i came across lori vrba’s work pretty early on, in my photography journey. at the time, lori was a commissioned portrait photographer and — i absolutely fell in love with her work. i connected with lori’s photographs on a deeper level. they were so much more than just beautiful portraits; they were raw, intimate, emotional. then i read on her blog that she was closing her commissioned portrait business, to solely pursue a career in fine art photography. and that’s exactly what she’s been wholeheartedly doing since making that decision in 2009. it’s been awesome and so inspiring to watch lori’s journey of passion, hard work, dedication, letting go and trust lead to so much success in her photography career.
i knew i loved this woman’s work, but after reading her most recent artist statement — goodness, it just makes me love her (and her work) that much more…
I was raised in a small, back-woods Southeast Texas town. I did not grow up with an exposure to art. I did not have an uncle with a darkroom. I did not hold a camera until I was a grown woman. I am a self-taught artist committed to film and traditional wet darkroom printing. I work intuitively in every creative element of my medium with an acute awareness of what and who has come before me. My life experiences have brought me to this place where I find myself overwhelmed with the drive to make photographs about who I am…what moves me, what I feel inside, what I believe to be sacred and enduring. I make pictures to challenge, calm, excite and satisfy my mind and heart. I share my work in hopes of leaving some permanent, telling mark on the world…that I Was Here.
i asked lori a bit about her photography journey and this is what she had to share…
I’ve watched and greatly admired your journey from commissioned portrait photographer to fine art photographer. Can you tell us a a bit how this transition took place?
It was never really my intention to be a commissioned portrait photographer. I was making my own pictures and other moms began to ask me to photograph their children. It became a successful business but after several years I finally realized that for me, photography was meant to be something different. In the beginning, I was determined to understand the camera because I was compelled to make photographs of what I felt inside. When I closed the business and once again, opened myself up to making my personal work…all I can say is…Joy. All Around.
What would you say took your work to the next level?
The willingness to be vulnerable. Technical skill and good execution is important in any medium. But I believe the photographs that are made from an honest, vulnerable place are the ones that ultimately resonate with people. Those are the images you can’t forget.
How did you come to find representation for your work? Or did they find you?
Once I had a strong portfolio, I spent a year or two attending portfolio reviews and submitting to juried group shows. I’m represented in Atlanta, Houston and Santa Barbara and all three found my work through the reviews or juried shows.
There’s been some discussion and shall I say, controversy, regarding some of the photographs of children in your projects. What are your thoughts on this?
The short answer is…You can’t please everyone all the time. The real answer is…My three children are a huge part of my work. My most important “job” is to protect my children and I’m very good at it. As an artist it is not my job to predict how anyone will experience or interpret my imagery…that is not true art. Art is self expression…it’s not filtered down to satisfy anyone or everyone’s psyche. I am a good mother and an honest artist. I sleep well at night.
What advice and / or cautions would you give to photographers wanting to take a similar leap from commissioned work to fine art work?
Ha…Put on your big-girl-panties because art is not for sissies! Know that rejection and self-doubt will always be present…no matter how good you are. There will not be money coming in for awhile…be prepared financially. If you continue to do both, separate the commercial work from the fine art work for websites, portfolios, etc…two entirely different audiences.
Balance seems to be a topic for so many photographers. How do you manage to balance it all (wife, mother, photographer)?
Balance is over rated. I am never doing it all well at the same time. Ebb and Flow.
What artists greatly inspire or influence you? And how / why?
Keith Carter has been my dear friend and mentor for several years now. We grew up in the same part of Texas so we have similar sensibilities. His support has been invaluable. Sally Mann, Robert Parke Harrison, Ralph Eugene Meatyard…there are too many photographers to name. I am also inspired by music…just about any genre. I often get project ideas from music. I love mixed media/assemblage work as well…Joseph Cornell, Aldwyth. And honestly, my peers. Some are wildly successful, some are completely unknown or “emerging”…but to carve out time to be with like-minded people…the ultimate inspiration.
What thoughts or advice do you have for emerging photographers, launching their business within a sea of other photographers?
Fine tune your own clear photographic voice. Your work can reflect your influences but should still be uniquely your own. It takes time.
How do you envision the future of your photography?
It has been a wild, marvelous ride over the last few years. I’m breathing it in. I’ve never been so challenged or so fulfilled.