We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Maier and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk and reward go hand-in-hand, you can’t have one without the other. For me, as a photographer, my life and career are more entwined than some, and therefore the risks can sometimes feel much riskier. One of the biggest risks I’ve taken in recent years was the decision to leave behind a life I’d been building in Oregon, a choice that included turning down a job that would have offered me stability and career momentum, to move to the other side of the world and bum about in a van. I moved to New Zealand with little more than the beauty of the country on my mind and it turned into a life-changing year that started me on my current semi-nomadic life.
Being able to live in beautiful places, to get to know them on a more personal level than simply visiting could ever offer, has been the single biggest advantage to my development as a photographer. But moving every few months is nothing if not a risk. I’ve gained a lot through my travels, but I’ve left behind a lot too, and the move doesn’t always seem worth it. Fortunately, so far, overall my risk-taking has paid off and I’ve been able to witness some amazing beauty and meet more than a few wonderful people.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There are a million and one photographers out there and I’m certainly not the best! The biggest challenge for any artist is to be seen. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to be authentic to yourself and what you want from your own art – that way, even if no one looks right away, at least you’ve enjoyed creating it. Eventually, a viewer will resonate with what you’ve made; it just takes patience and persistence.
I’ve been lugging around a camera since I was ten years old and the one thing about my photography that hasn’t changed is that I’m rarely chasing the extraordinary or one-in-a-lifetime things. The idea behind my images has always been that there is beauty everywhere, you just have to look. In the beginning, I focused on the oft-ignored details of flowers and trees; these days my wanderings tend to take me to the mountains, but the idea is still the same. You don’t have to wait for a spectacular sunset or a dramatic storm for something to be worth looking at (though I wouldn’t pass those up either).
The best part of photography is getting to be out in the world and experiencing it. Even if an outing is a bust photo-wise, it’s never a waste of time to be outside.
Though I’ve technically had the business side of my photography for nearly as long as I’ve had cameras, I didn’t really engage with it until high school and beyond. Throughout the years I’ve experimented with different avenues of photography from senior portraits to family reunions and various events, but though the paycheck is usually bigger and more immediate (not to mention guaranteed), those things weren’t right for me. I much prefer the uncertainty of print sales if it means my subjects can continue to be wild in nature.
The majority of my business income comes from sales through my website, though I do freelance stories for magazines once in a while as well. The downside of long-term travel and living in remote areas is having very little access to fast internet, so engagement with my own business can be sporadic at the best of times. Eventually, I’ll find a better balance between creating and selling, but for now, it works.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’ve most recently lived inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska, so there are no shortages of beautiful places to see! I’d start them off with a scenic flight around the park so that could see the glaciers the way glaciers should be seen. Later we’d take the two-mile hike out to the Root Glacier for a little more personal feel, maybe attempt some ice-climbing. On the way back I’d take them down to the semi-secret ice cave in the Kennicott Glacier, a grand room of ancient blue ice and pure magic. Over the next few days, we’d hike to the Donoho Lakes and up to National Pass, and we would definitely have to go to at least one of the old mines to look for copper.
At the end of the hike, we’d catch one of the Mill Town tours. Many of the buildings in the historic copper mining town of Kennecott are still in great shape and the mill has just finished being stabilised so people can walk all the way through it with a guide. It’s an amazing snapshot of history and human ingenuity.
There are two places to eat in Kennecott, both great. The Kennicott Glacier Lodge has a surprisingly extensive lunch menu and the Meatza Wagon is a food truck that we all love.
One day, we’ll head down the road five miles to McCarthy (either walking or on a shuttle because there are no private cars allowed past the Copper River) to see all the history there and to eat at my favorite; The Potato. (Try the potatohead burrito). If we go down on a Friday, there will be live music at the Saloon at night which is always a good time!
The whole area is quirky and fun and the perfect sample of Alaska.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are countless photographers and writers and friends who have and continue to inspire me, but Colin Wright’s book My Exile Lifestyle was probably my first look into how life could be if you didn’t conform to the idea that we all have to live life on the same trajectory.
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