It’s no surprise that, from time to time, we come across photographs that makes us do a double take. Certain pictures you connect with and admire in ways that are difficult to understand or express. Other times you know right away why you’ve fallen in love with a particular image. We’ve had both such experiences with the work of Laura Hundersmarck.
Laura is a photographer from right here in Gainesville, Florida, and we recently had the chance to pick her brain about her work, how she got started, and what kind of peanut butter she’s into!
Laura, can you give us a description of your work.
My work reflects my surroundings. I am energized by the environment and the people around me and their emotions and personal strivings. While my style is constantly evolving, I value symmetry, human emotion and vibrant colors. My photographs are often very personal. I shoot things that are important to me, things I find beautiful and are worth sharing with the world. Whether the photo is anticipated or spontaneous, it provides a creative outlet to express my ideas and feelings. I also value the viewer’s response to my photography. As a culture-lover, I believe one’s experience, background and perspective color the way we view the world. Interpretation flows from the viewer’s response; this is where the dynamic components of photography move beyond the initial reaction to a different realm. It gives it lasting substance and purpose while expanding our experience.
So how did you get into photography?
I first became interested in photography in high school. I was fortunate enough to attend a school that had its own darkroom and printing materials. I learned about aperture, exposure, and basic composition in that classroom. Once I started college, I invested in my own digital camera and developed my skills. I have done a lot of experimenting over the years and like good wine, I have improved with age!
Are you a self-taught photographer or did you have teacher or mentor that helped you develop your skills?
I would consider myself a self-taught photographer. I am an avid believer in trial and error. Sometimes the photo works well and other times, it fails to ignite anything in the viewer. Photography is a constant learning experience, offering ample opportunity to learn from my failures. That being said, there are several people who have influenced me and helped me grow as a photographer. Two of my good friends are excellent photographers who let me experiment with their cameras before I bought one of my own. I was inspired by their creative eyes and I respect their advice and criticism. In addition, I have worked as a photography assistant for two phenomenal event photographers the past two years. I have been constantly surprised by their unique photos and talent for ‘capturing the moment.’ I learned most of my post-editing techniques by working with them. Lastly, my family has been a great supporter of my work. They have encouraged me to be creative and to take chances.
You’ve shot in the US, Brazil, Argentina, Iceland….do you have a favorite?
I would have to say Iceland was my favorite. The country has some of the most striking natural beauty I have ever witnessed. The combination of snow capped mountains splashed with green and brown vegetation and ominous skies made for some of the most incredible landscape photos I have ever taken. I also think my passion and appreciation for the country’s people and natural elements translated into many of my photos.
The photos taken in Brazil are very important to me, as well. Having spent over 15 months on two cultural exchanges, I feel a special connection with this country. Brazilian culture is vibrant, warm and bursting with emotion; my experience there has had a great impact on the way I live my life and my vision as a photographer.
Where do you hope to travel to shoot one day?
I look forward to shooting in Southeast Asia in the near future. There are such extraordinary landscapes and biodiversity that it would be a privilege to photograph there. A friend of mine is working in the Philippines right now doing some incredible wildlife photography while volunteering with different organizations and conservation researchers. He serves as an inspiration to me.
I would also like to return to Iceland in the coming year to continue exploring and photographing the majestic countryside that has, quite literally, captivated me.
You seem to have a balanced mix between b&w and color work, what makes you choose to shoot something in b&w vs. color? Do you decide on the spot or in post processing?
That’s a good question. I decide post-processing, mostly. Occasionally, I know instantly that the photo will be much stronger in black and white. Also, if the photo is particularly bland, turning it black and white can add an unexpected dimension to it.
How would you describe your style?
I want to highlight ‘the moment’ with the outcome of igniting a response in the viewer. I want to make them stop for a moment and take the image in and begin to process their reaction to the beauty of the natural world and our cultural world.
Your photography is rich in colors, textures, contrast, and fine detail – are these conscious decisions you make as your out shooting, or do you let your surroundings dictate the type of photo you shoot?
A little of both. My surroundings usually take precedence, but I photograph what I think the world should see. Colors, textures and contrast are important to me, so they have a natural presence in my work.
What equipment do you bring when you go shooting?
Currently, I use a Canon Rebel, but am in dire need of an upgrade. My collection of equipment includes a standard Canon 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS lens, a Rokinon 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Angle lens, an Opteka 0.35x Fish-eye lens, and a Canon Speedlite 270EXII external flash. And batteries! You can never have too many spare batteries.
What’s the one lasting impression you want to leave in your photos?
It varies greatly depending on the photo. Sometimes, I have a particular agenda for a photo, but often I am more curious to see how people react to them. I hope the impression I leave is one of connection where the viewer feels drawn to the experience in the photograph because he/she can identify with it.
What do you like to do when you’re not taking photographs?
I’m currently juggling three jobs and always searching for opportunities to volunteer and travel abroad. I am an avid dancer and adrenaline junkie. My latest passion is aerial silk which is the perfect combination of acrobatics and flexibility. I enjoy going to the natural springs when the weather permits, taking unexpected trips and spending time with family and friends.
Favorite type of peanut butter: creamy, crunchy, organic, the stuff with jelly already mixed in it…?
I’m definitely a crunchy fan. I grew up on peanut butter. My mom used to buy Peter Pan tubs by the gallon when I was little. Looking back, I ate a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly!) almost every day of elementary and middle school. It’s a wonderful travel food, too. But don’t try and take it with you from the U.S because airport security thinks you may be hiding something in your sealed peanut butter jar and they always confiscate it!
What was the last movie you went to see?
The last movie I went to see was probably Batman the Dark Knight Rises. I paid the equivalent of thirteen bucks for it in Iceland and I would say that it was not worth it. They tried to stuff too many things into that movie. Other than that, I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie in theaters. I prefer watching movies in the comfort of my own home.
One random fact about you?
I am always late for everything. Even if I leave the house fifteen minutes early, I still manage to be late. It is a terrible habit that I cannot seem to break!
Anything else you want to share with us?
I would like to thank Fracture for their interest and support of my work. The quality of their printing is a wonderful asset for artists. I wish them the best of luck in the future!