of things but I never really stood out at any one thing. I just remember thinking to myself after Puglia that I wanted to excel at photography. I have basically tried to take a step each day to improve my skills and knowledge. I go out shooting fairly often, I spend time editing, I am always looking at other people’s images and trying to learn. I go to exhibitions, do workshops, and attend photography festivals when I can. In the last couple of years, I started to enter group exhibitions and competitions and that has connected me to a lot more people and lifted my profile. Instagram has also been an amazing connector for me. So I guess my secret sauce is that I have just kept moving forward every day in a direction which has brought me to this wonderful position of now receiving accolades.
Courage is essential when we do something new or dare to move towards something we care about. What role does courage play in your life and how does it keep you motivated, inspired, and feeling alive?
I have had a few experiences in my life that have taught me life is short and you have to take opportunities when they come along. Inside, I may be feeling terrified but that gets the adrenaline going, and I know that is a great motivation to help propel me forward. It may appear like courage to others but I feel I am managing fear a lot of the time. I do find it interesting when people find me courageous for entering competitions/group exhibitions. I know life is full of highs and lows, and sometimes you might be selected and other times not. But you will never know if you don’t try.
Women are told that at 40+, they are too late to fulfill a dream. How has your age been an advantage in your photography journey?
I think age brings confidence and a certain degree of determination to achieve things. I hesitate less to ask people whether I can take their photograph whereas when I was younger I would have been too shy. I am more prepared to try things even if I fail and, if I do, I pick myself up quicker and try something else. If I get rejected by a group show or competition I have entered, I may feel a little disappointed, but it doesn’t stop me from keeping on trying. I am a lot less worried about what people think and know myself so much better. I often think that I wish I had started my photography career in my 20’s, but the reality is that I feel I have had to live life doing other things to arrive at the point I am now. My career in town planning has played a significant role in the composition of my photography and I am so grateful for my connections with architects which I have formed over the years.
It can be difficult for women to put themselves and their work ‘out there’, whether it be on social media, pitching to magazines, entering competitions or having an exhibition ! Do you have any tips or habits that have allowed your and your work to be visible? What impact has ‘putting yourself out there’ had on you and your photography and what opportunities has it created in different areas of your life?
I feel the more your name is out there, and the more people see your work, the more opportunities will arise. I started on Instagram, and it felt awkward at first, but now I love looking back at how much my work has developed. Through Instagram I saw that Women Street Photographers (WSP) were asking for submissions for a group exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Photo Festival in 2019. I entered and got selected. From that exhibition 15 of the photographers were then selected for the WSP Annual show in New York City. I went to the opening night and met a number of photographers with whom I have regular contact with. From that exhibition I was selected as one of a hundred women photographers to be in a book which has recently been published by Prestel. If you don’t put yourself out there then no one is going to find you and you will miss out on so many opportunities.
If you don’t put yourself out there then no one is going to find you and you will miss out on so many opportunities.
Your life looks like you go to the beach everyday! What gifts or beautiful surprises have you received from embracing your creativity and putting time, love, and energy into your photography? What have you learnt about yourself?
I wish I was at the beach everyday, it certainly is my happy place. Photography has confirmed that I am creative, and that creativity has brought great joy. It has also given me much greater confidence and determination. Because I started later in life, I feel I need to work harder so I can achieve a lot of goals I now have with my photography.
One of the greatest benefits is how much photography has opened my eyes. I see so much detail in life that I feel I missed before. I see sunlight and shadows on a wall and it can totally lift my spirits. I am always observing and looking for possible compositions. I admit that can be exhausting and it is hard to switch off, but I feel my life is much richer because I am more present.
What is one habit, tip, or behaviour that supports your ongoing creativity?
I know you said one but I have two things: mindset and light. Mindset is something that I have only come to really appreciate lately. Being mindful and positive has really been a game changer for me, particularly with the development of my online print shop. It has also given me much greater confidence to achieve my goals.
Looking for good light has become addictive, even when I am without a camera. I watch the light all the time as it can totally make the difference in an image. I have an app I use (PhotoPills), particularly when I am overseas, which tells me where and when the sun rises and sets and its position during the day. It is so useful and helps me plan where and when I will go out to shoot.
What role has community played in your photography journey?
Community is everything. From every workshop I have done, I still have people I either have personal contact with or I at least have contact with through social media. We obviously have a common interest in photography but I think we all want to see each other grow as photographers. They provided great support and encouragement which is often necessary in the creative community where self-doubt can often appear. I am forever learning tips from them to whether it is about locations, equipment or other resources that are so helpful.
Two women have really stood out as mentors in my photography. One of them is obviously you, Carla. You have really taken me from amateur to professional through several workshops, books, and regular inspiration on social media. The other is Luisa Brimble. I have also done workshops with her and she also offers regular advice which has helped guide my career. I think having a mentor(s) has been really helpful for me, particularly as I never studied photography.
What’s a quote you live by? And why?
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste time living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs
There are plenty of other quotes to the same effect. I spent a lot of time when I was younger trying to please others such as parents, teachers, friends and partners and I became lost. I think it is really important to live you own life and stay true to who you are. To a lesser extent, I am still trying to please others, but I do take more time for myself and to achieve things that will make me happy. Defining boundaries is something that I have learned to do as I get older.